begun 1n 1984/5, brac's exponential acceleration of primary had built 30000 informal primary schools by 1995 -making brac the largest non-gov schools service - unlike gov schools which may have 5 teachers and classrooms, brac is one room one teacher (format partly resembling village montessori). this is a description from a 1998 paper:
BRAC : in 1995 there were 30,000 schools covering 900,000 students nationwide. BRAC schools are one-room classes of 30 students that give preferential enrollment to girls and to children from poor families. The teacher is usually a woman from the village with at least an eighth grade education who has completed an intensive teacher training course run by BRAC. The program’s policy is to maintain a 70–30 ratio of girls to boys among those enrolled. BRAC schools make an effort to enroll dropouts from the regular school system, and the curriculum developed by BRAC is intended to provide gender-sensitive, functional education
in oct 2012 fazle abed made these contribution to a tweet Q&A hosted by UN- they reveal the sort of design brac primary schools serve
Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. EST (10 a.m. GMT), BRAC will participate in a Tweetchathosted by the UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report to support the launch of its 2012 edition.
“I would say my mother was my greatest teacher. She taught me the importance of even the poorest among us. More than anything, she taught me the value of empathy.”
“Mothers are always the best teachers. Any teacher has to teach with affection, to be affectionate like a mother. A child should feel like she’s been loved, and then the child learns because it’s coming from a loving person.”
“My whole life, I did not have a disciplinarian. Neither my mother nor my father. Even my father, at 9pm, would say, ‘Go to bed, you don’t have to study anymore. You’ll do fine on the exam.’ I was actually taught not to work too hard!”
“Being tough is not necessarily always good. Softer skills get the better out of children. Softer skills for me are always the more interesting approach, though I suppose there is always a role for a disciplinarian. Not too tough – but a disciplined teacher, because children do need to learn discipline.”
“Children should have their childhood – not just discipline, discipline, discipline, and study, study, study. My parents were all for me getting an enjoyable childhood.”
In these comments, you can start to see the origins of BRAC’s approach to education.BRAC started its primary education programmes in 1985, and from the beginning it adopted a different approach toward educating young minds. Rote learning was discouraged. Teachers were trained to teach in a more engaging and encouraging way, because school should be a place where children learn to think in their own.
Using this approach, we’ve already seen 10 million children pass though BRAC’s nonformal primary and pre-primary schools, the vast majority of them transitioning into government schools – where they perform better, on average, than their peers.
- “Universal primary education is not enough,” by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
- “More children are in school – but are they learning?” by Susan Davis, President and CEO, BRAC USA
- BRAC founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed on the cover of IB World Magazine: “The world’s greatest teacher.”
the 1998 paper offers context on how sustained efforts for women empowerment need to be when history has started from a completely opposite culture- noteworthy extracts
Changes in education policy such as the ones that have occurred in Bangladesh provide a unique opportunity to study factors that affect investments in children. They represent exogenous influences on a household’s decisionmaking about children’s schooling. Justification for the programs was based on the assessment that certain structural and familial factors act as barriers to schooling of children. The costs of schooling to families include direct costs for fees and books, as well as the more indirect costs of higher standards of nourishment and clothing that are perceived to be a necessary condition of attendance. Second, there are opportunity costs since children engage in various productive activities from an early age, and schooling 4 either translates into very long workdays for children or foregone income for the family (Amin 1996a). Under-investment in education may also be related to low expected returns from schooling: where school quality is poor, levels of learning are low and the prospects for improved earnings as a result of schooling are limited
The schooling of adolescent girls involves additional parental concerns. When schooling delays marriage, it may reduce the desirability of girls in the marriage market: while education is a valued attribute, so is young age at marriage for girls. Perceived risks are also associated with sexual safety. A girl whose sexual virtue has been compromised, in addition to suffering the psychological costs, also faces diminished prospects for marriage. Safety issues related to traveling to schools that are sometimes several kilometers away from the village is reported to be a significant factor in the decision not to send girls to secondary school. These costs generally outweigh the benefits of schooling, namely higher status, better opportunities for work in the formal sector, and better marriage prospects. Thus, in Bangladesh as in many other impoverished agrarian societies, the level of investment in children is the outcome of a complex decisionmaking process where parents’ ability and desire to invest in children are related to costs of education, opportunity cost of children’s time in school for the household, and expectations regarding returns to education. The social setting within the community and the macroeconomic environment also have a significant impact on the level of investment in and demand for schooling. In particular, the aggregate level of schooling in the community is likely to affect perceptions of costs of and returns to schooling. The presence of educated individuals offers direct evidence of what education can and can- 5 not buy in terms of opportunities and lifestyle. In most of rural Bangladesh, access to new employment opportunities, such as working for rural extension projects in agriculture, health, or credit, depends critically upon levels of education.
Female secondary school scholarship scheme. The government also initiated a scholarship scheme in 1994 for all girls enrolled in grades 6 and 9. This scheme was extended to girls in grades 7 and 8 starting in 1996. Entitlement to scholarships requires 65 percent school attendance and maintenance of a certain grade average in the previous year, but there are no criteria for economic exclusion. Schools receive a subsidy for each girl enrolled under this program, and the girls receive a monthly stipend deposited in their bank accounts. The stipend ranges from $1–2 depending on grade, and is of considerably lesser value than the wheat rations that children receive in primary school, which have a market value of $2–4. Parents of scholarship recipients are required to sign a bond guaranteeing that the girls will not be married before reaching 18 years of age. This program has been introduced throughout Bangladesh and thus it affects children of secondary school age in both study villages.
