NGOs and Government Partnership Non-Formal Education

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Goutam Roy

Bangladesh has a substantial program of nonformal basic education with a large institutional network in this field. Besides a major effort in the public sector, a large number of local private or voluntary agencies (known as Non-Governmental Organization, NGO) are also involved in this effort. Among these private agencies some are known world wide for their contribution to fulfilling the EFA (Education fro All) goals. One reason for such huge involvement of NGOs in nonformal basic education is the magnitude of illiteracy and poverty that prevails in Bangladesh. The large population and massive illiteracy have prompted the Government of Bangladesh to embark on illiteracy and non-formal education activities. This has resulted in a significant institutional framework for nonformal education (NFE) in Bangladesh.

It is well recognized that the NGOs are more capable than the public sector formal institutions in reaching the unreached children. Special interventions are required to mobilize the marginal populations to send their children to schools. The poor cannot afford the opportunity cost of sending their children to school.  Unlike the primary schools NGOs are capable of providing a comprehensive package of education necessary to serve the disadvantaged segments of the population. The integrated approach to development is an important strength of the NGOs`, moreover; their nonformal education model has its own strength of flexibility to adjust to local conditions. NFE is more learner-friendly and pro-poor in its character (Sedere and Sabur, 1999) than the formal programs.

Much has been written about non-formal education and its distinction with formal system (Brembeck 1973, Coombs 1971, Harbison 1973, Sedere 1981). Basic education is one area where formal and non-formal education overlaps. The term has a range of meaning around the globe depending upon the exiting provision and policy of the government (Hawes, 1979). In most countries basic education means the formal primary education, but in Bangladesh the government documents are prone to regard non-formal education activities as basic education and formal school for children as primary education. Unlike formal education NFE is not age specific; children, adolescents and adults all can enroll in an NFE program. It has limited administrative controls but larger flexibility in management and supervision. NFE does not require a school building; a structured place is good enough for a school. It is located close to the doorstep of the poor. The NFE school has community teachers who know the children and live close to the children. No school uniform is needed; the children of the poor can attend school with the dress that they can afford. . NGOs provide the necessary learning materials, which include the primers, workbooks, slates, pencils etc. There is, therefore, no private cost. NFE’s objectives are simpler and are attainable, aiming to provide basic education in reading, writing and numeracy with a degree of awareness in life skills. The successful children in the NFE schools may continue their education in the formal primary school as regular students, which is described as main streaming.    

In Bangladesh over 700 NGOs are actively in basic NFE programs. There are many more NGOs not directly involved in running NFE programs, but they provide various types of social and financial support to schooling and literacy. The support includes financial assistant to NFE activities, preparing curricular materials and organizing training programs for teacher and supervisor. The leader amongst the NGO run NFE program in Bangladesh is BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, recently renamed as Building Resources Across Communities). BRAC introduced a Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) model that has been replicated by many other NGOs in Bangladesh. Since the EFA goals for the year 2000 were established, GOB has encouraged NGOs and the development partners to support literacy programs for children and adults. Thus with the establishment of Directorate of Nonformal Education (DNFE) in 1995 GOB initially commissioned four large scale project to offer literacy to children, adolescents and adults through developing partnership with NGOs during the first half of this decade. This too has created different models and modalities in dealing with NFE basic education in Bangladesh. GOB ran NFE for adolescents and adults through two such modalities. These were known as Center Based Approach (CBA) and Total Literacy Movement (TLM). The TLM was discontinued in 2003 and follow-up projects have been initiated known as Post Literacy and Continuing Education (PLCE). This study intends to examine in state of art of public-private partnership in basic nonformal education in Bangladesh.

