The aim of education should be to provide real knowledge in its true sense. This requires setting up a system of providing real education through inclusion and quality improvement, the two big shortcomings in our education system. Shajahan Bhuiya, a development professional currently working in the areas of education, training and sustainable human development, has recently written a book entitled ‘An Educational Approach to Inclusion and Quality Improvement’, published by CDIP in December 2018. This book deals with exclusion and lack of quality and narrates an innovative way of tackling these two problems.
Author Shajahan Bhuiya has identified the roots of the problems of exclusion and lack of quality in our education system. He has translated from Rabindranath Tagore’s essay on the education problem shikkha somossha in order to give a clear picture of our school system: “When the machine starts functioning, the tongues of teachers start running. The factory is closed at four in the afternoon and the teacher-machines stop their tongues simultaneously. The students go back home with two-four pages of machine-husked knowledge. After that, grade-mark is stamped upon them by evaluating the knowledge through the examination.”
According to Mr. Bhuiya, acts and deeds causing annoyance, discomfort and dissatisfaction in the learning climate should be replaced with learning for pleasure, particularly for the children. He writes, ‘When the environment of knowing is created conducive to learning with provision of positive incentives, it motivates the learners in the same way that the nectar of flowers motivates and attracts the butterflies towards them.’
The compass of our education has to be redirected towards achieving real knowledge. For this, our country needs to overcome the above-mentioned two barriers. There are many national and international projects and programs to increase inclusion and quality in our education. There have been some improvements so far in these.
In addition to these, CDIP (Centre for Development Innovation and Practices, an NGO) has adopted two education programs, in both nonformal and formal ways, to address these two problems. Its nonformal education initiative is a big Education Support Program (ESP) covering 19 districts through 2,400 learning centres on courtyards in villages. It is to help children of pre-primary, Class I and Class II from poor families, who do not have educated guardians or cannot engage private tutors at home, to prepare their lessons for next day’s classes. About 50,000 children are having their home-tasks prepared with the help of rural educated girls working as their teachers.
Another initiative in the formal education sector is to set up campuses of CDIP Modern School in 8 districts with the objective of delivering quality primary education at manageable costs to children of low- and middle-income families living in city peripheries.
A remarkable thing about the ESP is that since its inception in 2005 at CDIP, Mr. Muhammad Yahiya, whose innovation this program is, writes in the Foreword, ‘A good number of NGOs supported by PKSF, and also ASA—the world’s largest micro-finance institution—have adopted the model and have been implementing their programs in different names and styles.’
One important thing to note here is that CDIP and many other microfinance institutions like it have been able to launch such a big program across the country to help first generation learners in overcoming their problem of home-task preparation because they have been running it piggybacking on their key operation of financial services. Without having a sound operation structure set for delivering their financial services, it would have been almost unthinkable to conduct such low-cost education initiatives with the aim to freeing the country from the curse of illiteracy.
The author’s last words in the book are: ‘The kids of social periphery in Bangladesh need special attention and treatment at the dawn of their educational journey to be at par with the privileged ones in the society.’
These education and other social initiatives are easier to run and make sustainable for the broader goal of human freedom when they ride on the back of the operational structure made for financial inclusion of the poor. Inclusion both financially and educationally of the section of the disadvantaged who have been excluded so long are crucially important for the real sustainable human development.