The Constitution of Bangladesh states that there is free
and compulsory elementary school for five years for children
between six and eleven years. The language of instruction is
Bengali, from the third class it is taught in English.
The high school lasts up to seven years and is divided
into three stages. There are nine public universities. Next
to the public school system is a private, religious
education system (the Madrasha system). See TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA for TOEFL, ACT, SAT testing locations and high school codes in Bangladesh.
In 1999, an estimated 72% of children of primary school
age attended school, while approx. 19% of the relevant age
group started in high school and 4% in higher education.
In 1999, 62% of the adult population over the age of 15
was estimated to be illiterate, 53% of men and 78% of women.
The situation of women
The rural population remains dominant in Bangladesh.
About 80% of the population is employed in agriculture or
related activities, contributing almost half of the gross
domestic product, while the industry accounts for 10%. At
the same time, women's participation in the labor market is
very low. Only 7% of the paid workforce is women. The
woman's social situation is critical. According to the
constitution that has an Islamic basis, the woman can
inherit only half of what the man can, and in fact, the
inheritance goes directly to her husband or her dowry. The
Bengali feministscomplain that women are treated as objects
and not as human beings. In childhood, they belong to their
father when they get married - and most will be at the age
of 13 - they belong to the husband and as old they belong to
their children. The official statistics do not consider the
work they do at home or in the field as actual work. Low
female productivity is due to poor nutrition and often
causes separation. The right to divorce is a male privilege
and is a formality under Islamic law. The majority of women
also suffer from intestinal disorders as a result of the
long intervals between meals. They must only eat when the
rest of the family has eaten.
Bangladesh was admitted to the UN in 1974 after two
previous attempts that had been prevented by China. The
country is also a member of the Alliance Free Movement and
the International Islamic Conference. In recent years, a
gradual Islamization of political life has been carried out.
A constitutional change in 1989 made Islam a state religion.
A move that the worldly movements in the country opposed.
Relations with India have been somewhat more tense in recent
years due to disagreement over the border demarcation and
utilization of water resources.
In 1991, General Ershad was replaced and during the
election campaign the Awamiliga and the GDP came to face
each other. Both parties positioned women as candidates for
the Prime Minister's post. Both are widows for the party's
historical leaders. At the March 2 election, GDP gained the
most votes and Begun Kaleda Zia thus became prime minister.
She stated that she wanted to work for a parliamentary form
of government and thus tried to remove the Awamiliga's
primary demand for respect for parliament. Five months after
the election, Parliament, with the backing of both major
parties, decided that the presidency should be subordinated
The reform was passed in August in a tense climate, as
then-incumbent President Shabhabuddin Ahmed threatened to
resign if the governance changed. Ex-President Ershad was on
bail until April and was to take his seat in the new
parliament, but he was sentenced to 10 years in prison by
Judge Mohamed Habibullah for possession of illegal weapons
and for possessing wealth that exceeded his income. The
verdict was based on both the exception law and the
constitution and deprived Ershad of his place in parliament.