Since its inception in 1990, the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) has grown from a network of 15 member organizations to a credible and recognized coalition with a membership that includes over 1,300 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 15 teachers’ organizations and thousands of education activists across Bangladesh. Such wide and diverse representation has enabled the coalition to contribute with relevant inputs to public policy discussions and influence change within the Bangladeshi education system.
In order to create informed and unified civil society positions, CAMPE actively engages its members by sharing information and seek inputs to policy positions and proposals. This takes place through discussions at regularly organized national and subnational meetings, or by online consultations with the wider membership. Findings from these consultations are drawn on or presented to the government during policy discussions, for example through the regular Local Consultative Group for Education (Bangladesh’s equivalent of a Local Education Group (LEG)) meetings, on which CAMPE is represented and participates actively. Furthermore, the coalition was asked by the government to take a lead role in sector review processes which led to Bangladesh joining the Global Partnership for Education this year.
Through its monitoring mechanism, Education Watch, CAMPE also carries out systematic research, surveys and studies to assess the progress of Education for All in Bangladesh. This mechanism is a key tool for our advocacy work, and has delivered real results.
Under the Education Watch banner, CAMPE submitted around 40 major recommendations to the National Education Policy Formulation Committee 2009 – all of which were reflected in the National Education Policy adopted in 2010. The recommendations covered a broad range of issues affecting the education sector, including extending primary education to grade 8, improving teacher training; decreasing the teacher-student ratio, highlighting the need for quality learning materials; provision of meals during school-time (particularly in very poor areas); and increased education for children of marginalized groups.
Progress and Challenges
Over the years, the government of Bangladesh has shown real commitment to education, as demonstrated through important progress in the sector. For example, Bangladesh has come close to universal net enrollment in primary education, and has achieved full gender parity in primary and secondary school access.
Yet, ensuring sufficient financing remains a key challenge and the education budget in Bangladesh is one of the lowest in South Asia. While the total amount that the government allocates to education has increased over the past years, as the gross domestic product and revenues have grown, spending on education has actually decreased as a percentage of total government spending – from 14% of the total budget in 2000 to 10.7% in the proposed 2015-2016 budget.
This is a long way off the targets agreed at the World Education Forum in May this year (at least 15-20% of total public expenditure to education). In order to ensure effective implementation of the National Education Policy of 2010, sufficient budgetary allocations are essential.
CAMPE has been actively campaigning for a long time to increase domestic resources for education. This year, the coalition held four public hearings to discuss the education budget among communities at the local level. More than 10,000 people took part in the hearings in Khulna, Panchagarh, Rangpur and Tangail.
The findings were then shared with the government. In May of this year, with support from the Civil Society Education Fund of the Global Campaign for Education, CAMPE organized a policy dialogue on education financing, which brought together development partners, teachers’ associations, parliamentarians, ministers, and other guests such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.
The coalition also drafted an open appeal which was submitted to the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, requesting her urgent intervention. The appeal outlined several key asks, such as the need to increase the education budget to 20% by 2021, and ensure effective and efficient spending.
At CAMPE, we are hopeful that our expertise, recommendations and input will be acknowledged again, as has been seen in the past. After all, the timing is critical. In September, UN member states (including Bangladesh) will adopt new global development goals and make a new set of promises on education.
As the voice of civil society in our country, CAMPE will keep up the fight to ensure that Bangladesh does all it can to achieve these goals, and make quality education for all a reality.
CAMPE is one of 54 national civil society education coalitions supported by the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF), which operates in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The CSEF is managed by the Global Campaign for Education, and funded by the Global Partnership for Education. Bangladesh became the 60th developing country partner of the Global Partnership for Education in 2015.