Meaning of Partnership in NFE
A spectrum of public-private partnership has been identified ranging from no relationship to a close relationship of collaboration. Such collaboration may include elements of contractual, complementary or even parallel arrangement when such a combination is mutually agreed for advancing the shared objectives (Ahmed, 1999). Most of the bigger and medium size NGOs sometime start basic education program with their own resources but afterward they lean on government or non-government supports. Largely, the national government or its associate agencies (district administration, municipal authority, local government, state university etc.) represent the public sector. The private sector includes the NGO, cooperative society, community based organization, research and professional organization. Components like, university, equity, efficiency and accountability are the basic elements of partnership. DNFE was established with a view to developing network with the NGOs to implement the NFE program for children and adults. When DNFE was abolished and its responsibilities were passed on to a smaller body of much smaller scale, the Bureau of Non Formal Education (BNFE). Besides this body, some national level larger NGOs also have extended their support to other local and smaller NGOs for providing basic education to children and adults.

The milestone in the history of partnership is government’s entry to nonformal education in collaboration with selected NGOs. Government’s first intervention to NFE was through the Mass Education program (MEP) in 1998. In 1991, through the General Education Project, GOB supported 17 NGOs to offer NFE programs. In 1992 GOB decided to give an emphasis on NFE and Mass Education, which led to the establishment of the Directorate of Non Formal Education (DNFE). Since the establishment of DNFE in September, 1995 GOB assumed a direct management role in the NFE sub-sector. At that time, DNFE was the largest provider of non-formal adult education in Bangladesh.

Emerging Partnership in Education
In order to make the primary education universal, demand for education had to be created from the community, without which lasting results could not be achieved. Government realized that one way to address this has to involve the partners and the community leaders in the management process. To involve NGOS in a big way as a complement to the government efforts was also an alternative. The international development partners, considering the institutional, managerial and financial limitations of the government, strongly advocated for increasing involvement of NGOs in development activities. As a result the government recognized the importance of the involvement of the NGOs in the development process (Jabbar, 1995). The government took same steps to facilitate participation of NGOs in the nation’s drive against illiteracy. These included (i) creation of NGO affairs bureau for co-ordination of NGO activities and (ii) involvement of more than 700 NGOs in basic education process.

The Ministry (Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, MOPME) involved NGOs for implementation of mass literacy program throughout the country and has evolved detailed mechanism for selection of NGOs (Agreement between BNFE and NGO). Some of the projects of BNFE were being implemented almost entirely through NGOs. These projects were funded by multilateral donors. An essential element of the process was open invitation of bids/proposals from NGOs for implementing the program according to pre- designed procedures. The Ministry and its concerned agency (Directorate) rigidly controlled the selection process according to a set of 13 known criteria. The criteria were mostly related to the legal identity and administrative and managerial capabilities of the organizations.

NGOS for partnership program are selected according     to set criteria A large number of NGOs fulfilled the selection criteria but were not well experienced in conducting literacy programs. Working areas for the NGOs were decided by BNFE which caused problems for the organization. Lack of transparency was a major problem in many NGOs. The tendency for over and under reporting to BNFE by some NGOS was often a source of tension.

Legal Framework of the Partnership
The policy statements on education are often in the form of recommendations to the government by the expert groups and consultants. The education policy statements are particularly nebulous about decentralization and partnership (Ahmed, 1999). The government and its counterparts often cited as the legal framework article 17 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. It states the right to education of all the individual citizens of the nation. Regarding the issue of partnership, the education policy statements that exist seem to be aimed at making the non-government institutions similar, if not identical, to government institutions in terms of curricula, teaching materials, teachers’ qualifications and remuneration of their service condition, as well as the method of evaluation and assessment. The advantages of diversity, creativity, competition, responsiveness to varying circumstances and the importance of complementarities and collaboration among diverse actors seem to be ignored, if not actively discouraged (Ahmed, 1999 p. 67).

Bureaucracy Behind the Partnership
Bangladesh bureaucracy has a long tradition of control and regulation. This tradition was inherited from the British colonial period and it still persists. The interventionist role of the state has not changed significantly. The degree of influence exercised by the government on NGO is most in the project approval stage. The emphasis as control continues through the project implementation and monitoring stages.

