World Learning and Sightsavers Use TAAP Toolkit to Examine Inclusive Education in Bangladesh

Cityscape of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dhaka, Bangladesh

People who are marginalized and excluded from political and economic power are more likely to be negatively impacted by development projects and significantly less likely to receive benefits from development, humanitarian assistance, or advocacy. Interventions that address marginalization due to age, disability, gender, race, and other factors, can therefore be important catalysts for more sustainable, equitable societies.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is driving transformative social change by prioritizing disability-inclusive education and incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into its education programming, especially for literacy education. UDL is an innovative framework that supports different learning styles in the classroom so that the needs of all learners are met.

“When UDL is applied to reading instruction, both students with and without disabilities learn how to read and prepare themselves for lifelong success,” reports Julie Cram, USAID’s deputy assistant administrator in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment & senior coordinator of United States International Basic Education Assistance.

World Learning shares a long history of integrating inclusion into its policies and procedures—from the institutional level to everyday practice—and World Learning has partnered with USAID to target inclusion, incorporating the UDL model in a USAID-supported education project in Lebanon, and across its basic education programs.

Moreover, as part of this commitment to inclusion, since September 2015, World Learning and a team of partners have collaborated to devise a systematic, analytical approach to applying inclusive principles throughout a development project’s life cycle. The Transforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) approach supports development practitioners by outlining a series of practical steps they can take to “tap” into the voices, skills, and experiences of all people during project design and implementation.

Part of the TAAP Initiative involved creating the open-source TAAP toolkit, launched in 2018, which provides additional knowledge, skills, and resources to help development practitioners, organizations, and policymakers identify marginalized perspectives and amplify their voices. Today, World Learning is building on this history and exploring how its TAAP Toolkit’s Social Inclusion Analysis can be employed to improve education for children.

TAAP Toolkit in Action: Bangladesh

In the fall of 2020, World Learning joined forces with Sightsavers to better understand the current state of inclusive education in Bangladesh and investigate solutions. Sightsavers is an international organization working to prevent sight loss for some of the world’s most vulnerable people and to ensure people with a disability have the same quality of education, health care, and work opportunities as everyone else. In Bangladesh, Sightsavers has specifically been assisting families and children with disabilities in reducing discrimination and stigma in government schools—irrespective of each family’s ethnicity or geographical identity.

To examine barriers to education in country, World Learning and Sightsavers harnessed the principles of TAAP’s methodology and tools, gathering information directly from local families and children with disabilities. Through TAAP, the organizations gained essential context, as well as insights on shortcomings to access and potential improvements. In all, the organizations conducted interviews and held focus groups with three stakeholder groups: members of organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), parents of children with disabilities, and students with disabilities in the Kamrangir neighborhood of Dhaka and the rural area of Narshinghi. Some initial findings are shared below:

DPO members emphasized the need to promote inclusive education for all children with disabilities. During conversations with World Learning and Sightsavers, DPO members advocated that education is the right of every child and that different policies, such as the national education policy of Bangladesh and Disability Act of 2013, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, have clearly mentioned the equal rights of children with disabilities. They explained that because much of the inclusive education work done in Bangladesh is done by smaller NGO initiatives there are populations who are left behind. DPO members strongly recommended that Bangladesh’s government work closely with NGOs to understand effective strategies to generate the best learning outcomes for children with disabilities.

Parents described their happiness when their children with disabilities have an opportunity to enroll in school because it enhances their children’s relationships with peers and increases their self-esteem. Parents also shared their experiences that when all children, irrespective of their abilities, attend school it also raises community awareness about disabilities. Parents explained that it is very important for them to have an open line of communication with teachers, and significantly contributes to their child’s success in school. Parents mentioned that it would also be helpful for them to learn educational skills they can use at home to continue supporting their children’s education.

Students expressed immense joy at going to school and learning alongside their peers. They particularly enjoyed the routines and classroom activities they could participate in. Students did mention having negative experiences being bullied by other students that hurt their feelings, including being called names. In the discussion on how they could better their school experience, students said having accessible toilets, being able to use assistive devices in the classroom, and being given enough time to complete an assignment or test would make improve their learning and time in the classroom. 

