Education
In recent years, Bangladesh has made significant progress in the education sector, having achieved a primary enrolment rate of over 92 percent and gender parity at both primary and secondary levels. High dropout rates, particularly among girls, and lack of universal access remain a problem. Access to education is an issue particularly for children living in remote areas, from extremely poor households or ethnic minority groups, and those with special needs. There are also few services to prepare children of illiterate parents to enter and stay in school. The dropout rate among these groups is especially high.

Another major challenge for all education service providers in Bangladesh, including the government, continues to be in the provision of quality basic education. Education today faces the challenge of creating a level playing field for all children in an increasingly globalised world. Education should provide children with the attitude as well as the skills that are conducive to promoting creativity, problem solving, and coping with uncertainties. Bringing every child into the classroom is no longer enough - each child is entitled to a high quality of education that will best prepare them for the future.

The goal of the BRAC Education Program is to make a significant contribution to the achievement of education for all in Bangladesh.We aim to improve the quality and delivery of services in education appropriate to the needs of poor children, in particular girls, and to increase their access to those services. Our purpose is to help fill the remaining gaps in coverage, retention, and quality of compulsory primary basic education in Bangladesh.

We launched our education program in 1985 with 22 one room primary schools. Since then, our education programme has become a leader in providing non-formal education primary education to underprivileged children out of the formal education system. Our schools and teachers work to build the skills and confidence of the children and motivate them to continue their education through the formal system.

We now provide pre-primary and primary education in collaboration with our partner NGOs, targeted towards the needs of marginalised children in both rural and urban settings. We also work with rural secondary schools through our Post-Primary Basic Education Program, livelihood development for adolescents, and Continuing Education Program for rural youth and adults.
 
Pre-Primary Schools
Pre-primary (PP) education is one of the important strategic interventions for promoting the quality of primary education. This intervention serves as a 'school readiness programme' for young children to ease their transition from home to formal schooling, and to help them to be familiar with the alphabet and numbers. BRAC began its pre-school intervention in 1997 as a pilot project with 40 schools to provide educational opportunities to young learners who were unable to begin their schooling before the age of six and to prepare these children for formal school. By December 2007,we were operating 20,140 pre-primary schools, where 562,652 children were enrolled; 60 percent were girls, and there were over 5,000 students with special needs. There were also 180 schools for children from ethnic minorities. Since the programme started, 2.29 million children have been through the BRAC pre-primary course with 99% completing the course and transferring to primary schools

Primary Schools
Over the past twenty years the number of BRAC primary schools has grown rapidly.We started work at this level in 1985 with the opening of 22 one-room schools providing three years of schooling up to Grade III. The aim was to develop a school model for poor rural children, especially girls, to equip them in basic reading, writing and numeracy along with life skills. By 2003, the programme had expanded to more than 30,000 primary schools providing the full primary education in four years.The one teacher school is operated by the same teacher for the same cohort of children for the entire period of four years and delivers lessons in all subjects. The school timings are flexible and are fixed according to needs. Children do not have to pay any fees and there are no long holidays or homework. The teacher is prepared through induction and in-service refresher training. Special courses are organised at the beginning of each grade on core subjects such as Maths, English, Bangla, Science and Social Studies. Following the national curriculum, BRAC develops textbooks and other materials for up to Grade III and government textbooks are being used in Grades IV and V. As of December, 32,000 primary schools with 32,937 teachers were in operation to cater to the needs of 984,440 children where 65% were girls. Among these, 5,500 schools with 164,835 students (72% girls) were operated by other NGOs with our support. Additionally, 1,415 BRAC primary schools were operated in urban areas with 47,539 students and 2,250 ethnic schools with 57,645 learners were operated in remote areas. BRAC has also been operating 36 clusters schools principally in Dhaka on an experimental basis to accommodate children from the slums and those who are working. A high level graduation and transfer rate has been maintained in BRAC primary schools.To date 3.80 million children have graduated from our primary schools with a course completion rate of 93%.Of these, 3.54 million children (66% girls) made the transition to formal schools.

Children with Special Needs (CSN)
BRAC has always ensured that children with special needs area part of our schools. In 2003,we established a special unit to look at issues of disability and the concept of inclusive education and build awareness among communities.The first step was to create an environment that improved access for these children to the classroom.This resulted in a substantial number of enrolments of children with special needs in our schools. Our current focus is on expanding the range of disabilities that our teaching staff is capable of facilitating as well as improving the quality of education thatthese children receive in BRAC schools.We employ a holistic approach in our educationalprogramme for disabled children. Our staff have also been given technicalsupport by consultants who have extensive experience in inclusive education. By 2007, BRAC had provided access to school and services to 28,144 children with special needs.

Education for Indigenous Children (EIC)
In 2001,we established a unit to focus on the educational needs of children from Bangladesh's indigenous communities. EIC schools have adapted our teaching model to suit the needs of the indigenous communities and they use the native language of the students for teaching. Teaching and reading materials are produced locally and focus on the children's culture, heritage and their everyday experiences. Currently we operate 2,250 of these specialised primary schools for more than 57,000 students

Community and Formal Schools
In 1998, BRAC agreed to help improve some government community schools that were failing.New teachers were hired and trained in the BRAC methodology, the communities were mobilised  through the creation of school committees, and supervisory structures were put into place.The purpose of these schools was to test new  teaching methods and develop new teaching materials. At present,there are approximately 10,000 children in the community and formal schools.

