Bangladesh: Despite Obstacles, Girls Outshine Boys in National Exams

According to the recently published results of Bangladesh's national Higher Secondary examinations [bn], girls have outdone  their male peers. This year, the success rate of female students is 79.19%, which is higher than the 78.23% success rate male students attained.

In addition to the General Education system, the results of the Madrasa Education Board & Technical Education Board are also out and girls lead in these fields as well. In the last few years there has been a rise in the success rate of female students in public examinations and many people attribute this to several steps taken by the government.

Hasan Ferdous commented [bn] on this feat:

It would be wrong to interpret this success by numbers only. It is known to us what difficulties a girl has to face in Bangladesh. A girl child is stil unwanted to some families. If there is a boy in the family all attention and privileges are provided to him. They get the best meal and the girls are given the leftover. If the family cannot afford to send children to the school, the girls are the first ones to sacrifice. .. still there are the pressure of the society, religion, eve teasers. And the parents conveniently decides that it is too risky to send the girls to school.

After overcoming all these obstacles when they top the boys in education, then we have to say “three cheers”.

Women celebrate good results

Women celebrate and show the victory sign after the announcement of the Higher Secondary Certificate results. Image by Bayazid Akter. Copyright Demotix

One of the main barriers in the way forward for women is ‘eve teasing’ or sexual harassment of girls. Bangladesh Nari Prgati Sangha depicts in one of their reports:

In 2010 28 girls committed suicide after being sexually harassed and 7 more tried in vain. There had been reports of harassment of 166 women. 10 men and 2 women died while trying to protect women from harassment.

Jui's story:

Hawa Akhter Jui is a very simple girl from Bangladesh. She was married off when she was still in school. Her husband did not want that she would continue her studies. Her father recognized her passion to study and got her admitted in the 11th class of the Narshingdi Government College. Her husband, who was living abroad, got angry hearing that she had been admitted to college. When he came back he cut off her five fingers after an altercation so that she would not be able to carry on her studies.

But that did not stop her. She appeared at the HSC exam this year (with the help of a cousin) and she has passed securing “A” grade [bn].

Gender inequality in education sector:

The Bangladesh Government has committed to raise the rate of literacy to 100% within 2014 in its National Education Policy. The report of Unnayan Anneshon titled “The Gender inequality in Bangladesh” says that in 2000 the male literacy rate was 49.5%. In 2010 it rose to 61.12%. On the other hand in 2000 the female literacy rate was 40.1 which rose to 54.8% in 2010. So the stats tell that the female growth of literacy rate is 1.47% per annum. At this rate the 2014 target (100%) will not be achieved. There is a stipulated shortfall of 39.32%. And there is a difference between the passing rate of urban and rural girls. In higher studies this becomes more evident between male and female students.  Although at the primary level female students are gaining grounds, in higher studies they still lag behind. In public universities the female enrollment is only 24.3%.

According to the Bangladeshi constitution man and woman hold equal status. But in reality, within families, discrimination exists. So to empower women, it is required that every custom, ritual, law and policy that differentiates male from female, needs reform and change and there should be coordination between legal, administrative and community efforts to achieve this.

In this post of BNPS solving social problems is stressed as a solution to achieve higher female literacy rate:

The past few years there was increased budget for the female primary education which helped in decreasing the gap between male and female students. So Bangladesh could achieve the MDG goal at the primary level within the time frame. But the drop out rate is still in an unacceptable level. So there is still an wide margin of gender inequality in the secondary and higher education levels. The gap has decreased little in the past 10 years. Steps like full free tution for girls upto higher secondary could not do much in bridging the gap. The main reason is the sexual harassment and early marriage. In order to increase the female literacy, these social problems needs to be addressed urgently.


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