These preliminary results show that the principles of TAAP can be just as useful in efforts to enhance access to education. World Learning and Sightsavers are excited that this methodology has revealed information that can better inclusive education in Bangladesh, and they are particularly motivated by how the TAAP Toolkit centers the perspectives of those impacted most and elevates the agency stakeholders can have in project design. 

Through TAAP, World Learning and its partners can empower local actors and deliver sustainable solutions. World Learning looks forward to leveraging its work with the TAAP Toolkit in Bangladesh to continue improving the quality of education for all children in the country, particularly for children with disabilities.

Q&A: IVLP Alumna Tawhida Shiropa on Her U.S. Exchange and How She’s Supporting Her Community During the Pandemic

World Learning alumni around the globe are contributing to the COVID-19 response efforts. Many of them are using experience, knowledge, and resources they gained on their exchange program to stem the spread of the virus and support their local communities as they grapple with the impacts of the pandemic.

Tawhida Shiropa, IVLP alumna

Tawhida Shiropa is the founder and CEO of Moner Bondhu, a social enterprise in Dhaka focused on mental healthcare. She was previously the features senior sub-editor for Prothom Alo, one of the largest daily newspapers in Bangladesh. In February 2020, she took part in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange focused on media responsibility in the age of disinformation.

When Shiropa returned home to Bangladesh after the program concluded, the COVID-19 outbreak had already started spreading fear in her community and around the globe. World Learning corresponded with Shiropa over email to ask her how the IVLP program has impacted her work, her current projects, and how she is involved in the response to the global pandemic.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell us about your IVLP experience. What were some of the most memorable moments and highlights?

The best part of the IVLP program is building a platform where I had some amazing experiences with my IVLP colleagues. I will never forget all the conversations and arguments over many global issues that I had with them. Visiting all the host families during the trip was also memorable to me. I got to see and experience U.S. culture and its people very closely this time, which I consider a blessing.

Tawhida with her homestay family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

My dinner experience with the Miller family in Pennsylvania will always be in my mind.* I had such a fun yet inspiring conversation with them, and I will cherish that memory. I also met a very good friend among my IVLP team members who I hope to stay in touch with. The whole melting pot culture of the IVLP program has impacted me and my thinking process.

I also presented about the work we do at Moner Bondhu at two universities during the program. I will never forget the appreciation and overwhelming support from the participants. I went to communications arts high school, where I was introduced to some students, who were very curious about mental health. I told them about my organization and they were so impressed that they connected with Moner Bondhu on social media to stay updated about our activities. Some of them also said that they would like to volunteer for us once they graduate high school.

* IVLP participants often have a Home Hospitality experience — a dinner hosted by an American family at their home, which helps improve participants’ understanding of U.S. culture.

What have you been working on since you returned from your program?

Since returning from IVLP, I have focused more on creative writing and thoughtful content development for the betterment of my community. The program expanded my understanding of this age of disinformation. I brought confidence, motivation, and lessons learned back to my country, as well as improved writing skills and an ability to look at issues from a different angle.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak had already begun to alarmingly spread fear and frustration by the time I came back to work, not only in my country, but globally. I anticipated how fear and panic are deteriorating people’s resilience to fight the novel coronavirus. That is why I realized that globally the need for mental health and psychosocial support services during this crisis is a necessity. Moner Bondhu is calling out loudly for support and trying to implement dynamic activities to meet the high demand of counseling support and awareness programs.

Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we are offering 24/7 free tele-counseling and video-counseling to handle the mental stress due to this novel coronavirus situation. We are also publishing awareness posts, short videos, and live programs on Moner Bondhu Facebook page. We have hosted a webinar session with the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka on the necessity of mental healthcare during such a global crisis.

I also produce and develop content for Monher Bandu’s television show, Moner Kotha, Phoner Kotha, on Nagorik TV. The show will air every Saturday to talk about mental healthcare and healthcare guidelines during the novel coronavirus pandemic and advocate for mental healthcare services.

What impact has the pandemic had on you and your work?

