Bangladesh has made significant progress in education over the past two decades. Still, many school-aged children from the poorest families in Bangladesh either do not enroll or discontinue school due to poverty. The Reaching Out- of- School Children II (ROSC II) project aims to reduce the number of out-of-school children through improved access, quality and efficiency in primary education, providing disadvantaged children an opportunity to complete grade 5 and transition to secondary education.
In 2004, nearly 1.5 million primary school-aged children were out of school in Bangladesh. The government’s program focused on the formal primary sector that supported about 17 million students and still many children were out of school. These were the children who had missed out schooling at the “right age” or had been forced to drop out, mainly because of poverty. Many could not afford to buy uniforms or books, to pay for transport if they lived far from the school or might have been needed to earn vital income to feed the family. As a consequence, these children were deprived of education which drastically reduced their chances of finding higher-earning jobs that could lift them and their families out of poverty.
ROSC II is built on the success of the first ROSC project that provided a second chance for primary education to nearly 780,000 poor children in 23,000 ROSC Learning Centers in 90 low-income upazillas. ROSC reintegrates out-of-school children into education through learning centers, called Ananda Schools (schools of joy), which provide education stipends to underprivileged children to lessen the burdens on their families as well as distribute free books, stationery and school uniforms. The Ananda Schools are established in upazilas with high poverty and low enrolment and completion rates. These schools blend formal education with a non-formal mode of provision with support from NGOs, earning Bangladesh international acclaim for its excellence. The schools run differently from normal primary schools: ROSC students tend to be older (between 8 and 14 years of age) than regular primary school students, students and teachers follow a flexible school timing to suit their mutual needs, and students are taught by a single class teacher, till they are ready to appear for the Grade 5 examination and can then join the mainstream secondary schools.
In 2012, 83% of ROSC students passed the national grade 5 examinations, setting themselves on the road to progress to secondary level education. The project also attempts to empower disadvantaged rural communities to establish, own and manage their own Ananda Schools with support from the government and the local education NGOs. 80% of all ROSC school teachers were women and close to 90% of all school management committee heads were women as well.