The Bangladesh Open University was formally established by Act of Parliament in October 1992 (Bangladesh Gazette 1992) following a series of studies undertaken by the United Kingdom’s Overseas Development Agency (ODA) between 1987 and 1989, and by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) between 1989 and 1991.
The rationale for the BOU Project, spelt out in the ADB’s Project Appraisal document (ADB 1992a: 1, 7-8, 9), cited the high absolute levels of poverty, the low per capita GNP, the high population growth, the low adult literacy rate and the inability of the conventional education system to meet the country’s requirements, including inadequate access in rural areas, inadequate higher and professional education and training opportunities, the poor quality of educational resources and programmes, and the lack of informal and non-formal educational opportunities. The establishment of a distance-teaching university would, it was believed, help support the government of Bangladesh’s efforts to strengthen human resource development by increasing access to education and training in rural areas (including basic and secondary education and vocational training), provide higher education and professional training in selected areas, strengthening informal and non-formal educational programmes aimed at the general population, and enhance the general quality and relevance of educational programmes (ADB 1992a:15).
The conditions that gave rise to the rationale for the Project still prevail. Adult illiteracy was 65 per cent in 1990 (females, 78 per cent) (World Bank 1994: Table 1). The 1991 data show that the primary net enrolment was 65 per cent (this indicator gives a more realistic idea of how many children in the age group are actually enrolled in school since it nets out under- and over-age children from the primary school enrolment figures). Only 19 per cent of the relevant age group was enrolled in secondary education (12 per cent for girls), and only 3 per cent (4 per cent for young women) in tertiary education. At primary school level, the teacher: pupil ratio was 1:63. India—to give a comparator—has 44 per cent of the relevant age group enrolled in secondary school (females, 32 per cent), though its teacher:pupil ratio is not much