Even though most children in Bangladesh are enrolled in school, the country faces enormous challenges in ensuring that children complete primary education, and learn an acceptable amount. Multiple providers—state, quasi-state, and non-state—have helped to raise the initial enrolment rate and improve the gender balance. The critical question is how the multiplicity and diversity of provision can contribute to achieving truly universal primary education with high completion rates and acceptable levels of learning. A range of sub-questions relate to this critical question, including what is meant by multiple provision and how a diversity of provisions can be shaped into a system that serves the goal of effective and equitable access. This article addresses the above questions in the context of the history and educational development in Bangladesh. They are particularly significant at present, as the government is about to implement a new national education policy and design a five-year national development plan (2011–2015), which would have a decisive impact on progress towards achieving the EFA goal of universal primary education by 2015.
This paper is a shortened, revised version of the CREATE monograph 'Debating Diversity in Provision of Universal Primary Education in Bangladesh'.