Staying home during a lockdown is certainly very difficult. But it is also an opportunity to spend quality time with my family. During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, we are all concerned about the safety and well-being of our family members, friends, and colleagues. I try to stay strong and help people face the situation with awareness and bravery, not fear.

Apart from that, I am spending a great many hours at Moner Bondhu. The overall activities of the organization have increased many folds in order to fulfill the demand for counseling and mental healthcare support from my community. With the increasing number of clients, new collaborations and more people seeking psychosocial support, I am working very hard, sometimes more than 10 hours a day finishing the organizational activities.

How has your IVLP exchange impacted your work?

The program I participated in, “Media Responsibility in an Age of Disinformation”, could not have been more relevant. Right after returning from the U.S., the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in my country and as in all other countries, people started to feel the panic, stress, and anxiety of the situation. I immediately jumped to work with my organization to ensure that we provide correct information to not spread panic but, instead, to calm everyone down. We have continued to share important and accurate information, alongside publishing content to keep people’s spirits up during this time.

Thanks to an initiative by another IVLP alumna, the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh also promoted Moner Bondhu’s services on their official Facebook page. I also spoke about mental healthcare during COVID-19 on the monthly radio show produced by embassy, which was shared on the official IVLP Facebook page. I am truly grateful for this support and feel very appreciated and encouraged.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars

Participant Profile

Participants are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs and vary in age and level of expertise, but all will be engaged in the seminar topic and highly motivated to create change in their communities.

Please consult the list of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs below.

Participant Selection

Alumni TIES participants who are not U.S. citizens are nominated by the U.S. Embassies or Consulates in their countries. Please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country to learn how you can participate in Alumni TIES. Potential Alumni TIES participants who are living in the United States can apply for specific seminars managed by World Learning. The web link to the online application will be distributed widely by the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

All participants for Alumni TIES seminars are selected by the U.S. Department of State.

Program Design

Alumni TIES seminars take place in six world regions and the U.S.; each seminar is three to four days for small groups of alumni. The seminars include speakers, capacity development trainings, and alumni networking activities. Through the small grants initiative, alumni have the opportunity to take action and make a positive difference in their communities.

Learn More

Watch more videos about the Alumni TIES program.

Read stories from past participants about their experiences at the seminars or with their small grant projects on the Alumni TIES blog.

For information on programs for U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni visit the International Exchange Alumni website.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  

Communities Connecting Heritage

Communities Connecting HeritageSM  Program Impact


CCH Alumni Small Grants

At the conclusion of the program’s third year, the CCH team opened the Communities Connecting Heritage Small Grants to organizational and community member alumni from all three CCH cycles. The following projects were selected for CCH Small Grant implementation.

Kristina Llane (Albania)
Title of Project: Beekeeping Tradition as and Educative Tool

This project aims to preserve and share the importance of local beekeeping traditions in the Gjirokastra community of Albania. Kristina will work with elementary school students to cultivate youth interest in beekeeping’s cultural role in their community. Throughout the project, students and teachers will contribute to an educational book on beekeeping to that will equip teachers to continue sharing with future classrooms. The project will conclude with a panel discussion focused on protecting and preserving culture, tradition, and the environment in Albania.

Kalpana Gagdekar (India)
Title of Project: Connecting Community with Their Traditional/Heritage Cuisine

This project will explore and document the Chhara community’s traditional cuisines, which are experiencing a disappearing effect under modern global influences. Kalpana aims to document the rituals and heritage of Chhara cuisine through seven video interviews with Chhara women elders. The project combines modern technology with traditional food heritage and welcomes Chhara members of all ages to reclaim and rediscover their own heritage.

Mandala Theatre (Nepal) and Creative Connections (Connecticut, U.S.)
Title of Project: Hamro Sanskriti: Preserving Cultural Heritage through Participatory Theatre

The goal of this project is to provide youth in Connecticut and Nepal with a deeper connection to their own culture through student-led virtual workshops. The workshops – spearheaded by theater trainers in Nepal and Connecticut – will teach participatory theater techniques to 250 high school students and conclude with a model forum theater piece produced by students for the public.

