EduXprss window on innovation:
The BRAC example, biggest NGO in the World
What is unique about BRAC is its method of pulling people out of poverty. “BRAC’s idea was simple yet radical: bring together the poorest people in the poorest countries and teach them to read, think for themselves, pool their resources, and start their own business” (Barber, B 1999: “Bank of Bangladesh’s Poor Proves Big Success” Washington Times, 1999-07-31, A6).
BRAC started to run schools from 1985, while in 1984 40% of Bangladesh’s primary school age children were not in school, particular girls. BRAC now has more than 1,25 million children in its schools in Bangladesh and six other countries (NYT 2013-05-8), and is a valued partner for development in conflict areas like South Sudan.
What makes BRAC in education perspective so special are two assets
- Their recruitment policy for new teachers. When they start a school in a village without a school right now, they recruit for local people, even with only primary education, to become a teacher. The preparation they get is only 2 weeks training, but this is continued by supervision every two weeks for the two years of starting as a teacher.
- The central value in learning is joy. Pleasure in learning. While they hold on to this value, they prove that this can be stimulating to learning results. There is some root learning, but also many attention for singing, dancing, drawing, games, individual attention, group study and a Montessori style work with educational toys, especially in the first three years.
- Monthly tests are made, but they are informal test, children are usually not told of the results.
- They have a lean and mean focus on costs, although that doesn’t interfere with their core ambitions. Pleasure in learning is more important than high costly buildings. BRAC annually spends around 20 dollar per student per year, making it less costly then public schools. By 2013 BRAC has managed to make their schools free for students, including textbooks, storybooks, slates, notebooks and educational material such as math toys.
- Ethnic minority students start to learn in their own language for the first few years.
- School times are adapted to local needs, for children to assist by example in harvesting. The school day is short, 3 to 4 hours each day, but there are few days of, so children actually spend more time in class then in public schools.
BRAC stands for Bangladesh Rural Advanced Committee. It was started in 1972 as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee. Measured by employees and number of people it has helped, it is the world’s largest NGO, with over 100.000 employees, roughly 70 percent of whom are woman, reaches more than 126 million people. It maintains offices in 14 countries throughout the world, like in Afghanistan, USA, UK, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti and the Philippines. Because many BRAC programs need internet, they are now also the Bangladesh largest internet company.
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