Nonformal education for sustainable development: A Bangladeshi perspective

Shohel, M. Mahruf C. and Howes, Andrew J. (2006). Nonformal education for sustainable development: A Bangladeshi perspective. In: The 10th APED International Conference: Learning Together for Tomorrow, Education for Sustainable Development, 6-8 Dec 2006, Bangkok, Thailand.



Sustainable development means ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’ (WCED, 1987:43). Meanwhile, any education worth the name is a life-long process for the betterment of human well-being. The social purposes of education are located in the long term, and it is right therefore that education should be oriented towards the construction and maintenance of a sustainable future.

However, many children in developing countries get very little education. They have little chance to attend even low-quality primary schools, and dropout and failure rates are alarming; many leave semi-literate, soon to relapse into illiteracy, with disastrous consequences for their participation as individuals in the creation of a sustainable world. Moreover, the majority of those who are at school experience a traditional, formal education paradigm, aimed primarily at selecting and building human capital for economic growth. This paradigm is seen to be increasingly at odds with the concept of education for sustainability.

Since the 1960s, nonformal education has comprised a wide spectrum of educational and training activities organised outside the formal school system. Innovative learning methods are aimed at the development of practical skills, including matters of health, sanitation, literacy, to be applied in real life situations. As an alternative approach to basic education, the nonformal sector as a whole thus increases pressure for change in the wider education system.

Drawing on a three-year empirical study of young people at the point of transition between the nonformal and formal sectors of schooling in Bangladesh, this paper will develop a framework for analysing how the nonformal education paradigm could usefully and realistically increase practice for sustainability in the formal system.

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