The first ordinance to regulate NGOs was promulgated in 1961 which made mandatory for all NGOs operating in the then East Pakistan to register with the government (Kalimullah, 1992). This ordinance was followed by the ‘foreign Donation Regulation Ordinance’ in 1978. The church–related NGOs enjoyed a little more freedom in this regard. During the pre-liberation period NGO activities were further curtailed with the imposition of new regulation regarding externally donated funds and travel formalities. Government officals were barred from serving on NGO boards or councils- including officials of semiautonomous bodies, universities and government schools. These regulations greatly hampered NGOs’ normal operations and project approval was turned into a difficult task. Dissatisfied with continued restrictions and delaying of project approval, the NGOs in order to obtain greater flexibility and autonomy in their operations, sought the help of some donor agencies. The lobbying efforts of NGOS resulted in the establishment of NGO Affairs Bureau to provide a one- step service to NGOs, instead of shuttling between ministries for project approval. The Task Force Repot (Prepared during the interim regime 1990-91) on NGO Affairs Bureau commented that the forms and procedures followed by the Bureau were still complex and cumbersome and were not only creating problems for NGOs but were also preventing the Bureau from being more effective (Jamil, 2000).

Selection of NGOs
The selection of NGOs for partnership programs is strictly controlled by the Ministry. Selection criteria are followed through careful scrutiny of submitted document and other activities of the organizations. Proposals for donor assistance is required to be submitted in a predetermined format developed by the Ministry; therefore, there is no scope of showing any innovative approach or difference in the educational endeavor. The selected NGOs for the partnership program are required to sign a bilateral agreement with government for specific performance. The contract elucidated the obligations of the NGOs toward meeting prescribed methodological, financial and accounting requirements and complying with agreed budget and work plan. Fund is released quarterly upon receipt of expenditure statement or vouchers of the last quarter.   

Organization Arrangement of NGOs
The non-government organizations in Bangladesh vary is size and reach, from small agencies with fewer that ten members to big NGOs with thousands of members. But unfortunately information about these organizations are inadequately documented and scattered ( Jamil, 2000). However, three categories of NGOs are identified as development partners in Bangladesh. These are:
*    NGOs which are purely of foreign origin
*    NGOs which are local but funded by foreign dondors    
*    NGOs which are small and locally operated with government or bigger NGO donations

Most of the NGOs working in the field of basic education work in collaboration with GOB and belong to the third category. Their capacity and existence both are contingent upon the availability of subvention some government. About 60% of the organizations who are registered under the social Welfare Department have NFE program. According to source ( Sedere and Sabur, 1999) over 90% of the NGOs are small in scale and work in a few thanas. There are many smaller NGOs working in a single thana or in a few villages whose institutional framework is very small and inefficient. Their only strength is the head of the organization who is well conversant about development projects and have good connection with ht e government or donors to draw fund for his/her organization. Other workers in  the organization  are either local volunteer or work with minimum wage. Therefore, the obvious result is dropout of staff from the project (the dropout is high in the bigger NGOs also). The former DNFE provided training to the facilitators and supervisors of partner NGOs whose staff turn-over was reported to be high.

In view of the EFA goals, external donors have come forward to support the NFE programs in Bangladesh to reach the disadvantage and un-reached population. Several funding mechanism are found in practice in Bangladesh. The majority of international donors extend their support to national NGOs through government or BNFE. Donors also finance NFE programs of the NGOs directly. International agency like ADB, UNICEF, IDA, DFID, NORAD, USID, SIDA etc. provide financial assistance to NGOs through BNFE, while some local NGOs like BRAC, PROSHIKA, Centre for Mass Education and Science (CMES) and Underprivileged Children Education Program (UCEP) etc. receive grants directly from international donors. Another  mechanism of support is Donor Consortia. BRAC, PROSHIKA and GSS (its activities are now suspended) have donor consortia and each consortium member finances programs with general agreement with each other and the concerned NGO. The National NGOs are also financing smaller NGOs in partnership programs. These are also assisted by donor consortia. BRAC, PROSHIKA and Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) support smaller NGOs, for which funds may come from their own source or the Donor Consortia.

