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Despite a decade-long demand from educationists and child rights activists, the much talked about inclusive education still remains at initial stage, depriving thousands of children of quality education.
In absence of this system, children with disabilities, and from disadvantaged groups, remote areas in general and female children in particular, indigenous communities, also from brothel and other diversified sections get less access to quality education compared to mainstream children, viewed by educationists.
Lack of necessary teaching aids and equipment, skilled teachers, social awareness, limitations of infrastructure, among others, are the major barriers to implementation of inclusive education system in Bangladesh, said experts and government officials concerned.
Inclusive education is such a strategic and technical process where all types of learners irrespective of variation and diversity can receive education in a congenial and cooperative environment.
“Overall quality of primary education is not satisfactory in Bangladesh. Moreover, absence of inclusive education has narrowed down the opportunity of education to these excluded children,” said Dr Manzoor Ahmed, Senior Adviser, Institute of Educational Development at BRAC University.
Inclusive education system remains in planning and idea sharing stage till now; no significant development has been done to implement it, he said.
Tariq Ahsan, assistant professor of Institute of Education Research (IER) of Dhaka University, said, “A large portion of children are remaining out of education due to absence of inclusive education in Bangladesh.”
However, Director General (DG) of Directorate of Primary Education Shyamal Kanti Ghosh said government started working to implement inclusive education since 2008 under the Second Primary Education Development Program (PEDP-II).
Inclusive education mainly focuses on children with disabilities and from indigenous groups, he said.
“We have trained up teachers and arranged different facilities to bring the children with disabilities to schools. Many children belonging to this group are now coming to schools and attending examinations,” said Shyamol .
With the aim to facilitate children of indigenous communities, the government will publish text books initially in six indigenous languages which have their own alphabets. These books will be supplied in 2014, he said.
Inclusive education approach aims at removing all barriers to learning and acknowledging individual children’s needs and potential. Such barriers include culture, gender, work, negative attitudes, illness, school facilities, location, language, disability, lack of awareness about the importance of education, race, malnutrition and poverty.
Khairul Anam, assistant teacher of Government Laboratory High School in Kotbari of Comilla suggested arranging suitable teaching aids, special resources, motivation, interpersonal communication, collaboration, flexible contents in curriculum and effective co-ordination among the teachers, students, guardians, school managing committee and local elites for overcoming the barriers.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed stressed the need for collaboration between government and non-government organisations to implement inclusive education system.
Under a global campaign called ‘Child-friendly Schools’, Unicef has launched a project titled ‘Child Friendly School in Kaptai Lake, Rangamati’ in 2012.
Under this project Unicef has targeted around 2,000 children of 22 primary schools of that area to provide quality education.
“Children of this area are lagging behind in educational achievements due to poor transport facilities, poor school infrastructure and water-sanitation facilities and lack of classroom environment conducive to learning. They have less access to education compared to the children of plain lands. That is why, we have targeted these children to enable their access to better quality education,” said Laila Farhana Apnan Banu, education officer, Chittagong zone office, UNICEF.
Unicef has arranged shuttle boats for children and also swimming lessons for them to be able to commute safely and provides support to minor repairs of school infrastructure and arranged water sanitation facilities for the schools as well.
The project, implemented by the Rangamati Hill District Council, will continue till 2015.