Project to promote primary education
Mustak Hossain

The Intensive District Approach to Education for All (IDEAL), a new approach towards teaching, has enhanced the number of students enrolment significantly and seemingly also contributed to improve quality of primary education in the country. Gross enrolment in primary schools rose to 85 per cent recently while the rate of dropout reduced to 30 per cent. Education sector observers tend to see this as a milestone achievement.

The IDEAL project initiated by donors, even in remote places created enthusiasm among the students and parents. Students feel more encouraged to attend school. "I like to come to school as attending class is more interesting now-a-days since teachers use different types of teaching aid to take classes," said Juki Mong, first girl of class five of Mangalshuk Government Primary School at remote Kalapara upazila. "Juki, came from a local Rakhain family and she is very much interested in attending school," said her class teacher Suraya Nasrin.

The IDEAL project was launched in two upazilas of Jhenidah district in 1996. By the end of 1998, the project was expanded to all upazilas of Jhenidah, Mymensingh, Patuakhali, Noakhali and Dinajpur districts and two upazilas of another 12 districts. There is a target to introduce the project in all 64 districts by the year 2002.

"The IDEAL has taught us to take class in a planned and systematic way. We prepare ourselves through making lesson plan, which help us a lot to organise a class confidently," said Sheuly Begum, another teacher of the school.

"Before implementation of the project, we did not have any planning and monitoring in teaching activities," she said.

"The students of the school were so far awarded 87 primary scholarships since 1987, due to our effort and special care for students," said Mohammad Ismail, head teacher of Mongalskuh Government Primary School.

"After adopting the IDEAL, the school was declared as a model school in the region considering the method we practice to teach students," Ismail maintained with a grain of pride.

He said that many had come forward to provide assistance to primary schools of the locality. With local contribution they were able to replete classrooms and provide uniform to poor students. Students now feel encouraged to attend class as the teachers use different teaching aids to present lecture, which attract most of the students, one guardian maintained.

"IDEAL project has helped us to make a yearly plan taking input from teachers, staff, students, guardians and managing committee," said Selina Akhter, Head Mistress of Sister's Day Government Primary School at Barisal district headquarters. She said after introduction of IDEAL, government schools were allowed to receive grants and donations from local people to equip classrooms.

"The project has created enormous enthusiasm among the local people and guardians feel encouraged to be associated with the new method of teaching under IDEAL," said M. Nizamul Islam, President of the school's Managing Committee.

is mandatory to make map of catchment area and visit students' houses to know about their problems. The objective of the IDEAL project was to help increase the enrolment rate of 6-10 year children to 95 per cent and the completion rate of 5-year education of enrolled children to 80 per cent.

During a visit to Patuakhali and Barisal, it was revealed that the primary students have achieved 95 per cent enrolment but they are yet to achieve the completion rate of 5-year education of 80 per cent. "Enrolment in all upazilas of Barisal district has achieved 95 per cent target excepting only a few," said Amal Krishna Majumder, District Primary Education Officer of Barisal. He said only Hijla upazila was lacking behind with 70 per cent enrolment.

"We are investigating into the matter and trying to pin point the cause behind," Majumder added.

Many primary teachers at different schools under the projects said they have to work extra time for copybook implementation of the project. "We give extra effort even at the end of our scheduled school hour but there is no extra incentives for us," one teacher maintained. "If there is not extra incentives, then why should we feel encouraged to provide extra efforts?" she asked.

Observers said although the IDEAL is a tremendously successful in increasing the enrolment rate but it is yet to come up with quality education. Teachers said quality of education could be increased if the teacher-student ratio is brought to a reasonable state.

Many of the primary schools of Barisal and Patuakhali districts have been suffering from logistic support. "We could not take class properly due to lack of sitting arrangement in the school," said a teacher of Sister's Day School. "We have written to the facilities department of the Directorate of Primary Education for supply of bench for the students a few months ago but we are yet to get response from the authorities concerned," another teacher of Sister's Day School alleged. She said we could deliver better teaching if the IDEAL project could look into some issues like logistic support.

Schools under the project teach through a new approach 'Multiple Ways of Teaching and Learning (MWTL). It has been designed and developed through experimentation based on the famous Multiple Intelligence Theory of Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University.

The government took extensive programmes to bring all eligible children to school, get them to complete the primary education cycle, and give them a quality education. The project started in 1996, is being implemented by the Directorate of Primary Education under Primary and Mass Education Division, with assistance from National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) and National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE). UNICEF provides financial and technical support for implementation of the project.

The project has generated a high level interest among donors since its inception. At present financial support is being provided by AusAid, World University Services of Canada, Asian Development Bank (ADB), SIDA and World Bank. Other donors have also indicated their intention to support the project.

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 25, 2002

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