Environment within Partnership Program
The largest amount of NFE activities executed in Bangladesh goes through government NGO partnership. More than a third of NFE program of BNFE take place with the collaborating partners. Today more than 300 NGOs are working in partnership with BNFE. Though there are large number of NGOs are involved in partnership with government, yet the environment of such partnership  is not always smooth or without problems.  Complaints and counter complaints are often heard from both sides.  Among the most pronounced complaints from NGOs are delay in release of funds, poor quality materials and difficulty in following some instructions from the Directorate (e.g., organizing learning centers in short notice). NGOs have their own catchment area where they are known to people and find it convenient in dealing with a new project. But in most cases BNFE’s assignment to NGOs fall beyond these catchment areas which put them in great difficulty. When the organization receives work order (or finally sign the bilateral agreement) they have no choice but to rush to an unknown field for the project. The project unit is a centre, managed by a five member Centre Management Committee (CMC). The committee is  headed by a locally respectable person (head teacher of a primary school or so) with centre-teacher as member secretary. The responsibilities of the Committee are:
i.    Ensure regular attendance of selected learners in the centres.
ii.    Establish and maintain contact with the local authorities.
iii.    Hold committee meeting every month and review progress and difficulties faced by the centre and take appropriate action to ensure regular attendance of learners/ teachers/ supervisors and operation of the centre.
iv.    Provide  necessary   information   and  co-operation  to  the program officer and other visitors of BNFE and others.

In fact, the success of a centre largely depends on the initiatives of teacher. The committee does not have any power or financial strength to propel the centre’s progress. Centre activities are largely monitored by the respective supervisor of the organization. There is provision of monitoring by BNFE staff, but these visits are infrequent.

Complaints from the government are about alleged inefficiency of NGOs in running projects, lack of transparency in the financial management, frequent change in teacher and supervisor and weak monitoring. A mutual mistrust even  in the partnership program is evident in the complaints expressed by both the parties. In general the governance arrangements in partnership program is weak from either side. BNFE meets with the NGO partners for a day in every month where they discuss the obstacles and constraints in terms of governance and management of both the partners. The meeting is chaired by an NGO representative but that does not help the governance because of the bureaucratic complexities in government. Problems related to financial matters (like quick release of fund), supply of materials and their quality etc. are discussed at great length but the problems still persist. Monitoring Associates of BNFE, District Coordinators and visitors from Head Quarter all have policing attitude toward the NGOs. Supportive supervision and quality monitoring of NGOs are virtually absent.

Problems and Prospects of the NGOs
Though large number of NGOs are working in Bangladesh and some of them are more than 25 years old, they have not reached a level of self sustainability. The education program are mostly donor supported and donor driven.

Another major problem of NGOs is their floating manpower and high turn-over of the project staff. Most of the project people are recruited along with the project and they are terminated at the end of the project. It creates a vacuum of trained personnel in NGOs when starting a new project. Neither government nor donors give any attention to this issue, rather they appear to be satisfied with NGOs own recruitment and are concerned about spending the allotted money within stipulated time. The ultimate result of such a situation is poor quality of the programs and little impact on the people.

A serious obstacle to smooth functioning of the partnership program is the government bureaucracy. Study conducted on GO-NGO administration shows that the present bureaucracy is more concerned with paper work and compliance with rules, rather than results (Jamil, 2000). Such a bureaucratic approach arises from natural mistrust and weakness in management capacities on both sides.

In spite of the difficulties faced by the NGOs they are largely successful in delivering services and reaching the rural poor and hard to reach groups in remote areas (Kvam 1992). There are some areas in the country where people are very conservative, suspicious and resistant to development. Government officials who are unknown to them have no access to them. Only the local NGOs can communicate with them and their authority can bring them under the same umbrella. These small NGOs are dependent on grants from government or donor sources.  Once the fund is exhausted the organization may disappear.

NGO Network in Bangladesh
There are several networks of NGOs in Bangladesh Two of the prominent ones are  ADAB (Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh) and CAMPE (Campaign for Popular Education).    CAMPE is exclusively a forum of education related NGOs.

ADAB is the apex NGO network. Over 900 NGOs are members of this networking system. This includes national and leading NGOs in all fields of development. CAMPE too is a member of ADAB. ADAB has sixteen Chapters across the country and each Chapter has a Chapter Office. Its capacity to organize and reach any NGO across the nation is well recognized by all development partners and the Government of Bangladesh.

