Theses Doctoral

"Less is Not Enough" Dilemma of Alternative Primary Schooling Opportunities in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Uchikawa, Sayaka

This dissertation focuses on low-income rural-urban migrant children and their families in Bangladesh, living in a severe poverty-stricken environment in the capital city, Dhaka. Specifically, it deals with the dilemma of so-called non-formal primary education (NFPE) programs aimed at providing alternative schooling opportunities to children who do not attend regular school in the city. It describes how such programs do not necessarily help children integrate into the country's formal school system, but instead continuously prepares them for the subordinate segment of the society.

The study particularly addresses the state-sponsored Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children (BEHTRUWC) project, and examines its three elements: 1) exclusive membership and the making of "working children," 2) distinction from formal schools and meaning of schooling, and, 3) an implementation model that reflects Bangladeshi social structure. First, the study looks at how the BEHTRUWC project labels its participating children as "working children" (not particularly as students), and provides them with only limited coverage of primary schooling. As a result, children become "working children," not only learning the concept, but also acquiring customs to "act out" as working children. Second, the study problematizes the unique goals and subjects taught at the BEHTRUWC project that ultimately draws clear distinction between its children and formal school students.

The children and their parents also realize that their experience in the project would not assure the same level of education as formal schools, or provide them with more skilled and better-paid employment opportunities in the future. Finally, the study examines how the basic pattern of interpersonal relationships so common in Bangladesh is reflected in the daily practices of the BEHTRUWC project. The project's learning centers remain similar to any other places in Dhaka where children feel morally obligated to teachers and others, and thus, through the project, the children gradually recognize their assumed existing position in relation to other people in society. Through shedding light on the relationships, negotiations, and struggles of the people involved in the BEHTRUWC project, this study explores how these different elements of the project generate the unintended consequence for low-income migrant children in Dhaka.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
Comitas, Lambros
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 1, 2013