=============sept 2021 reprise
Bangladesh has seen a paradigm shift in the education sector. The year-wise dropout rate decreased from 47% to 19% between 2005-2017, and there are now more girls than boys in school. Dr Islam is one of the people who led these changes, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of education leaders.
When BRAC began its journey in the newly-liberated Bangladesh, the food/population nexus was the most worrying issue in the country. Education took a back seat. There were several fundamental problems, with inadequate geographical reach of the formal education system being key amongst them. Many villages did not have a primary school near them, and parents did not feel safe letting their children travel for hours to and from a distant school.
Leaving no one behind
BRAC supported the government’s efforts in education by bringing schools to every village, through over 40,000 informal ‘one-teacher one-room’ primary schools. The effort started, after meticulous research and piloting, with 22 schools in Bangladesh in 1985.
No one was left behind, through the schools, and a wide variety of other initiatives implemented to complement them. Mother-tongue based multilingual education opened opportunities for children in Indigenous communities to learn in their own languages. Adolescent development centres were safe spaces that provided access to leadership and life-skill based training, sports as well as performing arts. In secondary schools, teachers were trained, gifted students were turned into mentors for others and education was delivered through interactive digital content. Multi-purpose community learning centres, boat schools and mobile libraries increased access to learning and encouraged reading habits in the remotest regions.
BRAC University was established in 2001 as a crucial extension of BRAC’s work in education, where scholarships are offered in several categories, including academic merit, economic constraints, and students with disabilities.
Throughout all of these initiatives, a few threads were common – learning was joyful, lifelong learning was encouraged and all learning was value-driven, with the ultimate goal to build active citizens.
Thirty years on, over 1,200 NGOs in Bangladesh have adopted the one-room school model, the Government of Bangladesh has adopted BRAC’s second chance at education model and BRAC schools have crossed geographical borders. Almost 15 million students have graduated from BRAC schools in Bangladesh, Africa and Asia.
BRAC already had the makings of a comprehensive education system when Dr Islam joined, but it was under his leadership that it expanded significantly. Once accessible only by the privileged, basic education became accessible for children from families with low incomes and families living in extreme poverty; as well as for children living in hard-to-reach and marginalised communities.
Read more: Educating a generation: Bangladesh’s barefoot teachers
Dr Islam received his PhD in Economics from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1985. He held a variety of positions at BRAC, including senior research economist. He joined the education programme in 1995, and became its director in 2004, a position he held until 2021
Dr Islam always strived to make education an exciting experience for children. In his words, “Working for BRAC feels like you are connected to millions of children. A million children who have a dream to realise, and a million children who are enjoying their classrooms because they are full of fun”.
BRAC schools became a place where children were not compelled to study, but a place where they wanted to study. They became safe havens for children to leave the harsh realities of their struggles behind and just be children, where they could sing, dance, and paint.
Read more: Primary schools in Bangladesh to go digital, reaching 20 million students
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s Founder, set the bar high
“Our generation’s biggest luck was to have gotten the chance to work with and learn from someone like Sir Fazle. To watch, observe, and feel for something from close proximity – is what we learnt from him.” – Dr Safiqul Islam
Dr Islam was deeply connected with Sir Fazle and worked to achieve his vision of a world where everyone has opportunities throughout their career. He learnt from Sir Fazle and transferred the knowledge to each generation of leadership.
In 2009, when BRAC had more than 1.8 million children in over 64,000 primary and pre-primary schools, Sir Fazle asked a question: “Okay, Safiq bhai, tell me what percentage of our students are children of BRAC staff?” I understood then was that the quality of education in our schools needs to be so good that our staff would enrol their children in them. ” said Dr Islam.
From new graduates to staff members who spent years working at BRAC, Dr Islam listened intently to everyone and valued their input. “The BRAC team is two very distinct generations. The young people are here, fresh out of university. And then there is the generation of people who have been with BRAC for quite a long time. So, it is an interesting space to exchange experiences and understand how the young generation think about the future of BRAC, how they really want to lead the country, and to learn from what has been learnt so far”, Dr Islam said.
Read more: Back to school again: Assessing what students missed during school closings for COVID-19
In March 2021, Safiq retired as the director of BRAC’s education programme. His legacy will continue to inspire BRAC to think differently, to show compassion to all and to dream big. BRAC is grateful for more than three decades of relentless service from Dr Islam.
Read Dr Safiqul Islam’s blog pieces on The Good Feed.
Fahad Bin Touhid is the Communications Portfolio Lead for BRAC Education Programme, and Miftahul Jannat Chowdhury is a Content Specialist at BRAC Communications.
BRAC started working in education in 1985. Its high quality, affordable, scalable schooling model has made it the world’s largest provider of private secular education. Its holistic approach to lifelong learning, addressing educational needs from early childhood to higher academic levels supported over 15 million students across five countries to graduate to date.
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