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Scaling Science for Education and Necessity of Scalability: The Case of Meena Cartoon

Scaling refers to the expansion or improvement of a program by the use of innovative and practical techniques. With the passage of time and changes in national and global context new challenges arise. In order to face these challenges, it is essential for practitioners and professionals e.g. researchers, students, evaluators, and policymakers to adopt new and innovative approaches and scaling is one of such. A question that might arise is “why scaling science is necessary for education?”. Meena cartoon, for instance, created by a team of UNICEF in early 90s, is a popular educational TV program where the importance of education for all, especially for girls was highlighted.

It helped in many ways ensuring primary education for all along with many other learnings for children. Now that the goal of universal primary education has been achieved, several new problems have arisen in the education sectors which need proper attention. For instance, the magnitude of drop-out students is still very high in the South Asian region. So the creators of Meena Cartoon can consider to level up their contents or prepare new ones with advanced technologies. These contents can introduce the programs which the government is offering for the out-of-school and at-risk dropping out students, such as after-school programs, non-formal education programs, enrolment campaigns, financial support to families, programs for disabled children etc. Nowadays, almost every household has access to a television and there is a good chance that it will be helpful for the dropout students and students who are out of school. So, scaling science for education is crucial to come up with innovative ideas that can help to build effective educational initiatives. It can also ensure effective learning and a wide range of robust, replicable outcomes. However, to gear up, we do not need every school and every teacher to ‘reinvent the wheel’, all we need to do is to scale up the locally effective education innovations that already exist.

Child marriage as a precondition to school dropout in Bangladesh

The highest rates of child marriage among girls in South Asia were seen in Bangladesh and Nepal. Both Nepal and Bangladesh have a direct connection between secondary school completion and child marriage when it comes to educational achievement according to a UNICEF report in 2019. The report indicates that efforts to prevent child marriage have advanced more rapidly over the past ten years, particularly in South Asia, but they are still moving far more slowly than is necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending child marriage by 2030. Many research on education and child marriage repeatedly demonstrates that having more education is generally linked to later marriage and childbirth across a variety of circumstances. A report by Human Rights Watch shows that in Bangladesh, women with primary, secondary, and higher education were, respectively, 24 percent, 72 percent, and 94 percent less likely to marry at a young age than women with no formal education supports the association between lack of or poor education and child marriage.

A study found that programs and policies for education should prioritize keeping girls in school until the ages of 13 or 14, when they may be switching from primary to secondary schooling and are most at danger of child marriage.

In Bangladesh, parents worry that keeping their girls in school would make it harder for them to find suitable spouses and that education and marriage were seen as a trade-off for their daughters. Several underlying issues, such as poverty, gender norms, and others, have an effect on this process.

Preventing child marriage requires co-ordination of multiple stakeholders along with government in taking various initiatives and scaling up existing education system to prevent the dropouts. Creation of readily available digital marriage records across the country as evidence of marriage. At the primary and secondary levels, free education must be guaranteed. All students must get a uniform education, and the required measures should be made to identify the problems and implement the right corrective measures.

“Okkhor Hok Shakti” (Let letters be the strength): A workshop conducted by SAIST to reduce the reading and writing gaps for children

Due to its comprehensive nature, teaching constantly needs consistency from every angle. The Covid-19 induced lockdown, which has been in effect since March 2020, has hampered the learning process for children. For almost a year, teachers and students were unable to attend classes in person. Another factor is that during this time, many female students were married off due to the lengthy school closure. Parents were uncertain whether or not the schools will reopen. As a result, many male students were forced to work in order to support their families in crisis.

Following the Covid-19 lockdown, teachers faced a lot of difficulties providing the children with proper education. Students have almost completely lost how to accurately read and write. Students found it difficult to adapt to the new syllabus and study materials upon returning to school due to a long study break. This caused a considerable gap in education which has been addressed by the government and other stakeholders in many ways. Still, such learning loss and gap affect children many of the children are struggling to return to school. Some of the students might still attend school despite the adversities but are on the verge of dropping out due to many pressures.

Keeping this in mind, SAIST organized a teacher’s training program with students in the Dhaka Uddan area, Mohammadpur, Dhaka to reduce the learning gap in reading and writing capacities. A day-long workshop addressing the reading and writing capacities which were named “Okkhor Hok Shakti” (Let letters be the strength) took place on 24 May 2022. 30 students and teachers joined the workshop. “Knowledge mobilization in the Dhaka Uddan area was engaging and productive”, said the participants.