This dissertation is based on a field study of an alternative schooling program, CHOLEN, in Bangladesh. The purpose was to seek a clearer understanding of an alternative education model known as 'accelerated learning', where the time required for learning is much shorter than in conventional models, and is used where learners are unable to attend normal schooling due to poverty, cultural barriers, or conflict. CHOLEN used innovative strategies to enhance learning for tribal/indigenous children who were marginalized and bypassed by mainstream education.
Key among the strategies used by CHOLEN was 'activity-based learning' that allowed learning to be organized around activities, rather than relying solely on the textbook, expanding learning outside the classroom to the learner's life and environment, creating a friendly learning environment, and using varied materials and methods to deepen the learning experience. Teacher training helped to develop teachers as facilitators with creativity and openness to shift from conventional methods to learner-centered ones. The training used a 'reconstruction approach' which taught teachers how to create their own learning activities.
The study also looked at the policy context of CHOLEN. As a non-governmental or NGO program, what were the possibilities and challenges it faced. It looked particularly at the kinds of training and support systems that were essential to effective implementation of this approach.
The study employed qualitative methods, using interviews with teachers and trainers, classroom observations of learners, and discussions with parents and community members. The schools studied included both community and government schools so that comparisons could be made as to how the training was applied by teachers in these two systems.
The major findings were that CHOLEN promoted 'accelerated learning' by creating a 'culture of learning'. This involved changing beliefs and assumptions of teachers, trainers, and supervisors about learning, learners, the role of teachers, and building a new vision. Changing beliefs went hand-in-hand with practicing new ways of teaching-learning where learners took active role in learning, group and peer-learning were the norm, and learning was often in the form of games and fun. Community members actively participated in supporting this changed environment of learning.