In order to reach the target of total literacy by the year 2005, Bangladesh is in the process of implementing many nonformal educational programs. Under the sponsorship of BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), thousands of nonformal schools have recently been established. Literacy centers are utilizing courtyards, open spaces, and school premises at night. These programs are specifically aimed at out-of-school children (especially rural girls), illiterate adults, and neo-literates.
Since Bangladeshi women are greatly handicapped by their traditionally segregated status and unfavorable sex ratio, governmental, as well as nongovernmental, organizations have been offering special stipends and free transportation to them. The efforts to reduce the gender gap also included one condition for accepting the stipend, namely the student's commitment to remain unmarried at least until the legal age of 18, but preferably beyond it.
The country is facing another problem of education that is common among highly populated countries lacking adequate space and financial resources. Seven countries in the South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) are affiliated with an organization called SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). Many of these countries have been searching for the systems of distance education that can attract millions of students to their less expensive and tailor-made curricula and can enable adults can earn their academic credentials without abandoning their full-time jobs or domestic obligations.
Bangladesh, with its very high population density and problems of poverty, is an ideal candidate for such a nonformal alternative to regular campus-based educational programs. It has already established an open university and, through Bangladesh Institute for Distance Education (BIDE), has been providing in-service training of teachers. Around 1990, as many as 7,000 students, selected from a pool of 20,000 applicants, were granted the degree of Bachelor of Education (BED) through BIDE. Such programs are likely to be very popular among future teachers as well as others interested in vocational and tertiary education. More formal degree and certificate programs and short-term courses are likely to be established under the open universities.
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