In this paper, I seek to identify which factors
affect the Socio-Economic and gender inequality regarding the education of
girls and boys, as well as of women and men, across two cohorts of married
women in Bangladesh. In particular, I look at the relative importance of an
individual woman’s own educational background and those of her spouse and other
family members in shaping her attitudes toward gender equality in education.

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I aim to add to this body of work by looking at
changes in attitudes regarding some aspects of Socio-Economic and gender
inequality due to education in Bangladesh during a period of rapid social
transformation. This work is of particular significance for a number of
reasons. First while in developed countries with high-quality datasets there
have been many analyses of gender norms and attitudes, in developing countries
with less high-quality data there have been relatively few studies on gender
norms, and those that have been conducted have been restricted to small samples
and to topics such as attitudes regarding reproductive decision-making, sex
preferences for children, and violence against women. In addition, most of the
research conducted in developing countries has focused on using attitudes as
explanatory variables for a number of outcomes, rather than as outcome
variables in their own right.

Previous research on education and gender norms has
primarily focused on the question of whether education is a liberalizing
influence or a constraint on attitudes regarding gender equality. The results
of these studies are, to say the least, equivocal (Kane 1995). I situate my
analysis on changing attitudes regarding girl’s education within the overall
context of educational expansion in Bangladesh, and the definitions of sex
roles and expectations in the culture. Because I provide quantitative evidence
on the determinants of gender education norms in Bangladesh, my work also
complements the related earlier work by Schuler and colleagues, which involved
in-depth interviews and group discussions (see, e.g., Schuler et al. 2006 (and
the references therein)).


Bangladesh provides an interesting context for an
analysis of the changes in gender norms regarding education. The growth in
access to education, and especially in access to secondary education for girls,
may be Bangladesh’s most dramatic achievement in the last two decades. In the
area of female secondary education, Bangladesh stands out as a shining success
story among low-income countries, Bangladesh’s progress is especially
commendable because the growth in female education took place within a
democratic regime, and started from a very low base.


Enrollment rates in Education

Table: 1 Gross enrollment
rates of boys and girls by level and region

(Grade 1-5)

Lower Sec.
(Grade 6-8)

(Grade 9-10)

Higher Secondary (11-12)
































































Source: BANBEIS (Government of
Bangladesh), 2015/016

The growth in education and the
accompanying social changes have probably been the most important recent
developments in Bangladesh, but there are others as well. Starting from a very
low base of 9%, female labor force participation picked up to over 22% during
the years 1993?2003. While, as indicated, the female labor participation has
increased, the female-male gap in labor force participation (LFP) has also
increased in relative terms over the past few decades:

In 1990 the LFP was 61.7% for
females and 88.4 for males, but by 2011 it had decreased to 57.2% for females
and 84.3% for males (WDI 2013). Evocative images of hundreds of young girls
walking every morning to the garment factories have been etched into the
popular imagination as a metaphor for progress. Infant mortality has declined
faster in Bangladesh than in any other country in South Asia. The total
fertility rate today is less than one-third of the rate four decades ago,
having declined from about 6.9 in 1971 to about 2.2 in 2011 (WDI 2013). Meanwhile,
the microcredit revolution sweeping the countryside has given women visibility
and greater status. Better water and sanitation facilities have reduced the
drudgery experienced by mothers, who now have time for other activities. An
information and communication boom has resulted from the widespread
availability of radios, televisions, and mobile phones. The expansion of rural
roads and of electrification have enabled many people to find work beyond
traditional low-productivity cottage industries. The availability of more
secure modes of transport has also given people greater mobility, allowing more
women to move out of their villages to take jobs in the city (Hossain and Bose
2004; World Bank 2008).

While the progress described above
is real, serious problems remain in Bangladesh, and new ones are surfacing.
Thus, while women’s status has improved dramatically in the last few decades,
gender inequalities persist in many areas, such as in access to markets,
political forums, and high-tech services. Moreover, there are sharp disparities
based on an individual’s place of residence, wealth quintile, and ethnicity.
The practice of dowry payments is on the rise, and is one of the reasons why
the average girl is married off by the time she is 15 years old.

