BRAC Education Programme (BEP)

Snap Shot: Duration:  January 2013 to December 2020 ; Funded by:   BRAC-ESP/BEP;  Geographical Location:   Nageshwari Upazila under Kurigram District, Number of School: 16, Student enrolled: 480

Background Information: In 1984 Bangladesh’s literacy rate was just 24%.The world’s largest non governmental organization, BRAC, founded in Bangladesh in 1972, ran a functional education program for adults. One woman participating in the program asked the chairperson, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed , “But what about our children? Must they grow up illiterate and wait until they are old enough to come to your program ?” The following year, BRAC launched a non-formal primary education program. The first year there were 22 schools. BRAC’s primary schools were created to reach the 40% of school -aged children who were not enrolled in government schools. Some children lived too far to walk to the existing schools, and others had dropped out or never enrolled and were now too old to enter the formal system. The core components of the BRAC school model are that it is free for all, the teacher is a woman from the community, the hours of instruction are flexible and determined by the community, and the curriculum is engaging, including many songs and physical exercise. The school accepts only poor students, and usually enrolled more girls than boys. In addition to standard school subjects, the curriculum included life skills, touching on subjects like health, social issues such as early marriage, and human rights. The school buildings are structurally simple. There is no homework, as school children do not have the time to complete it and their parents will most likely not be able to assist them with it. Teachers were closely supported and monitored, receiving regular visits from their program organizers and monthly trainings. BRAC helped organize parent committees to help parents understand and value the students’ education and keep the school accountable to the communities . Through continuous contact with the community, BRAC was able to prevent two major issues troubling the public system: teacher absenteeism and extortion of informal school fees. Early results were promising.

After a few years , word spread throughout Bangladesh about BRAC’s school model. External organizations were intrigued, and approached BRAC to purchase their books and other materials. It wasn’t long before BRAC began to ask these organizations how they were using the materials. This led to BRAC organizing trainings for external organizations on the curriculum . But BRAC’s leadership recognized that the curriculum was only one component of the model’s effectiveness. Abed’s early investments in systems, such as monitoring, training, and accounts, were also critical to achieving and maintaining good performance. Could small NGOs be expected to develop these types of systems on their own? The commitment from the leaders of local organizations was inspiring . It was clear that they were excited to create high quality schools in their communities. BRAC saw an opportunity for change beyond what it could do by itself. In many areas, BRAC had not yet established a local field office to manage local operations, without which the education program could not be implemented by BRAC  directly. There was also a strong sense that it was better, in some way, for the non formal primary school to transcend BRAC’s own efforts. Abed often quoted the African proverb, “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go with others.” Through other NGOs, the model could be more widely implemented; BRAC could contribute to a growing civil society across the country, and help support local NGOs, particularly those with women leaders. BRAC could provide its system, experience, and proven tools.

Project Area Description: Nageshwari Upazila under Kurigram District is located in North-West part of Bangladesh, whose 60% area is surrounded by the mighty rivers like Jamuna and Brahmaputra and their tributaries. There are some Islands within the river estuaries and tributaries – locally known as ‘Char’; which are disconnected from the main-land. Chars are low lying flood and erosion prone islands adjacent to major rivers. These are formed by the constant deposition of sand and silt and fragmentation. Many vulnerable, poor and landless families including victims of river erosion live in those Char areas. The educational scope for the children of those families is very limited. There are only one   government run high schools out of 27.

Bangladesh secondary school system remains poorly managed; centralized and lacks good governance. The consequences of all these include marginalization, poor quality teaching and learning, high dropout rates of children with little community participation and lack of accountability of the people running the system. GoB spending on education is one of the highest for the region. In real terms, funding for secondary education has reduced from 60% of the total educational budget with 98% of the budget spent on salaries and allowances. Therefore, only a fraction of funding remains at the disposal of schools for essential expenses or extra-curricular activities, leaving them to raise funds for repairs and maintenance, equipment purchase, etc. mobilized through teacher contributions, community collections and indirect student fees. However, these local resource mobilization efforts often happened unplanned and schools and local authorities lack specific skills to mobilize local resources to support school operation and improvement activities sustainably. There also still remains around 18% of children who fail to come into contact with the school system in Bangladesh as “opportunities are very limited for some specific groups, such as working children, children with disability, indigenous children and those in remote areas or living in extreme poverty”. However, many of these children could attend if schools were more inclusive and child-friendly. Inadequate knowledge and attention of parents and school authority on specific issues remains to keep these vulnerable groups of children out of schools. Poverty is identified as the overarching factor that also prevents children from enrolling and leads to children dropping-out, and is difficult to isolate from other issues that result from poverty. In the context of Nageshwari  poverty is most visible in the prevalence is trough parent’s lack of Education;  Inability to cover indirect costs of education; Seasonal child labour; Seasonal family migration.

This project is not a targeted poverty intervention, but a participatory method of systemic reform that allows communities, schools and local authorities to overcome the constraints in the local secondary education system of Nageshwari Upazila so that schools are better adapted at promoting the inclusion of all children including the most marginalized. It will directly improve each learner’s achievement level by enhancing the way curriculum is delivered, creating a positive environment for learning through the establishment of an effective school management system and increasing the degree to which parents and community members are involved. Participation is assured through a micro-level planning process which allows for the visioning of the requirements to improve the school, and creating accountabilities between different stakeholders for effective delivery. This planning process paves the way for an effective School Improvement Program (SIP)  which provides a range of classroom and extra-curricular inputs that address the challenges that are common within the Bangladesh secondary School education system to challenge the stagnant enrollment rate and high drop-out figure. In summary, a School Improvement Program provides a road map that sets out the changes a school needs to go through to improve the level of student achievement, show how and when these changes will be made, and provides the inputs through which they can be achieved.