Grassroots schools educate hard-to-reach kids

UC DAVIS (US) — An effort to create nonformal schools for children in Bangladesh who would not attend school otherwise is showing promising results.

While more than two million children in Bangladesh lack formal classroom education, international development organizations and corporate sponsors are creating grassroots schools in which students perform on par with their public school counterparts, according to a University of California, Davis, study.

The study was presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Francisco.

“In this program, parents and communities play a large role in establishing the school, and the teachers are local women who are trained but not formally certified by the government,” says study author Kevin Gee, an assistant professor of education at UC Davis.

Similar programs exist in Mexico, Tanzania, and Mali.

“I think this program speaks to the potential and promise of using nonformal education to provide access to quality education for hard-to-reach and marginalized children in other developing countries,” he adds.

Gee’s study assesses the results of the Shikhon program (for “learning” in Bengali), which has educated more than 155,000 children ages 7 through 14 in more than 5,000 rural communities across the country since 2007.

The students receive a similar curriculum as other students in the country and are evaluated with a similar test. This is believed to be the first large-scale evaluation of the program.

“Without Shikhon, these children would not have otherwise attended school at all,” Gee said.

Bangladesh’s “education for all” goal is aligned with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which call for universal primary education by 2015, Gee says.

Bangladesh has made great strides in educating children in the primary grades in the past decade, he adds.

Source: UC Davis