Youths are the strongest, creative, self-confident, and most productive force of any nation. Hopes and aspirations of a nation can be reflected through the youths. They have the potentials to become a dynamic and positive force in shaping the future of their nations. So, the development of a nation is dependent on the development of its youths.
For developing youths, ‘education’ plays a key role. It is indispensable for effective social and economic participation, contributing to human development and poverty reduction. When effectively designed and delivered, both formal and non-formal education programmes can be a powerful tool for youth development. Although education is regarded as a basic human right, two decades after the Jomtien conference, the target of offering education to all has not yet been achieved. Considerable efforts in the field of education made by several developing countries, including Bangladesh, have simultaneously been partly frustrated by an overwhelming population increase. Thus, non-conventional methods of education are being reconsidered, both by learners and their families as well as by the various actors in the development process.
Non-formal education embraces all educational activities, organised and systematic, practised outside the formal educational system in order to provide specific knowledge to selected sub-groups (i.e. the youths) of the population.
Non-formal education is not intended to replace the traditional school but considered as an alternative where it does not exist (slums, isolated and scattered rural areas etc.), or, where it is not adopted to the needs of young people (their time schedule, the demands of the local economy, their sociocultural environment etc.). The non-formal education has an inter-generational impact. One literate member of a family could break the circle of illiteracy. By targeting specific groups, non-formal education reduces the inequality in women’s access to education. As regards financial involvement, costs of non-formal education are lower than those of formal education. Pedagogical methods are more appropriate here, notably in the use of local languages and in subject matter based on the learners’ needs. Basic non-formal education addresses children who have never been to school, young people who have prematurely dropped out of school, and people who could not come to school due to poverty.
The youths constitute one third of the total population in Bangladesh, and history of our nation is enlightened by the heroic contribution of the youths. But, today they are facing a lot of problems. Sustainable youth development calls for identification of their problems. The main problems facing our youths are:
• illiteracy and lack of quality education,
• HIV/AIDS, drug addiction,
• lack of awareness of healthcare,
• involvement in anti-social and immoral activities,
• lack of opportunities for self-employment,
• backwardness in technology and information technology (IT),
• absence of favourable environment for games and sports and sound recreations,
• lack of sense of responsibility for family and society, and so on.
Literacy is a prerequisite for most forms of learning, whatever the age group. It is, indeed, a means of youth empowerment. Through non-formal education all young people and adults can be given literacy skills. For sustainable youth development, learning throughout life should be ensured.
According to the UNESCO, it is based on four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. Non-formal education helps a youth to acquire these four skills. Through non-formal education socialisation of the young people can be ensured. Non-formal education addresses the needs and concerns of marginalised and disadvantaged young people by taking various steps.
Different types of skills and training programmes (language, computer, management etc.) can be offered for the young people to prepare themselves in the job market. To tackle youth unemployment vocational training can be a key element. Life skill-based education that aims to provide the youth with strategies to make healthy choices that contribute to a meaningful life, can also be imparted through non-formal education.
Life skills are the psycho-social and interpersonal skills that enable us to succeed in the environments (i.e. family, school, workplace, neighborhood, community etc.) in which we live. So, to combat HIV/AIDS, to create awareness about healthcare and to prevent drug and substance abuse among young people, life skill based non-formal education can play an effective role. Moral development of the youth and teaching social responsibility can be ensured through non-formal education.
Youths, who comprise 30 per cent of the world’s population, are caregivers of tomorrow’s world. They are resources and a force for change. Steps should be taken to develop their potential, creativity and skills so that they can participate fully at every level of decision-making and development, both individually and collectively. Education is considered the main engine for development. Needless to mention that non-formal education plays the major role in this regard.
The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org