Shishu Niketan is a new fee-based primary education initiative of BRAC Education
Programme. Aim of this is to create self-sustaining and good quality primary schools in
the areas in which non-formal schools have been withdrawn. Analysing input and
process factors of Shishu Niketans, this study assessed quality of this initiative. Parental
perspectives and challenges in driving the initiative towards sustainability were also
explored. This is the first research on this initiative. A comparative study was designed.
Five Shishu Niketans and five nearby Kindergartens were purposively selected from an
area located in rural Bangladesh. It applied both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
Findings reveal that physical facilities were better in Kindergartens; however,
Shishu Niketans were superior in terms of teaching-learning provision. Both of these
factors influenced parents’ school choice. In other opinion, these factors were crucial in
ensuring quality of education. Parents of Shishu Niketans were found to be satisfied with
the teaching quality, teachers’ behaviour and the culture of supervision. They had strong
objection about the absence of toilets and drinking water facilities. An opposite scenario
was observed in Kindergartens. The programme organizers of Shishu Niketans
experienced operational challenges during school establishment and regular school
operation. Collection of tuition fees was the major challenge for both schools but it was
found to be more difficult in Shishu Niketans. Shishu Niketans were established based
on BRAC primary schools (BPSs) goodwill and network. Thus, the poorer section of the
community who knew BRAC as a free education provider was the main population for
Shishu Niketans. Poorer admitted their children to Shishu Niketans by assuming that
these schools were free. On the other hand, parents of Kindergarten children knew from
the start that Kindergartens used to be a fee-based system.
Suggestions for overcoming the existing challenges include improvement of
infrastructure, creation of new networks with potential households, engagement of
fathers along with mothers in school activities, advocacy on curriculum, no attempt to
increase school-fees for the first couple of years, appointment of a separate person for
collecting tuition fees, and adoption of a slower approach for sustainability.