CAMPE is a coordinating agency of basic education providing organization. It provides technical support to smaller NGOs in the field of non-formal education supports its member by offering training in all areas and helps the smaller NGOs in capacity building. CAMPE maintains database on NGOs and disseminate information to member NGOs and represents all members in important forums of policy discussions. CAMPE is recognized by GOB and the donors and several donors have assisted CAMPE develop its technical capacity to support the education sector NGOs in Bangladesh. It has 414 Member NGOs and this includes all national level and leading NGOs implementing NFE programs.

CAMPE is affiliated with Asian – South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE) and International Council of Adult Education (CAE). It is also recognized by UNESCO as nodal institution for Basic Education in Bangladesh.

Impact of Partnership in Non-formal Education
The main objectives of partnership in NFE is to impart basic education to the illiterates and disadvantaged population in the modality of NFE approach. The most significant happening in the NFE sub-sector in Bangladesh is DNFE’s entry into NFE as the largest player. It has attracted the larger donors like World Bank, ADB and some bi-lateral donors. These agencies usually finance projects authorized by the government. Through this effort the NGOs are involved in more NFE programs than ever before and have become active in non-formal education. In terms of learning outcomes and achievements of NFE programs implemented through partnership, it is a mixed picture. Official claims derived from DNFE data were that adult literacy level had reached even 60 percent. Other sources disputed these claims. In part, it was a problem what definition was applied about literacy achievement and how it was measured or assessed (see Sedere and sabur 1999 and Education Watch Report 2002). The greatest impact of NFE program on the learners was awareness about development issues and their own socio economic situation. Without NFE program such awareness could not be achieved. NFE made the parents send their kids to school, made the woman aware about their rights and made people conscious of their health needs. An important result of the partnership program is the development of a systematic approach to nonformal education on the basis of a standard curriculum. Prior to this initiative there was no commonly accepted curriculum for the NGOs engaged in NFE (Haq,1989). DNFE for the first time commissioned a team of experts drawing from both GO and NGO community as well as academicians to prepare the NFE curriculum for different groups of learners. Though this curriculum has faced criticism regarding its contents and the need for continuing curriculum development has been emphasized, it provided a basis for a common and unified approach for a national effort in adult literacy.

Generally poor learning outcomes from the literacy program and dissatisfaction about management including aspects of GO-NGO partnership led to closing down DNFE in 2003. NFE in the country fell into doldrums. A kind revival of NFE in the public sector occurred with the formation of the Bureau of Nonformal Education in 2005.

Lessons Learned and Future Direction
The positive aspect of NFE activities in the 1990s, especially after the establishment of DNFE, are that it was successful in putting NFE on the map by turning NFE into a major public sector education enterprise with a major commitment of national budget and international donor support. DNFE developed an approach for NGO participation and demonstrated that NGOs can be involved in large-scale national projects under the leadership of the government. DNFE also established an information and communication mechanism to support planning, organization, management and administration and monitoring of NFE delivery.

DNFE suffered from a number of weaknesses. DNFE programs were guided by a narrow view of NFE, limited  to adult literacy.The NFE sub-sector in Bangladesh lacked a comprehensive vision of non-formal education.

Basic conditions for good management practices were absent in DNFE.  DNFE, particularly, at the senior level, was not staffed by professionally qualified personnel, and there was no systematic provision for capacity building in planning, monitoring, evaluation, and material development in the evolving scenario of the NFE sub-sector. The human resource management and development system and practices were incompatible with professionalizaion of management and professional development of the organization.  Staff turnover was a serious obstacle to institution building and making DNFE a professional organization.