Athar Lina (Egypt)
Title of Project: Rawya: The Water Women

Rawya: The Water Women is a Cairo-based project aimed at restoring the historically significant Sabil Um Abbas, a 19th century religious building and gathering place, into a usable community space once more. In addition to restoring aspects of the building, the project will connect U.S. and Egyptian women storytellers Donna Bryson and Chirine El Ansary to curate a storytelling experience of powerful 19th century women from their respective countries. Their work will culminate in a video exhibition that will be on display in the newly renovated Sabil Um Abbas for the local community to experience.

Bhasha Research and Publication Centre (India) and University of Northern Colorado (Colorado, U.S.)
Title of Project: Reclaiming Heritage II: Building Social Bonds and Bridges with Cultural Heritage

This project will utilize digital library resources at UNC to create and share cultural heritage “snapshots” with the broader community. These short videos will help immigrants and refugees in Colorado and indigenous peoples in India share their cultural heritage while building bonds with their local communities. The project will provide its participants with the ownership and platform to share their own heritage while paving a pathway for integration with others in their community.

Outside the Lens (California, U.S.)
Title of Project: Youth Tellers

Youth Tellers is a cross-cultural collaboration between Latinx youth in California and Bosnia-Herzegovina, relying on the concepts of past, present, and future to explore students’ complex cultural identities. Using digital media tools including photography, videography, and youth-facing communication forums like Discord, the project will culminate in a virtual exhibition showcasing the participants’ cultural heritage exchange with one another.

Explore the Story section on the right to learn more about the unique cultural heritage projects implemented since 2018.

Digital Communication Network

Examples of Past Digital Communication Network Projects

  • Internet vs. Democracy Forum
  • Roaring 20s #Digital Forum
  • Combatting Disinformation Training Program
  • Digital and Media Literacy for NGOs Training Program
  • Tolerance and Coexistence 2.0 Forum
  • Montenegro Digital Influencers Hub
  • Humor and Games for Social Good Forum

International Visitor Leadership Program

End of Year Report

Chosen by U.S. embassies worldwide to participate, distinguished professionals include:

  • parliamentarians
  • government officials
  • entrepreneurs
  • NGO leaders
  • journalists
  • academics
  • arts administrators
  • mid-career professionals

Programs focus on policy issues in areas such as:

  • government
  • international security
  • foreign policy
  • entrepreneurship
  • economics and trade
  • media
  • women’s leadership
  • education
  • public health
  • arts
  • agriculture
  • disability rights and inclusion

World Learning staff members design national itineraries, arrange logistics, set up meetings in Washington, DC, and coordinate the collaboration of U.S. Department of State program officers, interpreters and International Visitor Liaisons, and more than 85 community-based member organizations from the Global Ties U.S. Network who arrange local programs nationwide.


Most participants are mid-career professionals and emerging leaders, and for many, this is their first visit to the U.S. Groups are of varying sizes, from single visitors to groups of 25 or more. World Learning program staff work closely with their State Department counterparts to design a program customized to the project objectives and the visitors’ interests.


Participant Selection

IVLP candidates are selected solely by U.S. embassy personnel in each country. There is no application form. World Learning is a private sector partner of the U.S. Department of State; our role is limited to designing programs for participants once they arrive in the U.S. For further information regarding the program, please consult the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Program Design

A typical project includes up to a week of meetings in Washington, DC, to provide an orientation and overview of the theme and to introduce visitors to federal officials and agencies, national organizations, academics and think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, and professionals in their specific field of interest. All projects include a briefing on the US federal system of government. Meetings may include panel discussions, site visits, workshops, individual interlocutors, job shadowing, or service opportunities. Visitors typically travel to an additional three or four cities in geographically diverse regions of the country; the itinerary may include a state capital and a small town to provide first-hand exposure to the great diversity that exists in the U.S. Also included in the program design are hospitality dinners, school visits, community service activities, and cultural events such as rodeos, state fairs, festivals, visits to national parks, or events that highlight some unique aspect of the region visited.

Participant Experience

“My recent experience in the IVLP program is so far the deepest ever for me to see and understand the full picture of what America as a country is like. I strongly believe this program will have a very long-term impact on my views about America and the world and to some extent it has already helped me to understand many long-time questions.” – Journalist from China

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.