Press Releases

Reformed madrasas in Bangladesh increase school enrolment but face quality challenges – University of Reading

Release Date : 12 August 2010

A new report led by a researcher at the University of Reading has found that the quality of learning in Bangladeshi madrasas is a major issue despite substantial reform.

Registered secondary madrasas (popularly known as Aliyah madrasas) now offer coeducation and follow state-approved curriculum where along with Islamic studies, students learn Mathematics, English, Science and other subjects to receive public funding. Female students now constitute almost half of the enrolment in registered madrasas.  

The report, commissioned by the World Bank, is the first ever comprehensive study about the size, structure and quality of secondary madrasa education in Bangladesh. Key findings include that despite the increase in girls' enrolment in registered secondary madrasa, there is a persistent gender gap in learning outcomes. Both the boys and girls scored lower in Mathematics and English tests than the students of publicly-funded non-government schools. However, the performance of all rural schools in English and Mathematics was also low.

The information contained in the report can be used to help government make informed policy decisions about secondary education.

Dr Niaz Asadullah, Economist at the University of Reading and lead author of the report, said "We found that learning outcomes for English and Mathematics were lower in registered madrasas than in other non-government schools. This is an important concern for registered madrasas, but it is also important to recognise that test scores were low across all types of secondary schools, suggesting a need to focus on improving the quality of the overall secondary education sector in Bangladesh."

Dr Asadullah said "There is a need to improve the quality of learning outcomes across the sector. While registered madrasas have played an important role in Bangladesh in achieving gender parity in school enrolments, the challenge now is to enhance the quality of outcomes for girls in particular."



Notes to editors

For more information, please contact the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7115 or email

This research was commissioned by The World Bank.

Niaz Asadullah, Nazmul Chadhury and Syed Rashed Al-Zayed (2010) 'Secondary School Madrasas in Bangladesh: Incidence, Quality, and Implications for Reform'.

The report is available to download here:,,contentMDK:22672131~menuPK:50003484~pagePK:2865066~piPK:2865079~theSitePK:295760,00.html


Information about the study:

The survey included 403 secondary schools and madrasas. The research team interviewed over 9000 students and their teachers and also visited a large number of households to gather information on reasons for household school choice and cognitive outcomes of children from different educational systems.


The study also challenges the claim that unrecognized madrasas are thriving in rural Bangladesh. Nearly one out of five children attends registered madrasa at secondary level education. However, contrary to popular perceptions, the enrolment share of unrecognized secondary madrasa is only 2.2%. Interestingly, the physical presence of the unrecognized madrasas is quite high compared to the enrolment it draws - they account for 19% of secondary educational institutions in rural Bangladesh.


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