I described above the extent to
which education has expanded in Bangladesh. I also noted that educational
opportunities for girls have changed the conservative marriage market, as
increasing numbers of women are, in contrast to their mothers’generation, marrying
men less educated than them. Clearly, the demand for education is not only
contingent on cultural reasons, but has some important structural correlates.
For the past two decades, Bangladesh has pursued a policy of enhancing girl’s education
through innovative incentive schemes that provide stipends to girls who remain
enrolled in secondary school. Over the past decade, NGOs have also contributed
substantially to the expansion of educational opportunities for girls and of
labor market opportunities for women (World Bank 2008: Ch 1).

However, recent qualitative work
has shown that perceptions among South Asians of girl’s education and gender
norms in general are changing rapidly. Today, local populations take great
pride in the expansion of girl’s education in their towns, and in the impact
this expansion has on the community, the well-being of children, and the
empowerment of women (World Bank 2008: Ch 3). How and why did this change in
perceptions of education come about? At the macro level, I argue that a
supply-side push for education tapped the latent demand for education among
families of girls, which seems to have existed alongside conservative norms and
values. Once the impact of education on girls and communities became apparent,
this fueled further demand. Women’s access to new job opportunities in the
garment sector and with NGOs showed families that girls can have an economic
worth as well. Globally of course, higher returns to education for women have
been shown in a number of studies, including Psacharopoulos’ (1994)
cross-country review, a study by Schultz (1994), and research from such diverse
settings as Taiwan (Gindling et al. 1995), the Czech Republic and Slovakia
(Chase 1997), and India (Malathy and Duraisamy 1993; Duraisamy 2000).

3. Data
and methods

This study was conducted based on the data on various
secondary sources like, Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), Labour
Force Survey (LFS) and other reports conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of
Statistics (BBS), Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey (BDHS), Bangladesh
Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) etc. Using these
data, some projections were made by using the simple mathematical equation:

 Pt=Po (1+ rt)


Pt = Value of
the present year

Po= Value of the previous year

t = Time interval between previous and present years

r = Growth rate

Different statistical reports, relevant research papers,
books and many national and international journals have also been reviewed for
this study. One of the reasons why there is relatively little empirical
literature on changing norms in South Asia is that there are few datasets that
allow for such analyses. Individual questions in the Demographic and Health
Surveys on attitudes toward violence, fertility, and individual diseases have
allowed for some analysis of attitudes in these areas, but very few questions
provide the information needed for an analysis of attitudes toward gender
inequality. To conduct my analysis, we were able to use the World Bank Survey on
Gender Norms in Bangladesh (WBGNS) 2006, a unique dataset which has a number of
questions on attitudes toward gender equality in education. My aim is to
understand whether two cohorts of women display differences in terms of gender
norms and/or the correlates of these norms, and whether these norms differ with
regard to the education of girls versus boys, and of wives versus husbands,


The WBGNS 2006 is the first comprehensive, nationally
representative household survey of gender norms and practices in Bangladesh. It
is based on a sample of adults that include married women in the age groups
15?25 and 45?59, married male heads of households in the age group 25?50, and
500 community leaders (such as Union Parishad (UP) members, Imams/Moulvis (religious
leaders), primary school teachers, and Madrasah teachers). The samples were
drawn in two stages. In the first stage, 91 clusters 5 were selected as a
subsample of the 361 clusters included in the Bangladesh.   5 A
cluster is a census-defined village that corresponds roughly to a mouza village
in rural areas and a census block (part of a mohollah) in an urban area.



Here have two estimation
samples: older women (1,431 initial observations) and younger women (1,543
initial observations). As explanatory variables were found to be missing for
some observations, the samples used in the final analyses were slightly
smaller. In analyzing the difference in patterns between the two cohorts of
women in the sample, I capture intergenerational changes. Of course, it is
entirely possible that the difference is simply a function of age and
life-cycle, and not of cohort. I believe, however, that after controlling for a
number of demographic characteristics, we are able to capture most of the
effects of changes over time.

Bringing women into the mainstream
economic activities and ensuring equal opportunity is one of the major targets
of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as pursued by the government of
Bangladesh. However, women in Bangladesh are dominated by a matrilineal and
patriarchal kinship system, which enforces the social and economic dependence
of women on men and prescribes the relative lower status of women. Although,
there has been steady progress in reducing gender inequality in different
sectors like education employment etc. but there exists a huge inequality in
these sectors of Bangladesh and participation of women is very low compared to
their male counterpart. Gender inequality has appeared as the major stumbling
barrier in achieving the development targets.

