With the passage of the decade of work in rural high schools in Bangladesh, VAB developed in 2010 a five year strategy for moving to the next decade.
The main features of the strategies adopted to translate the Five Year Vision into reality are the following:
• VAB defined its goals as the transformation of the school to a “high quality school”. The primary criteria for “high quality” will be academic performance indicators: Low dropout rate (maximum 10% of students entering Class VI), high success rate at the public examinations after Class VIII and Class X (minimum 90%) and increased percentage of students securing A+ in public examinations (at least 15%).
• Exit strategy after five years with assurance of sustained and continuous improvement by the schools on their own
• Grouping schools at upazilla level, typically a cluster of five schools, providing leadership role to one of the schools (designated as Magnet School)
• Selection of schools with preference for depressed areas
• Stimulating forward looking approach asking the schools to develop their own five-year strategy with the goal of becoming “high quality school
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF KEY STRATEGIES
FIVE YEAR PROJECT AND OWNERSHIP OF PROJECTS
We are asking the schools to provide a five year scenario to transform the school to a “high quality” school during this period. The schools identify improvement projects and estimated costs. The purpose of this approach is to force the schools to think ahead and develop an action program. This should also reinforce the ownership of the projects by the schools themselves. For each improvement project, the schools are asked to provide a matching finance. We are insisting that our role is only to strengthen the programs undertaken by the schools. VAB does not initiate program for the schools; VAB offers its assistance to programs developed by the schools.
CLUSTER OF SCHOOLS AND MAGNET SCHOOL
We have taken an approach to choose about five schools in a locality for our improvement projects. We have taken up five clusters this year, four of them in depressed areas and one closer to Dhaka. In each cluster, a magnet school has been selected. We shall still select schools individually, but will gradually move to clusters in the next few years. We now have a total of sixty schools for 2012.
We have not excluded old schools in 2012, but we have a program for transition once we feel that our newly defined goals with the old schools have been achieved. We shall maintain the link with the old schools with a number of promotional activities.
The cluster approach will consolidate the outcome over a larger community. This will help permeate ideas in adjacent communities. The schools will learn from one another and the aggregate outcome will be better.
COMPUTER SKILL PROPAGATION
A program to train all the teachers in the school has been undertaken. The idea was very warmly received in the Headmaster seminar in March, 2012. Under this program, our trainer will go to the school and offer three to 5 days training. The school will provide local hospitality for the trainer during the stay. Already a number of schools extended invitation for the training and one such training has been successfully completed. This training will be offered to schools having five or more computers. We also have determined that all VAB schools ought to have at least five computers and aim to have ten computers as soon as possible.
A simultaneous program has been to train the Headmasters. These two activities are expected to change the dynamics of the use of computers in the schools and will be a catalyst for exposing the students in the use of computers.
All schools are asked to obtain internet connections. We need to establish contact with internet providers to give VAB a special deal. Any contact in this direction is welcome.
The teachers training program has been strengthened since 2011. We have offered training in computer, English and Mathematics so far. We have a plan to offer training in Science, Social Studies and Bangla in due course.
We found out that our rural high school teachers feel more benefitted to be trained by high school teachers of good standing. The other thing we realized is that their primary deficiency is in knowledge of the subject and not in pedagogy. And it was gratifying to see the Math teachers in the last training session were very willing to learn on the content from our trainers.
This year we requested our trainers to develop a training manual. The teachers will be trained based on the manual. The soft copy of the manual will also be available to the teachers.
Several different kinds of ancillary programs are envisioned.
Bridging Community and School: Under this program, the schools are encouraged to strengthen their parents-teachers meetings, contact with former students, inviting community members in school events. These activities will generate community interest in schools and will create opportunity for the schools to seek community help.
Encouraging Schools to take up socially conscious programs: The schools will be encouraged to give leadership in programs like tree plantation, sanitation and cleanliness drive, civic awareness for respect and safety of women in society, etc.
These programs will bring the schools closer to the community. The schools can then rightfully claim community help for its programs.
The two categories of programs described above will address the issue of sustainability of the improvement programs when VAB withdraws its support after a period of five years.
Inter-school competition: Inter-school competitions in sports, debate, literary competition, etc. are being encouraged. This will enhance opportunities for students to exercise their talents in competitive environment. It will also bring interaction between schools and between communities.
Participation in Olympiads and Fairs: Participation of the students of VAB schools Math Olympiad, Science Olympiad, Computer Olympiad and Science Fair will empower the students and propel them to achieve higher targets.