Bangladesh Context: Marginalisation, ICT and English

By Rubina Khan
In Bangladesh, like elsewhere, marginalisation refers to exclusion, deprivation, inequality, imbalance, and vulnerability and curtailed access to power and resources. There are at least 30 million marginalised people in Bangladesh from diverse categories, cultural identities, races, and ethnicities and “disadvantaged people struggle to gain access to resources and services, and to full participation in social life” (Manusher Jonno Foundation, 2016, p. 6). Educational marginalisation has been a serious problem in the country as large numbers of students are outside mainstream education. In school education, marginalisation particularly affects children from ethnic and religious minorities, children with disabilities and those from hard-to-reach areas. There are several contributing factors that contribute to educational marginalisation in Bangladesh. Three of the major factors are briefly discussed below and we aim to explore the factors further in our fieldwork which is now in progress.

UNESCO states that a complete reliance on technology can “increase the learning divide which disproportionately affects hard-to-reach and marginalised communities” (2021, p.24). Indeed, whereas the widespread use of technology and online resources have opened the door towards innovative practices, some reports (e.g., Khan et al., 2020, 2021; The BMJ Opinion, 2021) suggest that ICT has magnified the digital divide. The ECLAC-UNESCO (2021) report rightly points out, “Unequal access to online learning opportunities widens pre-existing gaps in access to information and knowledge, hindering socialisation and inclusion in general, not to mention the learning process that distance education seeks to provide.” Remote areas with poor internet connection and access face more barriers to using technology in education. We believe that future planning needs to ensure engagement, participation and learning of the most marginalised groups. Provision of alternative methods through a range of online, offline and printed packages along with targeted follow-up support will increase the reach and participation for children of different ages and with a variety of learning needs.

In Bangladesh, English is seen as a language of development, with those who know English having better career opportunities and able to position themselves in the global economy. Having a good command over English is often linked to higher social status in Bangladesh, so a good command of the language can also open possibilities for members of marginalised communities to be heard and have a voice in making decisions. However, the benefits of English are predominately available to urban elites, who have access to a better standard of teaching – mostly delivered through private education – and higher-paid jobs. Marginalised groups in Bangladesh do not have access to quality English education and are therefore becoming further marginalised.

Gender is a key social dimension connected to educational marginalisation in Bangladesh. Girls are particularly marginalised as they suffer from being overburdened with household chores and are exposed to different forms of social inequality issues, gender-based violence, biases, gender stereotypes, and discriminatory gender norms which form barriers to girls’ education. In addition, they are subject to harmful cultural practices like child marriage, male favouritism and child labour. Particularly, girls from poor families, internally displaced families, girls with special needs, and girls who live in remote villages become victims of different kinds of violence. These girls do not only miss an opportunity to get educated but also an opportunity to develop themselves as human beings. Hence, girls are doubly or triply marginalised. Dejaeghere and Kyoung (2011) used a capabilities approach (by drawing on a critical feminist perspective) to understand the causes of marginalisation in education in Bangladesh. They pointed out that “gender discrimination remains deeply entrenched in families and in society, preventing many girls from fulfilling their academic potential and achieving well-being through education” (p.29).

DeJaeghere, J., & Lee, S. K. (2011). What matters for marginalised girls and boys in Bangladesh: A capabilities approach for understanding educational well-being and empowerment? Research in Comparative and International Education, 6(1), 27-42.
ECLAC-UNESCO. (2020, August). Education in the time of COVID-19. Retrieved from

Khan, R., Basu, B. L., Bashir, A. & Uddin, M. E. (2021). Online Instruction during COVID-19 at Public Universities in Bangladesh: Teacher and Student Voices, Teaching English as a Second Language Electronic Journal (TESL-EJ), 25(1).
Khan, R., Bashir, B. Bijoy L., Basir A. & Uddin Md. E. (2020). Emergency online instruction at higher education in Bangladesh during COVID-19: Challenges and suggestions. The Journal of Asia TEFL 17 (4), 1497-1506.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (2016). Annual report: The state of the marginalized in Bangladesh. Retrieved from
The BMJ Opinion (2020, 1 September). Covid-19 is magnifying the digital divide. Retrieved from:
The Guardian (2011, 5 Jul). Research backs English as key to development. Retrieved from

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