Inclusive Education in Bangladesh
Attending and speaking at the recent Fourth International Conference on Inclusive Education in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I was struck by the energy and commitment to developing inclusive education. Bangladesh has in recent years been operating one of the largest primary education systems in the world for a low income country. Net enrolment is at 98.7% with […]
Attending and speaking at the recent Fourth International Conference on Inclusive Education in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I was struck by the energy and commitment to developing inclusive education. Bangladesh has in recent years been operating one of the largest primary education systems in the world for a low income country. Net enrolment is at 98.7% with gender parity (1.02) and a rapid growth in pre-primary schools. However, behind the statistics of 20 million children attending 85,000 state primary schools, there are many groups who have been excluded, and 20% do not complete elementary education.
It has been left to NGOs to plug the gap:-
Nilphamari, Leonard Cheshire Disability
Since January 2012, Leonard Cheshire Disability’s (LCD) South Asia Regional Office and Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK) have been working in partnership in Nilphamari to implement “Promoting Rights through Community Action: Improved Access to Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities”. The project was funded by the European Union and drew to a close in December 2014. It has had a significant impact, with more than 2,100 children with disabilities supported to enrol and stay in 262 schools in Nilphamari District. More than 300 teachers have been trained on aspects of inclusive education; 100 parents’ groups have been formed; 100 inclusive children’s clubs have been formed; more than 90 schools have been made accessible; 10 inclusive resource centres have been set up in mainstream schools.
Mirpur Protibondhi Centre
Run by the Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation, this was founded in 1984 and since 1999 has been practising a policy of reverse inclusion, accommodating non-impaired children from the local areas alongside those with impairments, funded by government and Save the Children. There are twelve branches all across Bangladesh. They also run a community based rehabilitation programme in surrounding areas. The school we visited in the Mirpur district of Dhaka has 556 students, 136 of whom are part of the reverse-inclusion programme. There are 22 teachers and 36 teaching assistants. The school has a psychologist and speech and occupational therapists. Children have three pre-levels and can then join their grade class up to Grade 5, at the same levels as those in government schools. Parallel classes are run for those with more severe disabilities. They have developed a peer support model that seems to work very well; classes that we visited exhibited pairing of disabled and non- disabled children.
There is concentration on vocational education with which students with intellectual impairments are encouraged to join in: designing and printing fabrics, making wooden puzzles, sewing and making toys are the main focuses. These are then sold in the school shop, which is run by students, to raise income.
Building Resources Across Communities (formerly Bangladesh) is a development organisation based in Bangladesh, currently the largest in the world, largely funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). Over the last forty years it has developed education facilities for those who would find it hard to access government education. Their main focus has been to get girls into education and provide schools in remote areas. They now cater for 2.5 million children with better results and less drop out than government schools. The organisation trains teachers themselves, running two year short courses (government schools only employ graduates). BRAC training is focused more on facilitating children’s learning than on formal government pedagogy methods. In 2015, BRAC provided education to 179,000 children with mild to moderate impairments, with a programme of adjustments available. They also run workshops for children with disabilities to prepare them for mainstream education.
We visited a school in a Dhaka slum at “Shahparzan 29” which consists of two classes at year 4 & 5 levels. There are 17 other classroom schools situated in a dense area of self-made houses and workshops built mostly of corrugated iron and breeze blocks. The school is built of these same materials. There is no state primary in the neighbourhood. The class we visited had around thirty students with an equal gender balance and seven children with visual impairments, some of whom had had corrective surgery through BRAC. Pedagogy is traditional, with the teacher reading from a textbook and children following. It was clear on speaking to the children that they had understanding of the studies. The level of English was very high. Children were on task, interested, motivated and achieving the tasks set. They take exams after four years to gain access to government secondary schools. Girls and children with impairments do particularly well.
At the conference there was a great deal of verbal commitment by the government in Primary Education Development Plan III to the development of the capacity for inclusion.
Plan International: Developing A Model of Inclusive Education in Bangladesh
An Australian Aid funded project that has worked with the government Directorate of Primary Education to develop a sustainable and replicable model of inclusive education in fifty state primary schools in six districts.
The model addresses “Hand, Head and Heart” to develop the capacity of communities and the primary schools that serve them; working in the :community to develop 1-5 years pre-primary classes with community outreach; developing community resource people to provide training for teachers, heads and school management committees; making the environment and learning accessible.
Involving pupils in peer support and actively seeking their views has demonstrated a rapid improvement in quality education for all. https://youtu.be/1Hy4CALv1SE?t=15. Plan International have been expanding this programme to cover more schools and reported to us that the model was not working as well in Dhaka. This is probably because the stable community structures found in rural Bangladesh do not exist in the teeming streets and slums of Dhaka with its population of twenty million. We suggested that the task here might be aided by making the government primary school the centre of its own community. This could be achieved by using the resources of the school to provide adult education, social and medical support.
Disabled children are just one group not in education. Rapid urbanisation has led to 1.1 million street children in Dhaka.
Despite the difficulties, there are many teachers, community leaders and local education officers ready to make the transformation if money can be found from donors such as DfID and GPE to bring the model of inclusive education to scale.
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion