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Bangladesh grassroots schools project shows promise

May 1, 2013

Group of young boys from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Nearly 2 million students in Bangladesh lack access to formal classrooms for education.

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 today at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Francisco. Titled “Improving Education Attainment for Marginalized Children in Rural Bangladesh via Non-formal Education,” the presentation will take place in the Tower 3 Taylor room of the Hilton Union Square.

“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,” said study author Kevin Gee, an assistant professor of education at UC Davis.  

He said 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 said.

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 said.

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

More information about the AERA annual meeting, headquartered at the Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, and links to abstracts can be found at: http://bit.ly/TY6CZ9.

More information about UC Davis faculty research and other presentations being given at the annual meeting is available at: http://education.ucdavis.edu/research-news.

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