BRAC Education Programme
Country Profile: Bangladesh
|Poverty (Population living on less than 1 US$ per day)|
36% (1990 – 2004)
|Total expenditure on education as % of GDP|
|Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015, UIS estimation)|
|Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015, UIS estimation)|
|Programme Title||BRAC Education Programme (BEP)|
|Implementing Organization||Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)|
|Language of Instruction||Bengali/Bengla|
|Funding||DFID (the British Department for International Development), DFAT (the Canadian Department of Foreign Aid and Trade), UNICEF & AusAid|
|Programme Partners||FID (the British Department for International Development), DFAT (the Canadian Department of Foreign Aid and Trade), EAC (the Qatari NGO Educate a Child), GAC (Global Affairs of Canada) and UNICEF|
|Date of Inception||2003|
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is a non-governmental development organization that was founded in early 1972. It initially focused on assisting refugees returning from India to their newly independent country. From 1973, BRAC broadened its focus to include projects which endeavoured to promote long term, sustainable poverty reduction. BRAC’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and the empowerment of the poor encompasses a range of core programmes in economic and social development, health, education, human rights and legal services. Today, BRAC employs more than 100,000 people, a majority of whom are women, and reaches more than 110 million people with its development interventions. BRAC's activities extend to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and Southern Sudan.
Context and Background
Bangladesh has made remarkable progress towards achieving Education for All (EFA). It has been lauded for its success in achieving gender parity at primary and secondary school level. Notable progress has also been made at enrolment level. Despite these achievements, it is estimated that about 1.3 million primary school-age children still have no access to education. The rate of student school drop-out from formal schools is also high, due in part to poverty as the expenses involved in accessing education are high. In addition, poor attendance, a shortage of trained teachers and student-teacher ratios as high as 51:1 in some cases, are all critical factors which further undermine the quality of education and students' overall achievements. It is therefore imperative to promote educational reform as well as to implement projects which complement the formal education system. BRAC initiated the BRAC Education Programme - BEP in 1985 in an effort to address some of these challenges.
BEP was initially launched as BRAC Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) in 1985. In 2003 it was renamed as BRAC Education Programme (BEP). BEP carries out its programme activities in accordance with a five-year plan and is active in five major areas:
- Non-formal Primary Education is one of the major programmes through which BRAC provides quality primary education to underprivileged children.
- The Pre-primary Schools programme prepares children across the country aged 5 + for primary school entry.
- The Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) aims at improving the quality of life of vulnerable adolescents, especially girls, by training them in vocational skills, health awareness (including reproductive health) and leadership.
- The Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres provide continued learning and IT facilities for all the people in the community and foster community contributions towards promoting education.
- 'The Mainstream Secondary Schools Support' initiative builds the capacities of rural secondary school teachers and helps to improve classroom pedagogy as well as the overall quality of education.
School premises are rented from the community, which also provides safe environments where children can play games or participate in co-curricular activities. The communities also provide clean drinking water and proper sanitation.
According to the 2007 audit report, the annual cost (January to December) of the programme is BDT 3,322,331,606 (equivalent to USD 47,461,880 according to current conversion rates). The average cost per learner is USD 23 per year.
According to the 2015 audit report, the annual budget IS BDT 4,389,896,386, which is approximately equivalent to USD 56,280,723. The current cost per learner is USD 45 per year.
BRAC’s general aim is to assist the Government of Bangladesh in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) and the Education For All (EFA) goals by 2015. BEP’s specific objectives are as follows:
- To provide quality primary education for children outside formal education institutions.
- To improve access to education, especially for girls.
- To enhance the success of formal primary education through pre-primary schools.
- To improve the quality of secondary education.
- To empower adolescents by improving their life skills.
- To build capacities through the establishment of lifelong education and learning.
Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
The programme’s main target groups are:
- children aged 5+ eligible for pre-primary schooling;
- out-of-school children (8-10 and 11-14 years), with a special focus on girls;
- youth (15-24 years);
- poor populations and the unemployed;
- ethnic minorities;
- families; and
- children with special needs (children from poor urban slums, remote rural/hard-to-reach areas, children with disabilities).
BEP’s primary target group comprises women and girls, especially from the rural areas, as they represent the most disadvantaged sector of the population. BEP has recently extended its outreach to children from ethnic minority groups and children with disabilities. Since people are conscious of BRAC and its efforts, enrolment is generally not a problem. BRAC schools provide a child-friendly environment in which students receive individual care and attention. In addition, upon graduation, BRAC students who enrol in mainstream formal schools are provided with follow-up activities by BRAC staff to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the transition.
Since adolescents realise that an increased awareness of Adolescent Peer Organized Network (APON) issues is beneficial to them, enrolment in adolescent centres is also high. Adolescent centres are open to participants once a week for two hours after school.
