Results of the SSC exams published on Thursday show that rural schools in Chittagong continue to lag far behind their urban counterparts in terms of performance.
Most of the successful schools and students under the Chittagong board are from urban areas, while most of the poor performers are in rural areas.
The trend appears to be consistent with the results of the SSC exams under Chittagong Education Board in the last few years.
This year, 117,897 students from 1,011 schools under the Chittagong Education Board appeared for the exams at 171 centres.
In total, 92% of students passed in Chittagong city while 84% passed in the district overall, while no rural school could secure a place among the 13 best institutions.
Academics and education experts say a shortage of competent teachers allied to poor laboratories, libraries and other facilities in rural areas are to blame for the performances of rural students.
The percentage of unsuccessful students in Chittagong city, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban districts were 8%, 14%, 36%, 37% and 20% respectively.
These figures represent an increase in the failure rates from 2016, when the percentage of unsuccessful students in these districts were 5%, 9%, 6%, 21% and 17% respectively.
Prof Mohammad Mahbub Hasan, controller of examinations of the Chittagong board, told the Dhaka Tribune that the rural-urban gap in performance has “widened sharply” in the recent years.
“The rural schools have not done well compared to the previous year. Rural students lag behind their urban counterparts as they lack efficient, trained and experienced teachers,” he said.
“It is an uphill task to bridge the gap since the education sector gets only a meagre budgetary allocation from the government compared to the demand.”
Prof Ajay Kishore Hore, the former principal of the Government College of Commerce in Chittagong, said a class divide was emerging.
“It is abundantly clear from this year’s SSC results that good education has now become accessible mostly to the rich and those living in the urban areas,” Prof Hore said.
“Students from urban affluent families can avail of coaching, private tuition, better guidance, food and nutrition that no rural students receive,” said Prof Hore, adding that most upper and upper middle class families living in rural areas opt to send their children to urban schools.
Prof Muhammad Sikander Khan, vice-chancellor of East Delta University, said: “The acute shortage of skilled teaching faculty, laboratories, libraries and other crying needs in rural institutions are to blame for the plummeting standard of education in the country. Students in urban areas are blessed with better financial support compared to their rural counterparts.”
Prof Anwara Alam, former Principal of the Agrabad Women’s College, said it was “regrettable” that the defence sector and not education, gets the highest budgetary allocation.
“The rural areas are being deprived of its fair share of development. The meritorious do not feel encouraged to join the education sector as teachers are low-paid,” she said.