Changes Socio-Economic Gender Inequality in Education

Numerous affirmative actions were
also introduced to enhance the female literacy. However, there remains a
considerable gap in enrollment. Literacy as well as the significantly higher
proportion of female dropout from the system is still a major concern. The
literacy of male children was 49.5 percent in 2000 at the national level, which
has increased to 61.12 percent in 2010 with an annual average increasing rate
of 1.16 percent. Continuation of this rate indicates that the literacy rate of
the male children my increase to 65.77 percent in the national level by 2014
which is 34.23 percent lower than the National Education Policy (NEP, 2010)
target of 100 percent. Whereas, the literacy rate of female children in the
national level was 40.1 percent in 2000, which has increased to 54.8 percent in
2010 with an annual average increasing rate of 1.47 percent. Under the business
as usual scenario, the literacy rate of the female might be 60.68 percent at the
national level in 2014, which is 39.32 percent lower than the National
Education Policy (NEP, 2010) target of 100 percent. There are also high
rural-urban variations in case of the literacy rate by sex where the rural
women are far behind than their urban counterparts and male counterparts as
well. Gender disparity is significantly high in higher education (university
level). In 2001, among the total students in the public universities, only 24.3
percent were female students whereas the male enrollment comprises almost three
times higher (75.7 percent) than that of the female. It is also observed that
over the years, both male and female enrollment in the university level is
increasing with a slower rate. In the recent time, the rate at which the female
enrollment in the primary level is increasing, the enrollment in higher
education is not increasing at the same pace.

There exists an immense inequality
between the male and female in Bangladesh as far as employment status is
concerned. However, although there are some progresses in the recent years but
it is still low than that of expected. In 1993-94, employed male population was
57.5 percent and it was 10.6 percent for female at the national level. The
percentage of employed population for both male and female has decreased to
44.2 percent and 9.7 percent respectively in 1999-2000. Again, the percentage
of employed male and female has increased to 68.3 percent and 22.9 percent in
2007 from 67.5 percent and 15.2 percent in 2004 respectively at the national level.
Furthermore, it is also observed that the increasing rate in the percentage of
employed population has occurred with a higher rate for female than that of
male. Although there is little progress in the percentage of economically
active population, the number of population who are unemployed are still
increasing. Unemployed population has increased from 1.3 million in 1995-96 to
2.7 million in 2009 with an average of 0.13 million per year. In case of male,
it has increased with an annual average of 0.06 million and for female it was
0.05 million at the same period (1995-96 to 2009).

Global research has provided
evidence on the critical linkage of educational status and it is being one of
the key factors that deters women from equal participation in socio economic
activities with men and strengthens inequality between sexes. In Bangladesh,
women are still restricted within their home from the birth with the perception
that they will go away to other home after their marriage. Hence, they do not
need education. Traditionally, female education has been accorded a low
priority in Bangladesh due to poverty, social directives for female seclusion
and the low value of girls. However, the situation is changing in recent time.
Since the world Declaration for All (1990), the government introduced various
measures to intensify basic education for all with particular focus on female
education. Numerous affirmative actions were also introduced to enhance female
literacy. However, there remains a considerable gap in enrollment literacy as
well as the significantly higher proportion of female dropout from the system
is still a major concern.

The percentage of literate children also varies according to the sex. The
literacy of male children was 49.5 percent in 2000 at national level which has
increased to 61.12 percent in 2010 with an annual average increasing rate of
1.16 percent. Continuation of this rate indicates that the literacy rate of
male children might be increased to 65.77 percent at national level by 2014,
which is 34.23 percent lower than the National Education Policy (NEP, 2010)
target of 100 percent. Whereas, literacy rate of female children at national
level was 40.1 percent in 2000 which has increased to 54.8 percent in 2010 with
an annual average increasing rate of 1.47 percent. Under the business as usual
scenario, literacy rate of female might be 60.68 percent at national level in
2014, which is 39.32 percent lower than the National Education Policy (NEP,
2010) target of 100 percent. There are also high rural-urban variations in case
of literacy rate by sex. This percentage of literacy was 45.5 percent and 64.9
percent in rural and urban area for male children in 2000
which has increased to
56.67 percent and 73.1 percent in 2010 with an annual average increasing rate
of 1.1 percent and 0.82 percent respectively. On the other hand, in 2000
literacy rate of female was 36.1 percent and 55.3 percent for rural and urban
areas which has increased to 50.21 percent and 67.67 percent in 2010 with an
annual average increase rate of 1.41 percent and 1.24 percent respectively
(Table 2). The annual average rate of increase in the percentage of female
literacy at national, rural and urban level is comparatively higher than that
of male. This might be due to the various education enhancing activities by
governments and various NGOs.

