Muhammad Ibrahim

Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES)
Year founded: 

Through a network of schools, CMES promotes a curriculum offering practical vocational skills and appropriate technologies in rural areas.

Focus: Youth, Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Bangladesh
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 156,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 3,611,640 (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 20.65%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2001

A major limitation in Bangladesh’s education sector is the large disconnect with millions of disadvantaged people in the country. The result is non-enrolment in primary education and a dropout rate of nearly 40% within the first few years. Without education and skills, children face a bleak future of unemployment and poverty, and girls are particularly vulnerable. The Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES) addresses this issue through its innovative basic school system and adolescent girls programme.

Innovation and Activities
CMES is replacing traditional rote learning, a widespread practice in rural Bangladesh, with life-oriented technological skills, thus integrating the two worlds of learning and work. The centre reaches out to 20,000 students each year, 66% being adolescent girls, through a network of 500 basic schools, advanced basic schools and Rural Technology Centres (RTCs) that influence educational practices throughout Bangladesh.

CMES combines a basic curriculum with an emphasis on economically relevant life skills including soap and candle making, computer skills, mechanics, garment making, carpentry, poultry farming, pottery, apiculture, vermi-composting, solar electricity, and electronics. Goods produced in the school are marketed to provide both a revenue source and an economic incentive for students to stay in school. Through its groundbreaking adolescent girls programme, females whose education is often neglected in Bangladesh can gain economic skills traditionally limited to boys. They receive loans from the CMES microcredit programme for young people and learn about their personal rights, including reproductive health.

Advanced basic schools and Rural Technology Centres are available to students interested in pursuing a higher level of education. At CMES's Rural Centre for Joyful Science Activities, researchers are developing applicable technological solutions for village life, such as low-cost, solar electric micro-utilities to provide electricity to bazaars and village huts. CMES has already applied this technology in an affordable, commercial manner.

The Entrepreneur
Muhammad Ibrahim's education instilled the belief that all people should share in the knowledge of science and technology. After publishing the first science magazine in the country, he decided to establish CMES as the next step in achieving effective mass science education. Ibrahim viewed this as the best method of unleashing the power of the adolescent mind and providing equity for girls, especially in areas related to technology. His stated belief is that to successfully escape poverty, it is necessary for individual boys and girls to undergo a change in mindset. His dream is to expand the principle of linking "education-work-empowerment" and bring global technology and business to the grassroots level.