We are using cookies to give a better service experience. By using our services you agree to use cookies. More information.
Got it
How can children in isolated communities gain access to high-quality primary education?

BRAC Boat Schools

Marker Bangladesh
A context-led project that provides BRAC non-formal primary school education to children excluded from traditional schools due to seasonal flooding or other water-based barriers.

What are BRAC Boat Schools?

Sakhwat Hosain
“BRAC Boat Schools are the product of a simple yet powerful idea: if underserved children living in isolated areas cannot go to school, then the school should go to them.”

Sakhwat Hosain, Senior Manager, BRAC Education Program

Northeast Bangladesh is a unique geophysical area composed of a patchwork of wetland habitats. During the wet season, monsoon rains regularly flood the region, submerging most of the area for more than half the year. Communities living on small settlement islands become isolated, such that both students and teachers find it difficult to get to school. This leads to social inequality and economic deprivation.

The government and development organisations have struggled to establish permanent education facilities in this remote region. The permanent schools that are built are often miles away from the most remote communities and can only be accessed by boat for half the year, making them difficult and expensive to attend, especially for the poorest families.

Many parents are reluctant to send their children on such long journeys. One in five children in the region have no access to transportation, even in the dry season. In 2012, just 41% of children were literate. School dropout rates in the area are high. As a whole, the region lags behind the rest of Bangladesh in terms of development.

BRAC aims to bring education to disadvantaged children left out of the formal system due to extreme poverty, violence, displacement or discrimination. Whilst BRAC did not create the first Boat School in the world they developed their own version of a Boat School, addressing a local problem with a local solution using their methodology of bringing a holistic, comprehensive, and inclusive approach to education in this circumstance.

Each BRAC Boat School can accommodate 30 children, at least half of whom will be girls. They use a one-teacher-one-school approach and recruit a local female teacher to guide the same cohort of students through the full primary education cycle. Drawing teachers from the same communities as the students creates a stronger bond between them, enhancing the level of interaction and learning inside and outside the classroom. Communication with students and parents on such a regular basis results in an organic environment that nurtures growth. 

The foundation of pedagogy within their custom-built Boat School is BRAC's non-formal primary school model (NFP), which converts a five-year model to a four while still providing a similar or higher pass rate than the national average, and specifically accommodates the needs of students who have previously dropped-out or otherwise not had access to a government education.

BRAC began implementing its NFP model in 1985, and it has since been replicated by other NGOs within Bangladesh.

Young people on BRAC Boat Schools use customized textsbooks, for students in grades one to three, ensure the same high quality as the nationally-prescribed textbooks, but present information in a manner that accommodates our students' particular barriers. (In grade four, students are gradually transitioned to the national textbooks.)

The boats also act as school buses so that the children can access education year-round. This removes the cost, time and safety barriers faced by poor parents in transporting their children to school. During the dry season, BRAC anchors the Boat Schools at locations that are convenient for all the students. All Boat Schools are equipped with toilets, hand-washing facilities and safe drinking water.

Today, more than 14,500 students are enrolled in 507 BRAC Boat Schools across Bangledesh and the Philippines.

Read more ›
Intended Outcomes
7 - 12
Age Group
Resources Needed
Each Boat School has one dedicated teacher, one boatman and one assistant. Parents and community representatives sit on the School Management Committees. The schools require tools for upkeep, inner furnishings and learning materials, such as chalk boards, books and pencils. A Boat School typically takes 3 months to set up.
HundrED Criteria
BRAC Boat Schools foster a supportive culture and an innovative approach to challenges in flooded areas. With the right approach, barriers give way to growth and progress. The entire BRAC Boat School project reflects that commitment.
Research has shown that BRAC boat schools have made a significant impact on encouraging girls to engage with education, BRAC now supports more girls beyond the age of five than any other NGO that specialises in free and accessible education. BRAC has also removed any fee involved with accessing an education, allowing even the most impoverished children the opportunity to access quality education.
There are currently 507 boat schools active in Bangladesh and the Philippines. The model could be replicated in other communities facing similar challenges due to seasonal flooding.

See this innovation in action.


Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Select a location
Read more
Conduct a survey
Read more
Get the community on board
Read more
Build the boat
Read more
Select the crew
Read more
Prepare to teach
Read more
Show more

Connect with the innovator

Sakhwat Hosain
Used in