Table 2: Current situation and
future projection of literacy rate (<7 years of age) by sex Female Male Year National Rural Urban National Rural Urban 2000 40.1 36.1 55.3 49.5 45.5 64.9 2005 48.1 42.9 63.2 55.8 50.4 72.1 2010 54.8 50.21 67.67 61.12 56.67 73.1 2015 60.68 55.85 72.61 65.77 61.14 76.38   Source: based on BBS data of different years Despite considerable progress in the percentage of literacy rate, still it is lower than the expected. However, the percentage of the literacy rate both for male and female are increasing but it is occurring at a slower rate than that of the previous year. It is observed that the annual rate of increase in the percentage of female literacy was 3.99 between 2000 and 2005 whereas it was 2.79 percent during 2005-2010. On the other hand, this increase rate for male was 2.55 percent per year during 2000-2005 and 1.91 percent during 2005-2010. Additionally, the annual rate of increase in the female literacy was 3.67, 3.91 and 2.24 percent at the national, rural and urban level respectively between 2000 and 2010. At the same tine (i.e. 2000-2010) the male literacy was increase with an annual rate of 2.35, 2.45 and 1.26 percent at national, rural and urban level respectively. Figure 2: Annual growth rate in the percentage of literacy between 2000 and 2010 by sex Source: based on BBS data of different years In the recent years, the rate at which female enrollment at the primary level of education has increased is unlike the enrollment at higher education which has not been increased at the same pace. Various positive initiatives for female education (especially at primary level), taken by the government, might be responsible for that. But, their continuation with education is breaking down due to various socio-economic and cultural reasons. Socio-cultural attitudes in the form of growing fundamentalism, increasing incidence of sexual violence and harassment against girls are also identified as contributing factors behind girl's dropout of the school system. Gender disparity is significantly high in higher education (university level). In 2001, among the total student at public universities, only 24.3 percent were female students whereas, male enrollment comprises almost 3 times higher (75.7 percent) than that of the female. It is also observed that, over the years, both male and female enrollment at university level is increasing with a slower rate.       Figure 3: Percentage of the enrolled students at university level (public university) by sex Source: BANBEIS, 2011     Strengths and Limitations In the present research, due to time and budgetary constraints, fifty participants were selected purposively which may not seem to be sufficient. Female students who participated in the interview sessions, majority of them were at the teenage stage that might affect the research outcomes. Despite varieties of limitations, our research findings have some implications for gender sensitive education policy and interventions in the context of rural Bangladesh.             Conclusions It is universal that participation of women in education is imperative for balanced socio-economic development as well as empowerment of women. Present study findings indicate that socio-cultural prejudices concerning girls' educational attainment are highly prevalent in the study area. In traditional rural Bangladesh, subordinated position of women made them vulnerable within the family and everywhere because it is well known that a large number of them (women) are less educated or having no education. Therefore, program addressing men's attitudes toward women is needed to be introduced. Similarly, present research findings also suggest that there are some basic socio-cultural problems embedded in social system which is detrimental for girls' educational achievement. Thus, effective consciousness programs (e.g. gender neutral teaching environment, interaction patterns between teacher and female student, gender role education) are also needed to improve the situation (Good et al., 1973; Delamont, 1980; Graneheim & Lundman, 2004). Faulty socialization process leads gender differences in learning ability between boys and girls (Kelly, 1981). At the same time, social learning process is an important factor that leads differences in learning behaviors of boys and girls, because children learn all new behaviors by imitating both adults and other children (Bandura, 1971). Hence, for ensuring girls' education of marginal households, door to door awareness program on children's proper socialization and learning behaviors is required widely


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