In this day and age, where everything else is substantial, education is possibly one of the most valuable intangible assets. In developing countries, where food and shelter still remain (unachievable) top priorities in some cases for the majority of the population, education is a luxury few can afford or spare time for.
According to Unicef, the gross enrolment ratio of boys in pre-primary school from the year 2008-2012 was 26.8% and girls’ enrolment was 26.1% in Bangladesh. However, in the cases in which they continue their education, the literacy rate of male youth within 15-24 years from 2008-2012 is 77.1% and that of women under the same demographics is 80.4%.
Various local and international NGOs are working on increasing the rate of literacy in Bangladesh, and some unique initiatives have been taken by Brac in this respect. The pre-primary schools are an entity to guide underprivileged students to formal education, whereas the non-formal primary schools are targeted towards children who drop out of school due to unavoidable circumstances.
Inclusive education is dedicated to children with special needs and ethnic children. The Adolescent Development Program (ADP) has an adolescent club functioning under it, whereby children enjoy an open space where they can relax, sing, and dance, without worrying about being judged.
Following the model of boat schools for children in the flood-affected areas of Bangladesh, floating learning centres were started in Philippines in May 2014. This was done to reach the disadvantaged communities of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), in Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi. The initiative was taken in partnership with the Department of Education in ARMM and the Australian government. A total of seven Brac floating learning centres were formally launched on June 16. However, unlike those in Bangladesh, the floating schools are fixed in one place only.
One of the (eight) Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is to provide universal primary education to all by 2015. However, when one thinks of MDG in terms of education, it is necessary to ensure quality education and skills development for work purposes other than simply focusing on mere numbers. How can this be ensured?
In a blog written by Luis Linares and Julio Prado at post2015.org, this can be done by improving the curricula, increasing the hours of study (to reach a minimum of 180 days of school a year), and improving the educational infrastructure. The piece also mentions a dual training system in Germany, which combines theoretical training in school and real-life practice at the workplace, thus putting the knowledge to good (practical) use.
One may cite STAR (Skills Training for Advancing Resources), a project under the education program in Brac, as an example of a successful initiative which is dedicated to helping school dropouts generate a decent income by giving them vocational education and training.
During my interview at my recent job I was asked: “What do you think will happen after 2015, the end of the MDG?” Let’s not get into my answer. According to the Poverty Matters Blog by The Guardian, a lot of discussion is currently going on about the same topic – more specifically what will happen if all eight targets are not met?
Beyond 2015 is an “international campaign aiming to make such a contribution, by ensuring that the process of developing a framework is participatory, inclusive, and responsive to those directly affected by poverty and injustice.” One of the options is to simply extend the deadline. But whatever happens, it is essential to develop a paradigm that includes developing nations but also is inclusive of the global agenda.
Perhaps Sir Fazle Hasan Abed’s words are apt in this situation: “We need to put the child student where she belongs, at the centre of the learning process, where she can harness her skills and look forward to a prosperous adulthood.” This can be the guiding force when we think of our way forward from the MDG goals. Whether we set new goals, improve upon the ones we have, or simply find a replacement for the MDGs, ensuring quality education (whether it is vocational or formal) for all is the first step to a poverty-free world.