The government is set to launch next year a non-formal education programme for nine lakh children who have either dropped out of, or never gone to, school.
Under the programme, the Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE) will set up more than 32,000 learning centres across the country. The students will get stipends after their enrolment.
The programme, especially designed for children aged 8-14 years, was supposed to be launched in June this year, but BNFE was not able to start it due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
"We will start the programme in January 2021, and are considering getting five lakh such students enrolled in one go," BNFE Director General Tapan Kumar Ghosh told The Daily Star.
He said students will be enrolled under the "Out of School Children Programme as Second Chance Education", one of the components of Primary Education Development Program (PEDP)-4.
The Tk 3,200 crore programme will run for five years -- Tk 80 crore of which will come from donors and the rest will be borne by the government, he said.
Currently, BNFE is running a pilot programme through which one lakh students in six districts -- Dhaka, Chattogram, Kishoreganj, Gaibandha, Sylhet and Sunamganj -- are getting education. Piloting will end by next year.
The interventions are designed in an effort to overcome the barriers and challenges causing dropouts. The Second Chance Education programme will play a crucial role alongside formal primary education, said Tapan.
The government has taken various steps to provide primary education to all children of schoolgoing age, but due to poverty a significant number of children drop out of, or are never enrolled in, primary schools in the first place, he added.
BNFE officials said a 2017 report of the Directorate of Primary Education showed that the dropout rate of primary school children that year was around 18.4 percent and the rate of children who never enrolled was around two percent.
Based on those rates, it was estimated that there are around 2.8 million children aged 8-14 years throughout the country who were out of school.
BNFE Director (planning and monitoring) Shams Al Mujaddid said each student in urban areas will get an education stipend of TK 300 per month and a rural student will get Tk 120 a month.
Each learning centre will consist of one teacher and around 20-30 students. Each learner will be provided with one set of the school uniform and one school bag each year.
The National Curriculum and Textbook Board's primary education curriculum, textbooks, and materials will be used for grades 1-5.
At these centres, the course duration will be three and a half years -- six months each for grades 1, 2, and 3, and one year each for grade 4 and grade 5.
After completing each grade, the students of grades 1 to 4 will appear in final exams; fifth graders will appear in the Primary Education Completion (PEC) exams.
Officials said BNFE is engaging 53 nationally reputed NGOs to implement the programme in 61 districts. If needed, these NGOs will be able to engage local NGOs for smooth and effective implementation support at the field level.
The three hill tracts districts -- Rangamati, Bandarban, and Khagrachari -- will remain out of the purview of this programme.