The concept of after-school programmes is widely popular in many countries but in Bangladesh, it is comparatively new here.
These programmes are meant to educate children on topics that are not essentially prioritised within academic curriculums such as social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development, reduce risky behaviours, promote physical health, and provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youths alike.
As much as after-school programmes are needed in Bangladesh, the idea of going to a 'school' after school can be frightening and even exhausting.
Unless the after-school programme is spontaneous and focuses on creatively planning out the lessons, the programme may result in failure as children are fragile and prone to internalising fears.
To mitigate these biases, Light of Hope, an edu-tech organisation that runs the country's largest after-school programme based in Dhaka, is striving towards a brighter future by providing moral education to children between four and 12 years of age.
The organisation develops content for children and their moral upbringing that includes publishing books, making video content, and a plethora of other media content.
The Business Standard recently conversed with Fakhrul Alam, director, corporate and media relations at Light of Hope to shed light on the importance of moral and creative education alongside institutional studies.
"We want to make sure that children learn about the virtues of life from a young age. But they cannot learn by themselves; an adult has to supervise these factors of growth, which is why we also curate content, lessons, and courses for the children's caregivers," said Fakhrul.
A different vision
Light of Hope was established in 2016 by Waliullah Bhuiyan who dreamt of spreading the light of moral and creative education to every child in Bangladesh.
Since 2016, this edu-tech organisation has been working on developing moral codes and nurturing creative skills with courses on crafting, sciences, puppetry, magic, and story making that promote self-expression.
Light of Hope operates and bridges the link between children and their adult caregivers through their two wings - Kid's Time and Teacher's Time.
Kid's Time is Light of Hope's after-school programme that focuses on preparing children for the future by nurturing the children's creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking skills while paying close attention to their emotional intelligence.
However, prior to this, Kid's Time was essentially a physical after-school centre. The online counterpart of Kid's Time came into existence after the Covid-19 pandemic forced educational institutes to shut down indefinitely from March 2020.
"Going online helped us scale-up as now we can provide our services nationwide instead of being cooped up in a room," Fakhrul said.
He added, "We aim to prepare the children of today for a better future tomorrow. We want them to be prepared to enter and adapt to the ever-changing job market 20 years from now. Growing up, my generation did not have access to such schooling and now, after the Covid-19 pandemic, we have already seen the job industry going through a massive change but many were not prepared for it."
"We want to make sure that children learn about the virtues of life from a young age. But they cannot learn by themselves; an adult has to supervise these factors of growth, which is why we also curate content, lessons, and courses for the children's caregivers"
Problem solving, emotional intelligence, and moral value are great skills to possess for a child in this age. "Kid's Time hopes to develop these virtues in a child from an early age," continued Fakhrul.
As leeway to Light of Hope's beliefs, a child can paint the sky any colour they want. "It is their sky and they have the right to imagine it in any colour they want. We always appreciate children breaking away from a conventional thought process and we promote it for their self-development," he said.
Fakhrul added, "Our success lies in the publishing of books that house the creative works of these children. We measure the changes in children through their talent and creative abilities. This tells us how much their critical thinking ability, moral values, and empathy have developed."
Products that open up new avenues
Goofi Books, the publishing wing of Light of Hope, operates under the banner of Kid's Time and they have a range of books including those that teach Bangla alphabets along with home-schooling kits for English medium schools.
Explaining the lesson modules, he said, "We have a course on storytelling that teaches children storytelling and character development. Goofi Books has been participating in the Ekushey Book Fair for the past two years and the stories told by the children are compiled in a book to be sold at the fair."
Light of Hope has recently bought a franchise of Joy English School - the most successful English-teaching software programme in the US catering to over a million young students - under Kid's Time.
"Our partnership with Joy English School will be helpful for children who have just started to learn English as it is very interactive and children tend to learn better in an active environment rather than in a monotonous one," Fakhrul said.
Teacher's Time is Light of Hope's parental teaching wing and the largest parenting and teachers' development programme in Bangladesh. Over 10,000 teachers and parents have completed courses under Teacher's Time from different parts of the world.
"Parents and teachers are taught classroom management skills at Teacher's Time. Our workshops never focus on orthodox schooling methods. Instead, we focus on child psychology and their creative wellbeing and we teach the parents and caregivers to focus on these aspects as well," Fakhrul explained.
Teacher's Time offers a range of parenting courses that include mental development for children, early mathematics for children, managing hyperactivity of children, speech delay management etc, with over 40 high-profile Bangladeshi and global experts on the platform.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put an end to the livelihood of many businesses but some dared to make an opportunity out of the disaster and aim for larger successes.
Light of Hope did something similar. "Being an edu-tech organisation, it was easier for us to cope with the changing surroundings. Although our physical centre went out of business, thanks to the advent of high-speed internet, now we are serving the entire country and even abroad."
Fakhrul informed us that it was a bit difficult to play out the new courses at the physical centre but as they require fewer resources after going fully online, they have managed to expand their horizons and become available to a wider population.
In the future, Light of Hope aims to go global by purchasing more edu-tech franchises.
"Our content is available both in Bangladesh and around 60 countries. We want to grow more so we can reach more children and parents in need of virtuous education," voiced Fakhrul.