Over the past two decades, Bangladesh has made significant progress in education. However, due to poverty, many school-aged children from the poorest families in Bangladesh either do not enroll or discontinue school. Hence, reducing the number of out-of-school children through improved access, quality and efficiency in primary education, hence providing disadvantaged children an opportunity to complete grade 5 and transition to secondary education, is the aim of the Reaching Out-of-School Children II initiative.
In Bangladesh, nearly 1.5 million primary school-aged children were out of school in 2004. The formal primary sector that supported about 17 million students was the focus of the government, but still many children were out of school. Mainly because of poverty, these were the children who had missed out on schooling at the “right age” or had been forced to drop out. A majority could not afford to buy uniforms or books or pay for transportation if they lived far from the school or might have been needed to earn vital income to feed the family. These children were deprived of education, thereby drastically reducing their chances of finding higher-earning jobs that could lift them and their families out of poverty.
The success of the first ROSC project that provided a second chance for primary education to nearly 780,000 poor children in 23,000 ROSC Learning Centers in 90 low-income Upazilas led to the emergence of ROSC II. Through learning centers called Ananda Schools (schools of joy), which provide education stipends to underprivileged children to lessen the burdens on their families as well as distribute free books, stationery and school uniforms, ROSC reintegrates out-of-school children into education. With high poverty and low enrolment and completion rates, the Ananda Schools are established in Upazilas. With a non-formal mode of provision with support from NGOs, these schools blend formal education, earning Bangladesh international acclaim for its excellence. Compared with normal schools, the schools run differently:
ROSC students tend to be older (between 8 and 14 years of age) than regular primary school students, students and teachers follow a flexible school timing to suit their mutual needs, and students are taught by a single class teacher, till they are ready to appear for the Grade 5 examination and can then join the mainstream secondary schools.
Setting themselves on the road to progress to secondary level education, 83% of ROSC students passed the national grade 5 examinations in 2012. Disadvantaged rural communities are empowered by the project to establish, own and manage their own Ananda Schools with support from the government and local education NGOs. Close to 90% of all school management committee heads were women, and 80% of all ROSC school teachers were women, as well.
Students in currently operational Ananda Schools established in 2010 and 2011 will continue to get support from ROSC II to enable them to complete grade 5 and scale up the operation in another 100 new Upazilas. In selected urban slums and for domestic workers, the project will also pilot similar activities as well as a pre-vocational skills training scheme for older ROSC students. According to The World Bank News, a major emphasis of ROSC II is on enhancing the quality of education provision to disadvantaged children through increased attention to teacher development and teaching-learning support as well as having an elaborate system to monitor these activities in the remote and disadvantaged areas through the use of information and communication technologies.