Need pragmatic planning for out of school children07 November 2021
Masum Billah :
Bangladesh offers free and compulsory primary education to all the school aged children and the government adopts various steps to make it successful as nobody would be left out of school. However, still a considerable number of children have been out of school because of dropout or have never been enrolled in school due to poverty that surfaces conflicting point between our plan and reality. In this perspective, the out of school children aged between eight and fourteen were brought to school through the `Reaching Out-of-School Children' (ROSC) project. The project builds upon the experiences of public schools and NGO education, blending formal education with non-formal means of delivery for children. It gives them an opportunity to complete grade five and transition to secondary school and provides pre-vocational skills training to youth who have dropped out.
Primary Education Development Project-4 under the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education set the objectives of 'Out of School Children Education'. Accordingly, Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE) was given the responsibility to give primary education to ten lac children aged between eight and fourteen within the time frame from July 2018 to 2023. Out of these ten lac children, one lac under PEDP-3 started their schooling activities in 2017 which is going to end in December 2021 but the completion activities will continue till March 2022. Currently six districts namely Dhaka, Chattogram, Kishorgonj, Gaibandha, Sylhet and Sunamgonj witness this program activities through their 3332 learning centres where education is provided based on four modalities and the expenditure of the project stands at 3260 crore taka, of which eighty crore came from donors and the rest by Bangladesh government. Four modalities followed here are (i) ABAL (Ability-Based Accelerated Learning ) Model whose duration is 45 months and every day with 2 hours 40 minutes' break schooling takes place from 9 am to 5 pm. (ii) Multi-Grade Model with 42 months duration with two shifts schooling from 9 am to 5 pm every day (iii) Cohort Model-48 months course in which everyday grade one and two students get three hours schooling , grade three 3 hours 30 minutes, grade four and five get 4 hours schooling and (iv) SHIKHON Rural Model- for 48 months. In each model the number of learners is 25-30 who are taught by one teacher with minimum qualification SSC and NCTB textbooks are used here. The rest nine lac students are supposed to get schooling in 61 districts from January 2021. However, it has seen a sign of uncertainty.
`Out of School Children Education Program' is a laudable step on the part of the government to give the light of education to those who have been dropped out of schools or have never been to school. One of the objectives of this program is to get the children enrolled in secondary school after the completion of primary education. These children basically need intensive care and support to continue their education and retain grade six schooling adjusting themselves with the new and challenging situation of secondary school. Along with their schooling, some technical education can be made available to them to support their families, ensure their safe future and lessen the unemployment problem of the country. The huge learning loss and gap these children embraced during the Corona pandemic can be minimised by introducing a 'bridging course' for at least four months and 'remedial course' till December 2022. The children of the affluent families and regular students had some opportunities to keep in touch with education and books. However, many children have been deprived of these facilities except some 'phone schooling'. This gap will be minimised if 'bridging course' and 'remedial course' can be introduced. All this I mean for the one lac out of school children.
We cannot afford to agree that formal education retains every scope for mass education. We claim that around 76 per cent people are literate in our country. It means still 24 per cent people remain illiterate. If we want to bring them under the umbrella of literacy, can we expect to do it formally? Definitely informal way we need to adopt. Informal education is aimless and ambiguous. But non-formal is the real hope to minimize the gap between both the formal and informal and make balance between both. So, in order to give and provide liberal, flexible, standard, cheap and qualitative education as per the need of the individual, society and the country, non-formal education can be termed as a practical solution to make the country free from illiteracy. Non-formal education has purposefully and systematically been created and has a clear-cut goal to provide education to the mass, it is very flexible and liberal type of education taking the numerous differences of individuals into account. It can educate both children and adult who have been beyond formal schooling system by imparting knowledge, development skills and promoting social values among them. However, we need to devise it appropriately.
(Masum Billah is President- English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh and an education expert in