In summary, due to systemic deficiencies relating to operational aspects including NGO selection and financial management, DNFE failed to maximize the use of the available resource to the benefit of the program. DNFE was established as a government directorate working directly under MOPME and hence did not have organizational autonomy defined in terms of the degree of freedom from the supervising Ministry. DNFE lacked effective leadership with the capability to inspire all concerned to understand and commit themselves to the institutions’ mission, and guide and motivate all to work towards its fulfilment. DNFE management was weak especially in policy formulation, planning, monitoring, and evaluation. There was no environment for learning, vision or leadership in the organization to take up these challenges. (Ahmed, M. and Lohani, S. “Nonformal Education Proposal, Working Document prepared for the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education,” August 2004)

In June 2003, MOPME formed a National Task Force (NTF) headed by the Adviser to the Prime Minister (who was then Minister in charge for MOPME), for the development of a national policy framework for NFE. The proposed policy framework for NFE in Bangladesh, prepared under the auspices of the NTF, presented the vision, mission, goal, objectives and scope of NFE and its potential clientele groups.

The vision and mission formulated in the proposed policy frame work attempted to remedy the narrow vision of DNFE and the problems arising from it in defining the NFE tasks and the scope and modality of partnerships among major stakeholders.

The vision and mission of NFE were stated in the following words:

Vision: In pursuance of the constitutional commitment to ensure educational opportunities for all citizens and to build a just and equal society, all citizens will have the opportunity to participate in education to fulfil their individual potential, be effective members of their family and community and be productive and responsible citizens, capable of facing the challenges of the 21st century.

Mission: To provide access to life-long learning opportunities for improving the quality of life of children, youth and adults including those with special needs and who have missed out formal education; and equip them with adequate knowledge, productive skills and life-skills through relevant and high quality learning opportunities, including literacy, basic education and continuing education programs.

In line with these statements of vision and mission, the overall goal of NFE was seen as:

To contribute to fulfilling EFA goals and alleviating poverty as spelled out in the National Plan of Action II, 2004-2015 and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), by creating a community-based network of learning centres aimed at reducing illiteracy by at least 50% by 2015, extending opportunities for effective skill training and continuing education and creating lifelong learning opportunities.children, adolescents and youth were foreseen as the priority in identifying learners.

Among the specific objectives of government support for NFPE were the steps to:

Establish a working mechanism of government, NGOs and broader civil society including the private sector for policy co-ordination, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation to reduce illiteracy, poverty and promote human resource development;

Develop a system of ensuring involvement, participation, co-ordination and sharing of responsibility between the government, NGOs, broader civil society and private sector in planning, managing and resource mobilization at local, national and international levels for funding NFE programs.

The guiding principles recommended for a public sector organizational mechanism for NFE encapsulated the approach that was needed to overcome the problems encountered in NFE as managed through DNFE. Among other items, it was recommended that the organizational structure for NFE should be developed as:

A mechanism for partnership building. The organization would be a working mechanism for building partnership and collaboration between government agencies, providers of education and training, business and trade bodies, employers, and those who can help in entrepreneurship development and marketing of products. GO-NGO relationships based on partnerships with mutual respect and support, rather than NGOs serving as mere contractors or vendors, should be the norm in this mechanism.  (Ahmed and Lohani, Ibid.)

An NFE Policy Framework has been adopted by the government based to a degree on  the recommendations of the national task-force and the Bureau of Non-formal Education has been established in 2005.

The new NFE policy adopted in 2005 represents a considerable improvement compared with the earlier absence of a comprehensive NFE  policy. The new policy provides clear and concrete guidelines to all NFE partners. By defining the scope and vision of NFE broadly and ambitiously, the new policy has dramatically expanded the range and complexity of the activities and services to be offered to a wider range of potential NFE clients.

However, where the approved policy framework departed almost totally from the expert recommendations of the Task Force was in the area of the organizational mechanism. The new BNFE can be regarded as a smaller version of the erstwhile DNFE and, therefore, is bound to be saddled with all the management and organizational problems of DNFE that led its poor performance and ultimately its disbanding.

