In 2004, nearly 1.5 million primary school-aged children were out of school in Bangladesh. The government’s Primary Education Development Program focused on the formal primary sector that supported about 17 million students, yet still could not bring many children back to 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. In the context of diverse necessities in primary education, and time needed to put in a single mechanism to cater to all groups of children, the Government of Bangladesh, with IDA support, introduced an innovative ROSC project to achieve the country’s Education For All goals.
The ROSC project provides access to learning opportunity for out-of-school children by providing stipend allowances to students and grants to learning centers. With community management as the fulcrum, buttressed by a partnership between the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the approach focuses on the establishment of learning centers. These are set up through a Center Management Committee directly accountable to parents and students, as well as the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and its upazila (sub-district) field offices and NGOs as implementation partners. Operational program delivery differs from the norms in primary schools in order to cater to specific needs of students (e.g. ROSC students tend to be older than regular primary school students; students from multi-grade backgrounds are taught by a single class teacher; and students and teachers follow a flexible school timing to suit their mutual needs).
The key outcomes of the ROSC project include:
- Between 2005 and 2011, more than 750,000 out-of-school children, more than half of them girls, enrolled in more than 22,500 learning centers.
- The pass rate of ROSC students that appeared in the nationally-conducted grade five terminal examinations was 73 percent in 2011, providing ample opportunity to students with primary completion equivalency for a transition to secondary education.
- Between 2005 and 2011, the average student attendance rate exceeded 90 percent, while the teacher absence rate was kept below 10 percent.
- Women constituted more than 80 percent of all ROSC schoolteachers between 2005 and 2011 and close to 90 percent of all school management committee heads were females, together representing significant female empowerment at the local level.
ROSC funding consisted of IDA's original grant of US$51 million in 2004, along with US$6 million from the Swiss Development Cooperation and government funding of US$5 million. IDA approved an additional US$35 million for this project in 2010 to broaden the project’s impact to additional 30 upazilas.
The most notable partnership in ROSC project is between the government, the NGOs, and the rural communities. Communities receive direct funds from the government and use these to pay for the services of NGOs for initial start-up of the learning centers, and teacher training support. At the field level, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education’s Upazila Education Officers facilitate the establishment and monitoring of learning centers.
Toward the Future
The first phase of ROSC was a pilot project implemented in just 60 poor upazilas across Bangladesh and with additional financing, it was expanded to another 30. Still, only one-fifth of the country is covered. To scale-up the impact of an already tested and proven ROSC approach by replicating the intervention in other needy upazilas of the country, the government has already asked for further support from IDA, which is considering the request positively.