Runa Khan

Ashoka Fellow
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fellow Since 1994


This profile was prepared when Runa Khan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
In 1979, while teaching kindergarten and junior school students in Chittagong, Runa Doja discovered that instead of being encouraged to interpret and understand the information presented to them, students were taught to memorize and simply regurgitate their lessons during tests. Runa observed an utter lack of coherent development in the children; they learned the alphabet and simple vocabulary, but could not use this knowledge for even rudimentary communication. If asked to deviate from the standard lesson plan the children were helpless. Runa was spurred by her teaching experiences to create an educational system that incorporates a variety of participatory methods in order to encourage critical thinking. She calls this system "methods of conceptual motivation." As her students' test scores began to improve markedly, Runa decided to develop a series of goal-oriented, self-instructional text books that would encourage students and teachers to become more engaged in the learning process.

Runa's unique approach to textbook design serves a dual purpose. First, the goal-oriented nature of the textbooks motivates students to complete each unit because they feel a sense of accomplishment as they learn a new, concrete skill. Second, because the books are largely self-directed, the teacher is free to spend more time with individual students, rather than standing in front of a class and reading directly from the textbook. As a result, students have more confidence in themself, begin to think critically, and therefore gain more from the time spent in school. As Runa says, "all I did was what any book should do–increase inquisitiveness for learning."
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


• 4.2 million people have access to Friendship’s health services • Friendship’s education programme benefits 15,800 households in 5 districts • Friendship’s Disaster Management teams are active in 47 communities covering 162,000 people •The Good Governance Programme is active in 21 Chars hosting 70,000 people •Friendship provides Sustainable Economic Developments services through its 3 operating entities Looking ahead, the education program is working with computer based offline learning that uses curriculum based videos. Work is under way to establish six static clinics and a fifty bed land hospital in remote locations of southern coastal belt by 2017. The programs on agriculture, disaster management, good governance, etc. will also continue growing to reach out to more people.

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