As pointed out in a recent review of the NFE situation, the current organizational structures at national and district levels “ will face serious difficulties in trying to implement complex aspects of the policy, especially technical components such as planning, skills training, monitoring and technical support. As was the case under the old DNFE, the newly created Bureau of NFE is staffed and managed by civil servants who may not have   the knowledge, skills, competences and experience to adequately guide and implement an NFE policy which has grown more complex.” (EFAGlobal Action Week 2007, “EDUCATION AS HUMAN RIGHT” Thematic Forum Issues Paper, “Literacy, Non-formal Education and Lifelong Learning,” prepared by BRAC University Institute of Educational Development, 2007)

The above mentioned review goes on, “ It appears that the effective implementation of the NFE policy at various levels, is once again hampered (as was the case some years ago under the former DNFE structure) by the fact that BNFE and its current staff do not, as civil servants, possess sufficient understanding, knowledge, professional capacities and experience to fulfill the roles and responsibilities which are theirs under the new policy. The frequent turnover of NFE staff and the absence of staff permanency further compound the problem.”

A semi-autonomous agency, staffed by professionals (from relevant sectors and occupational groups within wider society) who can guide, lead the process, as well as inspire and support others, was recommended by the experts who formulated the draft of the NFE policy, but was ignored by decision-makers. It was pointed out by the technical experts that decentralization and building the capacities of NFE personnel at all levels, starting with the national level, were absolutely necessary, if the mistakes of the erstwhile DNFE were not to be repeated

Policy Implications
It is evident the relationship between the government and NGOs in the field of non-formal education is yet unclear and ambivalent. The government is more authoritarian task master rather than a friendly and supportive partner. On the other hand NGOs sometimes demand freedom and support without considering the national perspective of planning and coordination. Such a situation has brought the partners into a relationship of mistrust and tension. It is necessary to have frequent dialogue between the two parties about policy, legal aspects, national strategy, administrative mechanism, financial policy and use of donor contribution. Based on the diagnosis of problems and lessons from experience noted above, the EFA Global Action Week Forum 2007 recommended a number of action points as noted below:
**    Take steps to operationalise and implement the goals, objectives  and strategies set in the National Policy for Non-formal Education of 2005 for meeting basic learning needs of youth and adults and expand life-long learning opportunities; an overall NFE/LLL comprehensive plan should be developed as anticipate in the policy statement.
**    Establish and strengthen organizational structures at the national and district levels, formulate an operational programme and develop new modalities of partnership between the government and  non-governmental organizations which are relevant and appropriate for fulfilling the vision of NFE and lifelong learning envisaged in the National policy for NFE.
**    Move towards a decentalised organizational structure with NGOs and community organizations along with concerned research and academic institutions involved prominently both at the national and district levels, staffed with professionally qualified personnel, with incentives and remuneration to attract and retain qualified and committed people ( instead of personnel on temporary deputation ).
**    Design and implement adult literacy programmes which lead to functional and relevant skills responding to needs of learners and where appropriate linked with income earning skills and life skills and ensure necessary technical support and resources for maintaining quality in partnership with capable and committed NGOs and academic institutions.
**    Develop and promote a network of community-based, community-managed, permanent multi-purpose learning centres,  usually supported by an NGO actively engaged in education,  as the main institutional mechanism for NFE and LLL; BNFE should undertake research and experiment on the modality of permanent     community-based learning centers in collaboration with appropriate research institutions and committed NGOs.
**    External and government resources for time-bound projects should be designed and aimed at supporting the development of the community-based network of permanent learning centres.
**    A programme and an institutional mechanism for longer term  professional development of managers, planners and specialists in NFE/LLL should be developed and implemented in partnership with NGOs and interested research and academic institutions.
(EFA Global Action Week 2007, ibid.)

Besides the above action points, the following actions may be taken for promoting effective cooperation between the government and private sectors or NGOs.
a)    Guidelines and regulations regarding decentralization of management specifying roles, functions, authorities and obligations of the government as well as NGOs so that the context for cooperation and collaboration between these two parties are clearly understood.
b)    Frequent dialogue between the two parties in friendly environment with open and transparent communication with each other.
c)    Policy and regulation for innovative projects and experimentation need to be formulated so that experimental activities can be encouraged with at administrative barriers.

