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Unformatted text preview: 29 Is the Price Right? A Study of the Impact of School Fees in Rural Bangladesh 2 Emily Grenzke is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University ([email protected]). I S THE P RICE R IGHT ? A S TUDY OF THE I MPACT OF S CHOOL F EES IN R URAL B ANGLADESH Emily Grenzke The purpose of this article is to investigate the effect that user fees have on primary school enrollment and educational at- tainment in rural Bangladesh. There is growing international consensus that school user fees should be abolished in developing countries because they pose a barrier to universal enrollment. However, where school fees are the primary source of revenue for education, abolishing them significantly threatens the quality of education provided. Using data from three different regions in Bangladesh in 1996, this article employs a Heckman model to estimate the determinants of school enrollment. The results suggest that (i) fixed enrollment fees are a barrier to partici- pation in the education market, (ii) but annual fees are not, and (iii) that the cost of secondary education has a significant impact on primary school enrollment. Based on these results, and considering the need for revenue, current policies aimed at abolishing all varieties of school fees are not justified. The article concludes by recommending advocacy for lower fixed enrollment fees and lower fees for secondary schools. 1 I NTRODUCTION A 2005 government report on education in Bangladesh given to the South Asian Society for Regional Cooperation recommended that all primary 30 Emily Grenzke school user fees be abolished in the country (Ardt et al 2005, 18-19). This policy recommendation is inline with the current international push for universal primary education and the perception that school fees are a barrier to entry for students. The importance of school fees for revenue and the lack of systematic research into the determinants of enrollment are both reasons to carefully consider the policies aimed at abolishing all school fees. The purpose of this article is to investigate the impact school user fees have on enrollment and educational attainment in rural Bangladesh. Country Context Bangladesh is plagued by extreme poverty. Approximately 36 percent of the population was classified as ‘very poor’ and 53 percent as ‘poor’ in 1995- 96. Rural poverty is especially prevalent and persistent in Bangladesh. Of the households classified as ‘very poor,’ 93 percent were in rural areas, as were 89 percent of ‘poor’ households (World Bank, 1999). As in many developing countries, there is a gender aspect to poverty in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi society is dominated by patriarchal rules of property ownership and family relations (Quisumbing and Maluccio 2000, 26-27)....
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