Before Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres (Gonokendros) are set up, BRAC staff embarks on meetings with community members, including parents. Membership enrolment is fairly straightforward. For secondary schools students, enrolment is simple, as the Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres are situated on school premises. The retention rate is also very high as community members are given responsibility for the Multi Purpose Community Learning Centre after a certain period.
Facilitators: Profile and Training
The required facilitator profiles vary depending on the respective programme area:
BRAC Schools (both pre-primary and primary) : A typical BRAC teacher would be a female community member with 10-12 years of schooling. Teachers undergo an initial 12-day training course in order to repeat basic information on teaching and learning and to enhance their teaching abilities. They subsequently participate in monthly, subject-based refresher courses.
Adolescent Centres: Adolescents are given a residential TOT (Training of Trainers) which enables them to facilitate the APON courses themselves. Each Kishori Netri (adolescent leader) is prepared for this role during a 6-day Facilitation Course. The main advantages of this recruiting process are as follows:
- Adolescents who participate in this training course gain leadership qualities and confidence.
- Being roughly the same age, participants have similar problems and can therefore empathise with one another more easily.
- Course participants are more comfortable asking questions about sensitive topics if they are addressing their peers.
Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres: Again, Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres are mostly run by local women selected by the Programme Organizers (POs). With the exception of the rural areas, where fewer qualifications are required, the minimum level of qualification is ten years of schooling. People in charge of a Multi Purpose Community Learning Centre undergo two weeks of basic training on library operations. In addition, monthly meetings with the managers offer them the opportunity to discuss any operational problems they might encounter.
BRAC employs one facilitator per school/centre, except for multilingual schools, which have two facilitators. The average number of learners per facilitator ranges from 25 to 33. Again, in the case of multilingual schools, two facilitators are responsible for between 25 and 30 learners.
There is no standard remuneration for BRAC facilitators and their salaries vary depending on the programme area in which they are working. BRAC school teachers receive a monthly salary of Tk. 1250 - 1650 (equivalent to USD 18 - 24) depending on the school’s location (rural or urban) and the level of the class that they are teaching. Facilitators in the ADP centres are not paid but work on a volunteer basis. Librarians in Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres (Gonokendro) are paid Tk. 800 (equivalent to USD 12) per month.
Teaching/Learning Approach and Method
The language of instruction is Bengali. However, in the case of ethnic schools, a local language is used during the initial grades and is slowly replaced by Bengali using a bridging method. All of the methods and pedagogical approaches used by BEP facilitators tend to be learner centred, interactive, gender sensitive, pro-poor, and child and teacher friendly. The pedagogical approach and methodology used naturally depends on the subject being taught and on the learners’ level of knowledge. BEP’s teaching methods are committed to the following principles:
- small group activities, such as one-to-one discussions with peers;
- role-play activities, story telling and recitation methods;
- question-and-answer sessions and discussions; and
- field trips.
The techniques named above can be modified according to the learners’ prior knowledge and organized from “easy to difficult”, “known to unknown”, “whole to part” and “part to whole”.
Thematic Areas Addressed by the Programme
The specific thematic areas addressed by the programme are:
- basic literacy and numeracy skills;
- life skills and income generation;
- the application of ICTs in teaching and learning;
- multilingual contexts;
- family literacy and intergenerational learning;
- supporting literate environments through continuing education;
- teacher training for the formal secondary school level;
- community development;
- gender; and
- work-based literacy.
As the programme is issue-based and focuses on life skills, ADP content includes:
- social issues: child rights, child marriage, gender, dowries, sexual abuse, substance abuse, child trafficking, domestic violence, acid throwing, divorce, terrorism, etc.
- health issues: reproductive health, STIs, HIV/AIDS, family planning, personal hygiene, etc.
- Life skills: decision-making, negotiations, effective communication, problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, etc.
Curriculum and Materials
While other components have their own guidelines/curriculum, BRAC primary schools follow the national curriculum.
BEP develops teaching and learning materials according to the specific needs of BRAC school students. It also develops ADP and continuing education materials. As pupils tend to be first generation learners, they often have no-one at home who can assist them in their studies. Hence, teaching and learning materials must meet a number of criteria and all instructional materials developed and used by BEP are national, competency-based, teacher/child friendly, relevant to the learners’ lives, gender sensitive and inclusive in terms of religion, ethnicity and disability.
Community and Parental Involvement
The community plays a vital role the planning of all BRAC interventions and their implementation. Community members are consulted in advance so that their needs can be taken into consideration. They contribute significantly to the pre-primary and primary school operations of BRAC and the ADP, as well as to post-primary basic and continuing education.