Reorganizing NGOs as critical partners in promoting NFE and life-long learning, operational principles for government support should be adopted, such as the following
a)    Government should extend its cooperation to build the capacity and quality of NGOs in the field of training, supervision and monitoring and developing learning  materials.
b)    As a general principle, government should finance NGO’s social and development activities, when this is cost-effective and contributes to the sustainability of the organization.
c)    Allowing the NGOs to provide education to the disadvantaged people through nonformal or any other acceptable approach provided it maintains the equivalency and equity with the nation’s formal education system.
d)    NGO’s dependency on government and donors should be minimized by allowing them to exercise their own creativity but NGOs must accept the obligation to be accountable to government for their developmental activities.

The quality of NGO activities has always been a great concern to the government as well as the donors. Unfortunately this concern was never addressed with patience and care. In exercising quality control often bureaucratic interference becomes the pattern which produce tension and mistrust. The following actions are suggested for encouraging better quality in programs :
a)    The standard of quality in such areas as of teacher training, teaching-learning materials, classroom environment, learner achievement etc. need to be determined beforehand through joint efforts so that both sides know what these are and can strive to achieve them.
b)    It is not possible for government to take care of all the NGOs in the field individually, Therefore, a group of NGOs (small and large) can be brought under a networking system so that they can look after their own quality of work.
c)    NGOs should be encouraged and supported to develop their own independent monitoring cells to supervise and monitor their activities within their working area. Currently this is the most weak area in the non-governmental organizations. Neither government nor donors support this activity or development of capacity in this respect.
d)    In order to develop the NGO’s capacity and quality a core group of people (like trainers, material developers, monitors etc.) has to be developed with the help of the government so that uniformity in this respect can be maintained.

NGOs largely  operate with donor’s financial and technical support. Such support has been largely responsible for the emergence of the large NGOs in Bangladesh. Government’s ambivalence and bureaucratic attitude in funding projects have been a discouragement for donors. The following steps may be taken to encourage funding support for NFE projects:
a)    Donors money for education project should be accepted when it fits the larger national principle and overall strategy.  Attention must be given to the financial support that has the component of capacity building for the concerned organizations.
b)    Donors should be encouraged to support networks of NGOs and work through networking mechanisms (CAMPE is one example) rather than the individual agencies that will reduce direct donor dependence of the NGOs, increase GO-NGO and NGO-NGO cooperation, and reduce transaction costs for donors.
c)    All parties-donors, government and NGOs-  must emphasize the quality of the work rather than the quantity (which is often the case).

Ahmed, Manzoor (1999) Promoting Public-Private Partnership in Health and Education: A case study of Bangladesh. (a draft document submitted to ADBI).
Brembeck, C.K. (1973) The Strategic Use of Formal and Non-Formal Education, Lexington Books.
Coombs, P.H. (1971) Outline of Research Project on Non-Formal Education for Rural and Agricultural Development, International Council for Educational Development.
Education Watch (1999) Hope not Complacency: State of Primary Education in Bangladesh. Campaign for Popular Education and the University Press Ltd. Dhaka.
Harbison, F.H. (1973) Human Resources and Non-Formal Education, Brembeck Edition, Lexington Books.
Hawes, Hugh (1979) The History of Basic Education, in Learning or Labouring, UNICEF, 1995. Pp. 30-31.
Jabbar, F.J. at al (1995) NGOs and Women Education: BRAC – A Case Study. In Grassroots, an ADAB Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 5, Dhaka.
Jamil, Ishtiaq (2000) NGOs and the Administration of Development aid in Bangladesh. In Hossain, Farhad et al. (eds.) Learning NGOs and the Dynamics of Development Partnership. Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Dhaka.
Kalimullah, Nazmul (1992) NGO-Government Relation in Bangladesh – From 1971 to 1990. In Development Review, Journal of the Acamemy for Planning and Development, Vol. 4, No. 1, January, Dhaka.
Kvam, Reider (1992) Support to the NGO Sector in Bangladesh. NORAD strategy paper. Draft. May, Dhaka.
Sedere, M.U. (1981) Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Education: A Clarification, New Frontiers in Education, New Delhi, Vol.: XI, No. 1.
Sedere, Upali and Zia Us-Sabur (1999) Non-Formal Education: A Resource Book. Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Dhaka.

Writer: Professor, Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

About the author

Goutam Roy

Leave a Comment