The Gonobidyalaya Project
Five new Bangladesh schools are joining the Global Connections and
Exchange Program (GCEP): the Gonobidyalaya Schools in Sonargaon,
Chadpur, Bagherhat, Panchbibi, and Chittagong. Unlike the other
schools participating in GCEP, these are not secondary schools but Folk
High Schools. The Gonobidyalaya Project established these schools to
provide low cost, non-formal general education and skill training to
the financially disadvantaged students with limited education.
schools are historical echoes of the Folk High School movement which
originated in Denmark in the 19th century. This movement was
particularly associated with Nikolaj F.S. Grundtvig (at right), but in
India similar philosophies were espoused by educational reformers such
as Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and the Bengali nobel laureate Rabindranath
Tagore. Tagore himself established schools with agricultural and
vocational elements to complement the more traditional schooling of the
time. The five Gonobidyalaya schools were established since 1980
and follow a similiar holistic philosophy, delivering a broad, yet
practical education to its students.
In addition to more traditional skills, the Gonobidyalaya Schools teach
a number of applied disciplines such as electrical and mechanical
engineering and textile arts. The Internet Learning Centers
established at these institutions will introduce a vocational element
related to information technology, but also be used to complement the
existing courses. Like their counterparts in more traditional
schools, the Gonobidyalaya students will also take part in Global
Connections and Exchange lessons with overseas partners.
Except for a few private institutions in major cities, most high
schools in Bangladesh follow a Bangladeshi government curriculum based
on Microsoft Windows and the Microsoft Office Suite. For this
reason, our internet learning centers and curriculum have adhered
closely to this platform in Bangladeshi high school. The
Gonobidyalaya schools, however, are not subject to this requirement.
Given their unique requirements, we have opted to implement the
Internet Learning Centers (ILCs) in these schools as the first entirely
open source telecenters in Bangladesh.
Teachers and administrators who trained this month in the first
Linux-based ILC said that they were surprised how easy it was to learn
OpenOffice, the GIMP, and related programs. By the end of the
week, teachers were creating word processing documents, presentations
and web pages, all with open source software.