Redefining education

Sumaiya Kabir
Alokito Hridoy Foundation (AHF), has been working towards making Bangladesh’s current education system more holistic, through a model where children learn by playing, problem solving and inquiring. As of today, when the world is faced with a pandemic, their research and efforts over the years prove timely and highly relevant.

Following the inception of Alokito Hridoy School in Tangail in 2016, 180 children from pre-primary to the sixth grade are receiving the kind of education that helps them grow more social, moral, emotional and cognitive skills, and makes them adaptive and innovative problem solvers. It not only carries a supportive learning environment but also a design-thinking approach to understand the real impact of education. AHF’s aim is to extend this model from their own school and government primary schools to eventually all other mediums, and fuel change at a systemic level.

In attempting to reinvent the education system of Bangladesh, AHF recognises that it is crucial for educators to be empowered as well. “Every teacher has some unique techniques they apply in their classroom. I feel that the magic they work there is not highlighted enough,” says Founder and Chairperson Azwa Nayeem. “Our aim is to develop the teachers as catalysts of change, and teaching to be the most sought after and respected profession.”

Founder and Chairperson Azwa Nayeem (5-L) with the teachers of the Alokito Hridoy School
In line with that thought, AHF recently launched the ‘Alokito Teachers’ web platform, where these teachers from different parts of Bangladesh can stay connected to each other through learning and sharing resources online, from home. Soon, it will also include the option to explore job and other growth opportunities.

The foundation recently announced an idea challenge, sponsored by Daraz, to inspire teachers to think creatively and contribute towards minimising the challenges rising from the education disruption we are currently facing. It is a great opportunity for the teachers to assume the role of leadership in these unprecedented times. Any teacher may apply, and will be judged on how much their idea ensures equity, and whether it is applicable in all schools and inclusive of all types of students or not. The winner will be awarded with a gift voucher worth BDT 20,000

AHF has also been closely working with the ICT Ministry and their Access to Information division team to create a digital education platform that redirects to the foundation’s website as well as that of 35 other esteemed organisations. Subsequently, it acts as a repository for all academic resources. It hosts quizzes and lessons through video content and e-workbooks. This way, everyone involved can have an inclusive learning and self-assessment experience. The core philosophy behind many of their projects is that the quality education they are trying to provide should include an active partnership with the children’s parents as well. “We want to ensure that both the parents and their kids know about the impacts of this virus right now so that they can be aware, but do not have to panic,” says Azwa.

Since March 28, 2020, teachers and parents of the Alokito Hridoy School have been connecting over live sessions online, addressing issues that are emerging in the current crisis, such as kids being difficult to discipline during the lengthy period of self-isolation, and their lack of focus during online classes. The discussions that have taken place so far include parenting during the pandemic, interactive online classes, social-emotional learning, and anxiety and stress management for students, teachers and parents alike.

Majority of the students of the institution come from families of factory workers, who either are suffering from health risks or damaged livelihoods due to the coronavirus outbreak. AHF has stood beside these families not only academically, but also emotionally and financially. The foundation initiated a virtual discussion series as well, on reimagining education with COVID-19 and beyond. In the series, policymakers and education experts come together online to explore what challenges the aftermath of the pandemic will bring, and their innovative solutions.

“We want to stir up the right conversations about all the issues that need to be addressed, starting from the bottom to the top of the system, as everyone is in a very receptive mood right now. Everyone wants to do something, and there is no better time than now to redefine our education system,” concludes Azwa.

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