Each school has a School Management Committee (SMC), consisting of seven members, and a Parents’ Forum, both of which maintain the school and ensure that the children attend regularly. The SMC also oversees teachers’ attendance, school timetables and arrangements for parents’ meeting. They also deal with the transition to secondary school once children have completed the primary cycle.
A monthly parents’ meeting, facilitated by BRAC Programme organizers, is held at the school to discuss parents’ roles concerning their children’s education. The parents are responsible for their children’s progress, regular attendance, cleanliness and hygiene. This involvement fosters better understanding and partnerships between parents and other members of the community.
Parents are briefed on the concrete objectives and benefits of the adolescent centres before their children participate in the ADP. This improves communication between parents and children and raises awareness on key issues with which adolescents are confronted.
Following initial support from BRAC, the Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres, known as Gonokendros, are run entirely by the community members themselves. They also play an active role on adolescent centre committees.
Furthermore, by running the libraries and learning centres and helping to create a supportive environment for the use of these facilities, the community plays a leading role in the implementation of these programme areas.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring is considered a crucial element for improving the programme’s quality. One supervisor usually monitors 20-25 primary schools and 10-15 pre-primary schools selected at random. Evaluations focus on both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the programme. In order to ensure the quality of the evaluation results, standardised guidelines are provided for monitors. Monitors attend all classes and subjects on a given day in order to assess classroom-based teacher-student interactions and the delivery of lessons. The results are shared with the teachers who will, in turn, discuss any problems identified with the students and take corrective measures.
BEP is based on a complex structure of management and each component has its own supervision and monitoring mechanism. This organizational structure helps to keep all stakeholders informed and permits them to take the necessary initiatives to improve the programme’s quality. Most of the components are supervised in the same manner and are subject to the following forms and levels of supervision:
1. Branch Office (Upazilla/Union Level): The branch office is crucial to all components. There are Programme Organizers for each programme area who act as the grassroots level supervisor for the respective component. The POs responsible for primary and pre-primary schools are supervised in turn by a Branch Manager (BM), with the exception of the POs of PACE and ADP, who are subject to supervision by the area offices.
2. Area and Regional Office: Each Area Office has an Area Education Manager (AEM) for primary and pre-primary schools and ADP. PACE, in turn, has a District Manager (DM) who is in charge of the programme’s administration in the respective area. The remaining Regional Managers (RM) are the most senior supervisors at the field level. All components are subject to their control and their duties include:
- the coordination of all of the AEMs’ activities;
- the development of plans for school operation;
- the supervision of staff development; and
- the monitoring of schools and financial matters.
All supervisory staff, such as the BMs, AEMs and RMs, is responsible for communicating with different stakeholders, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, in order to keep them informed and to share control of the programme’s implementation.
3. Central Office: There is a special unit for all BEP components that is located at the head office and is subject to managerial control. Managers bear the full responsibility for all kinds of initiatives and activities within the respective component. They in turn report to the Programme Manager (PM), Programme Coordinator (PC) and the Director of BEP.
So far, three external evaluations of the BEP have been made.
- The 1st Annual Monitoring Mission took place from 15 January to 16 February 2006.
- The Mid-Term Review was held in March 2007.
- The Appraisal Team reviewed BEP activities and made recommendations during the period 6-30 April 2008.
Another control mechanism is provided by donors, who not only support BEP financially, but also contribute to its quality improvement and credibility by initiating appraisals, annual monitoring processes, and mid-term/end-of-phase evaluation missions. Consequently, evaluation is usually carried out by both local and expatriate experts.
Latest Development of the Programme
Over time, the BRAC Education programme (BEP) has evolved to become the largest secular and private education system in the world, spread across seven countries.
In June 2016, BRAC operated 13,425 non-formal pre-primary schools and 14,153 primary schools. During its next phase of development (2016–2020), it plans to expand the BEP by operating some 91,537 schools in total, of which 14,153 will be non-formal, by 2018. In 2015, in order to address the needs of vulnerable adolescents and in particular girls, an additional 1,034 adolescent centres were established, bringing their total number to 9,000. There are also 2,910 multipurpose community learning centres (Gonokendras) in operation, serving 1.25 million members.
Recently, BRAC has invested in various new programmes and initiatives:
- 240 early childhood development (ECD) schools with 240 carers facilitating more than 5,000 students.
- 984 schools for dropout children, with over 25,000 students.
- More than 6,500 students in 35 schools under the school meal programme.
- Shishu Niketon programme piloting a cost-sharing model of primary education, aimed at families whose level of income makes them ineligible for BRAC’s non-formal primary schools but who are yet unable to afford private schooling.
- 805 mobile libraries promoting reading for pleasure among BRAC primary school students and their communities.