Partnership with Mainstream Primary Schools
One of our key strategies is to support the Bangladesh Government in achieving quality education through partnership.We have organised teacher training in Mathematics and English, management training for head teachers, and orientation sessions for local committee members.We also organise sessions with district level education committees and education officers.Over the last two to three years, BRAC provided training to 934 Mathematics, 926 English and 993 head teachers, and designed a special course for teachers who had no formal training but have been engaged in teaching for at least 3-5 years. Experiences are positive, both teachers and the community find the activities contribute to improving the quality of education and strengthen management.There is a demand to expand the work into new areas.

Secondary Schools
BRAC has been working with rural secondary schools through its Post-primary Basic and Continuing Education (PACE) programme.There are now 18,500 secondary schools in Bangladesh that have 238,158 teachers but only 54% of them are properly trained. In collaboration with the Government, PACE initiated a secondary school teacher training programme in 2002 to bring a qualitative change in teaching and learning in secondary schools. By December 2007, 2,044 schools were participating in our programme.We arranged workshops for 9,025 head and assistant head teachers and school committee members, provided management training for 4,145 head and assistant head teachers, and core subject training for 17,714 teachers.The training provided by BRAC complements that of the Government and together they form a comprehensive training package. Mentoring: We have found that schools with mentoring offer a better learning environment which improves student attendance and participation. Under this initiative, 25 students from Grades VI to IX are selected from participating schools to attend a six-day training course on mentoring to develop self-esteem, leadership skills, and creativity.Upon returning to their schools, the mentors form small groups and provide social and academic support to their peers. By the end of 2007, mentoring training has been provided to 543 non-government secondary schools. A total of 14,882 students (49.54 percent girls) received training. Computer Aided Learning (CAL): PACE has been developing CAL materials in Maths, English and Science to be used as selflearning tools for teachers, in teacher training and in classrooms where computers are available. These interactive materials are aimed at improving teachers' classroom skills and to give students a better grasp of difficult concepts by providing useful visualisations and making lessons more interesting. A mathematics CD, containing lessons on maths concepts for Grades VI to X has already been published. Another CD on selective lessons from English for Today, Grades IX-X, is being developed.The work of Science is in progress.The contents of the CDs are based on the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) textbooks and syllabus. Medha Bikash (Promoting Talent) was initiated in 2005 to help poor and talented students - those who scored the top grade in the secondary school certificate (SSC) examination at 16 – gain access to higher secondary education. A large number of such students, including BRAC graduates, cannot continue to higher education because of a lack of money. Most of their parents are day labourers, rickshaw pullers or small traders and their monthly income is BDT 3,000 (USD 44) or less. Since higher secondary and further education is more expensive, these students often cannot continue even though they are exceptionally bright. The Medha Bikash programme provides these students with financial support to finish their higher secondary education and links them with different sponsors to continue further education. In addition to financial support, they also attend a one week computer course and a twelve-day English course to assist them in accessing higher and further education opportunities.The scheme is proving very successful with 94% of participants achieving A or A+ in their HSC exam in 2007. Chhatra Bandhu : BRAC's new Chhatra Bandhu programme introduces volunteering in education to assist poor children who cannot afford private tuition.Most rural students are very poor and cannot afford to go to a private tutor. Many are first generation learners and receive no help from family members. As a result, they remain weak particularly in English, mathematics and science and often perform poorly in examinations; potentially contributing to the dropout rate. PACE has been organising senior-level students and literate local people to teach these students voluntarily.The tuition support is initially targeted at Grades VI - VIII. It will help students to perform better in SSC examinations, and encourage recipients to continue to HSC.This programme is being piloted in one district initially.The programme will also start a social movement to promote voluntary work among the population.

Continuing Education Program (CE)
The Continuing Education Program (CE) was introduced in 1995 and through this component Gonokendros (union libraries) are set up in rural areas to help people maintain their literacy skills, and promote reading opportunities for children, students and adults.They organise skills training in a range of trades in collaboration with the Directorate of Youth Development. Gonokendros also provide computer training for children, students and youth at a low price. By December 2007, Gonokendros had organised computer training for 20,719 people (47% women) and skills development training for 51,683 people (54% women). Initially a Gonokendro is opened with financing from BRAC and the community.Within two years, most have become fully-fledged trusts and are self financing. Out of a total of 1,569 Gonokendros, 1,112 are now trusts managed by Gonokendro Committees. Another 718 will be transformed into trusts by June 2009. Mobile Libraries: These mobile libraries operate as extensions of Gonokendros, reaching women and elderly citizens who are unable to travel. A part-time assistant librarian manages the mobile library, carrying about 100 books to the doorsteps of members by rickshaw van once or twice a week. At the end of 2007, a total of 494 mobile libraries were in operation with 20,111 members (68% women)

Adolescent Development Program
The Adolescent Development Program (ADP) was established in order to encourage graduates of BRAC schools who do not pursue secondary education to retain their literacy and life skills.The programme set up centres called Kishori Clubs (Adolescent Centres) that are safe places where teenagers can read, socialise, play indoor games, take part in cultural activities and have discussions.The programme also works to change social patterns such as early marriage and the practice of dowry. We focus on providing members of the adolescent centres with continued education and resources to empower them economically and socially by helping them to make informed choices and developing their leadership potential. The Adolescent Peer organised Network (APON) programme, started in 1999, provides these adolescents with education by their peers on issues typically not discussed in Bangladesh society, including reproductive health, early marriage,women's rights, HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment, drug addition etc. A number of life-skills training courses have also been designed to enhance the status and self-esteem of adolescent girls by increasing their earning potential and financial management skills. An APON Boys course of similar content has also been developed for adolescent boys.