According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (n.d.), “the defining characteristic of non-formal education is that it is an addition, alternative and/or a complement to formal education within the process of the lifelong learning of individuals”. In this article, we will present the current state of non-formal education in Bangladesh. Non-formal education in Bangladesh is chiefly governed by the government but implemented by local and national NGOs. Besides, there are some small-scale projects run by individuals and institutions in some cases.
Basic Literary Project
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Non-formal Education (2019), the government has allotted Taka 45258.62 lacs for the Basic Literary Project (February 2014 to June 2019). The project is under the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and materializing institution is Bureau of Non-formal Education. The project is supposed to be implemented in selected 250 Upazillas of 64 districts. The project targets to literate 4.5 million (aged between 15 and 45) illiterate people. There are 75,000 Community learning centers involved in this project. Each center has two shifts, one for women and one for men.
Similarly, there are two teachers in each center- one male and one female. The number of students is 30 in each shift. There is one supervisor for every 20 learning centers. The duration of the course is six months. The book “Amader Chetona- Part 1 and 2” is used as the primary material for the students. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2019)
Now the project is being conducted in 134 Upazillas, and the number of students is 2,359,441.
This 5-year project is supposed to end in June this year, but the progress does not seem satisfactory. Though there exists an updated act for non-formal education (GoB, 2014), the project has not shown any link with that. Rather, the objectives of the project aim to contribute to Non-formal Education policy 2006 and National Education Policy 2010.
Post Literacy and Continuing Education for Human Development Project (PLCEHD)-2
PLCEHD-2 projectaims to fulfil the requirement of neo-literate people of previous programs who required further training to reinforce their new skills in order to get employment opportunity and eradicate poverty. This project was a part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy of the Government of Bangladesh to meet the Millennium Development Goal. The project started its operation in the field with the support of NGOs from 2008. Up to June 2012, the program received enrolment of 1,200,000 learners in 7,147 centers in 209 Upazillas of 29 districts. 94.5% of the learners have already graduated from the project, and 38% are involved in income-generating activities (IGAs) either through self-employment or through linkage with other employment providers. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2015b)
It is designed to provide nine-months of community-based courses for neo-literate learners. As part of “post-literacy” learners are provided with further literacy development activities, while as part of “continuing education” learners get basic and productive skills for self-employment. Eliminating gender disparity and establishing social equitability through expediting women empowerment are also a crucial goal of the program. The program hopes to involve the target population in a life-long educational process and to develop them as enlightened and productive citizens. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2015b)
The PLCEHD-2 project is financed with a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and a grant from the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). Communities also bear a small amount of fund. The total financing for the project is approximately Bangladeshi taka 5750 million. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2015b)
Sustainable Non-formal Education Program
This program was mainly initiated in Rangpur in 2013. It is to mention that for PLCEHD program there were established several CLCs (Community Learning Center) at village level and NRCs (Non-formal Resource Center) at Union Parishad level. To make the best use of these rooms built for the previous programs, the SNE program aims to make these centers the hub of learning and community development. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2015a)
Some key activities of SNE program:
- Provide schooling to illiterate males, females and dropout children for 1.5 hours every day in their convenient time.
- Provide certificates after evaluation.
- Arrange study circle combining neo-literates, university students and retired persons every day for one hour.
- Connect women with the Department of Women affairs of the government.
- Form cooperative societies and engage the members in income-generating activities. (Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB, 2015a)
At a non-governmental level, Brac is the largest non-formal education provider in Bangladesh. Brac has its routine activities also in some Asian and African countries as well. According to a documentary on Brac Education Program (Creative Media Ltd., 2019), Brac has various non-formal Education program. We will look at some of them.
Early Childhood Development centers
This program offers a center based two years age of learning for the 3+ year children. The curriculum is fully play based that serves early learning stimulation. Students get basic education through dancing, singing, storytelling, and drawing.
In this phase, a teacher 5+ years old children in a friendly environment. It helps their smooth transition to formal school.
This type of school is for the dropouts and never-enrolled poor children. It has some unique features like an enjoyable environment, co-curricular activities, the use of real materials, etc.
This school is for the children of haor areas where water remains through the year. As they cannot reach the schools, the school reaches them.
School for Street and Domestic Working Children
This school is operated in Dhaka. Students aged 8 to 14 take two years of basic education and 1-year vocational training.
This school is for the dropouts from primary school. This type of schools is mainly operated in urban slum areas.
Education Support Program
This program works for providing education to the underprivileged children in the remotest areas of the country.
Education for Ethnic Children
Students get primary education here in their mother tongue, and they can learn about their cultural heritage. These schools help them to come into mainstream education.
Apart from the programs discussed above, Brac also has several programs for non-formal education. Brac schools possess some unique features, e.g. Children with Disability (CWD) do not study separately. They study in the regular classroom. This indicates the feature of inclusiveness.
Initiatives of Other NGOs
Some other NGOs are working with non-formal education as part of their routine work or on different projects. Bidyananda, Onnorokom Pathshala, FIVDB, Risda Bangladesh are some of the mentionable names in non-formal education.
Bangladesh Open University (BOU)
Bangladesh Open University is a remarkable name in providing non-formal education through radio, television, internet and digital media. BOU has already launched 19 non-formal programs (Bangladesh Open University, n.d.). Some of the current non-formal courses:
- Environmental Education (with SST)
- Maternity and Child Care (with SST)
- Basic Science
- Seed Production Technology
- Production of Field Crops
- Plant Protection
- Animal Science
- Farm machinery
- Rural Development
- Health and nutrition
- Population studies (Bangladesh Open University, n.d.)
- Bangladesh Open University. (n.d.). All Academic Programs [University]. Retrieved from Bangladesh Open University website: https://www.bou.edu.bd/index.php/all-programs
- Brac. (n.d.). Education [Organization]. Retrieved from Brac website: http://www.brac.net/program/education/
- Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB. (2006). Non-formal Education Policy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2VJMQZL
- Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB. (2015a, July 5). Summary of Sustainable Non-formal Education Project. Retrieved from http://www.bnfe.gov.bd/site/page/4926f2ee-402f-4699-bb8a-1fcf3e69d2d4/-
- Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB. (2015b, July 25). Successes, Challenges and Lesson learnt from the Post Literacy and Continuing Education for Human Development Project – 2. Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB.
- Bureau of Non-formal Education, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, GoB. (2019, February 14). Basic Literacy Project Information. Retrieved from http://www.bnfe.gov.bd/site/page/4848a2d4-f47c-4c0c-b23c-51082d02ad07/-
- Creative Media Ltd. (2019). BRAC Education Program. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keogXpIePXY&list=PL0PcJPSFur1AsLI4Xia3_KeJ33ulyh8_j&index=3
- GoB. (2014). Non-formal Education Act. Retrieved from http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/bangla_pdf_part.php?id=1153
- Ministry of Education, GoB. (2010). National Education Policy. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2FNq3c3
Md. Didarul Islam: BA ESOL (4th Year), Department of English Language, Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka