Funded Research Projects

International Grants and Research Funding

2013-2015
GBP £380,000 awarded by the Australian Government's AusAID
Study/project title: 'The Role of Secondary Schooling and Gender Norms in the Long-term Opportunities and Choices of Rural Bangladeshi Women'. (Principal Investigator: Dr Zaki Wahhaj, Kent University)
Brief overview: This project aims to document the long-term impact of the female secondary school stipend scheme, introduced in the mid-1990s in Bangladesh. Our research is also expected to inform existing government and NGO interventions that are targeted at female adolescents and tackle issues such as early marriage.

2011-2012
GBP £44,000 awarded by the Leverhulme Trust (fellowship scheme)
Study/project title: The Rise of Islamic Schools in Bangladesh
Brief overview: This is a follow-up to the QSSMEB project. I wrote three new research papers on madrasa education in Bangladesh using QSSMEB data. For cross validation purpose, new secondary datasets have been also used. These papers shed light on demand and supply side aspects of Islamic education in the country. The main objective was to address the following research questions: (a) What are the strategic motivations for location choices of madrasas? Do they target educationally underdeveloped (e.g. fewer public schools) areas and/or economically poor regions? Or do they follow for-profit schools and choose locations for practical reasons? (b) How do adolescents in unrecognized madrasas differ from those in non-religious schools and state-regulated madrasas in terms of socio-economic attitudes? Do teachers serve as a conduit for norm transmission to pupils? (c)  Revisit the question of student learning in Maths and English in madrasas (unrecognized and state-regulated) vis-a-vis state-supported schools. Full version of the research papers will be available soon as working papers. Findings from this project has recently featured on Al JazeeraRecently, I gave a talk entitled "Madrasas in Bangladesh: Literacy and Social Capital" at the speakers Forum on "FAITH AND EDUCATION: Contestations around the Madrasa in Bangladesh" organized jointly by at BRAC and Georgetown Universities. 

2010
GBP £9,000 awarded by the International Growth Centre (IGC)
Study/project title: Bangladesh's path to social development 
Brief overview: Once dubbed a bottomless basket, Bangladesh has achieved rapid and spectacular improvements in many social development indicators during the last two decades. Within South Asia, Bangladesh has improved its position ahead of India and Pakistan in a number of human development indicators although its per capita income is still significantly below the regional average. Bangladesh’s developmental achievements may appear as a ‘development puzzle’, given the country’s desperate initial conditions, still widespread poverty and allegedly poor record in governance adversely affecting the quality of public service delivery. The issue has attracted considerable media attention. This project takes another look at the significance of Bangladesh’s human development progress in a cross-country framework. Future challenges are also identified.
Related policy briefs
Bangladesh’s Achievements in Social Development Indicators        
Governance and growth

2009
GBP £9,000 awarded by the International Growth Centre (IGC)
Study/project title: Economics of madrasa schools
Brief overview: Bangladesh has made significant progress in increasing access to secondary education over the past decade, especially for girls. However, recent evaluations of student performance in subjects such as Mathematics and English highlight an overall low level of achievement in schools in rural Bangladesh, as well as a wide variation in the quality of education across schools. While this is not surprising given that schools differ in terms of resources, educational inputs and organization, a further potential institutional determinant of quality is the religious orientation of schools. This study examines the factors that lead to enrolment in registered madrasas in Bangladesh instead of non-religious state-aided schools. In particular, we test whether madrasa enrolment is driven by economic considerations or religious preference of the household. The study findings have been published in Bulletin of Economic Research. Full version of the paper is also available as IZA working paper.

2008
US $ 100,000 awarded by the World Bank (Principal Investigator: Dr Nazmul Chaudhury)
Study/project title: Secondary School Madrasa Education in Bangladesh (QSSMEB) 
Brief overview: Bangladesh is home to a rapidly growing number of madrasas. However, systematic evidence on these Islamic schools is scarce. To fill this knowledge gap, the World Bank sponsored the first ever systematic field survey on secondary madrasa and non-madrasa schools in rural Bangladesh. Both registered (Aliyah) and un-registered (Quomi) madrasas have been surveyed. The project not only documented overall size of the madrasa sector (in terms of their market share in the population of primary and secondary school-going children), it also gathered information on the quality of education imparted therein. Detailed data on institutional characteristics of madrassa and non-madrassa schools have been also gathered along with socio-economic attitudes of teachers and students. 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. Preliminary findings of the study led to a report entitled “Secondary School Madrasas in Bangladesh: Incidence, Quality, and Implications for Reform” launched in August 10, 2010 by Ellen Goldstein, Country Director, The World Bank Dhaka at the Launch of the QSSMEB report. For a copy of the press release, click here and here. To widely disseminate the study findings, I also organized a symposium "Madrasa education in Bangladesh: implications for economic development " in the 2011 UKFIET conference, held in Oxford, UK.  Ongoing studies using QSSMEB data include: Inequality of opportunity at school in rural Bangladesh: to what extent are pupils’ efforts shaped by family background? (joint with Sandy Tabeuf, Alain Trannoy, and Gaston Yalonetzky)

2004
US $ 20,000 awarded by South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutes (SANEI)
Study/project titlePrivate schools in Bangladesh and Pakistan
Brief overview: This project explores the effectiveness of private schools in Bangladesh using labor market data. Wages of private and public school graduates are analyzed. Comparison is also made to Pakistan where private schools have a strong presence.