- Collaboration with the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and IT to create an interactive multimedia content, as well as a partnership with the British Council, the GSM Association and Robi Axiatia Limited to develop an English learning platform for adolescents using mobile phones.
Evolving in line with the ‘life cycle’ approach, the BRAC Programme continues to equip communities with reading, writing, numeracy and life skills, thus empowering through livelihood improvement, citizenship development and poverty alleviation.
Impact and Achievements
BRAC’s educational activities began in 1985, with 22 one-room schools. The activities covered three upazillas, served fewer than 700 children and were administered by just five staff members. Today, BEP operates on a national level. It reaches 470 of the 490 upazillas in all 64 districts of Bangladesh. Moreover, the BRAC school models have been replicated on a national and international level. In Bangladesh, 714 smaller partner NGOs are applying the BRAC non-formal school model to provide basic primary education in remote areas. The BRAC school model has also been replicated in countries such as Afghanistan, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Pakistan.
The following figures give a more detailed idea of BEP’s impact:
- Across the country, almost 1.3 million children participate in BRAC schools each year.
- To date, more than 11 million children have graduated from BRAC schools.
- Over 6 million children have successfully completed the pre-primary school level.
- The ADP serves more than 273,000 learners, while the 2,853 rural libraries in multipurpose community learning centres (Gonokendras) and 9,000 Kishori Kendras give members access to a variety of reading materials. The community learning centres have 1.25 million members.
- 5.9 million students (approximately 61.4 per cent of them girls) transferred to a primary school after completing the pre-primary course to date.
- 5.26 million graduates (approximately 65.3 per cent of them young women) from primary school transferred to secondary schools to date.
- 78 per cent of all pupils gain the expected skills upon completion of their course.
- Drop-out rate total just 6 per cent.
- 88 per cent of Gonokendras are self-funded.
Students are required to pass the Grade V examination set by the government. According to BRAC’s data, in 2015 99.97 per cent succeed in doing so, indicating that BRAC school learners’ performance is on a par with that of mainstream primary school pupils. BRAC schools therefore teach learners the same skills as government schools, even though they enrol and retain a higher proportion of hard-to-reach children, such as girls, who make up 62 per cent of the student body.
This story of Rani, a secondary school certificate graduate, is powerful testimony to BRAC’s impact not only on individuals and their families, but also on the community as a whole.
“I am 42 years old, and a secondary school certificate (SSC) graduate. I have been working at Madla gonokendras [BRAC’s multipurpose community learning centre] in Bogra as a librarian for over 12 years… With the money I earned, I was able to help my husband, who was unemployed at the time, to set up a grocery store. I can now also bear the costs of my daughter’s college education”.
Challenges and Future Plans
BRAC is facing challenges concerning children’s access to the BEP. Since most schoolchildren assist their parents with housework and agricultural activities, it is difficult for them to attend school at fixed times. A flexible timetable has thus been developed in BRAC schools.
Ensuring continuous education, including a smooth transition to a higher level of education, has proven to be as challenging as creating viable links to future employment. BRAC staff uses monitoring and research to analyse problems. It also interacts with all BEP stakeholders to develop appropriate solutions. Decisions and/or recommendations are usually elaborated during workshops, meetings, seminars or group discussions.
During its next phase of development (from 2009 to 2014), BRAC plans to expand the BEP by establishing about 33,000 non-formal primary schools and 30,000 pre-primary schools, as well as 7,000 adolescent centres and 700 new Multi Purpose Community Learning Centres.
For any programme to succeed and be sustainable, the active participation of the community is needed. BEP has shown that livelihood programmes are indeed able to contribute towards transforming the lives of young girls and changing community attitudes towards them.
BRAC’s organizational structure, including its supportive supervision mechanism, has proven to be efficient for the implementation of such a complex programme. Effective monitoring and evaluation processes are crucial to the ongoing enhancement of the programme.
Funding for the programme is provided by international donors, including the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Qatari NGO Educate a Child (EAC), Global Affairs of Canada (GAC), and UNICEF. BRAC also contributes towards BEP funding. Since the programme is donor-supported and some funding has already been secured, the programme is set to continue for years to come.
The programme’s sustainability is strengthened by the new initiative, ‘Shishu Niketon’, which includes the payment of a fee by participants and allows schools to be financially self-sustaining. Another crucial factor that improves the sustainability of the programme is the fact that community ownership of BEP is high.
Within two years of the establishment of the Shishu Niketon initiative, community learning centres (CLCs) were registered as trusts managed by the community. Through this initiative, communities seek funds, manage financial activities, and arrange books and other extracurricular activities. Currently 88 per cent of CLCs are managed by communities, substantially decreasing the operational cost of programme.
Uploaded: 14 December 2009. Last update: 31 August 2016