Almost all countries in South Asia started family planning programmes in the fifties and sixties in order to curb rapid population growth.
Some of these programmes included an information-education communication (IEC) component as an integral part.
The IEC component generally used the mass media, over-simplifying complex issues in the process.
For example, a message frequently conveyed was that “small family is a happy family”. This simple assertion could hardly be considered as true or meaningful in many situations.
The main purpose of the family planning information activity in this narrow sense was to create awareness of the possibility of controlling the number and frequency of births by means of various contraceptive techniques.
The family planning programmes of South Asian countries have, with few exceptions, not been conspicuous successes.
This lack of success may be attributed to such factors as the high level of illiteracy among the people, the low status of women, social and religious preferences, and the absence of any system of social security.
In any case, it has been increasingly recognized that programmes of information-education-communication addressed to adults on a simplistic basis are not sufficient.
Adult programmes should have a strong component of education, but at the same time it is necessary to provide relevant education for the’ child of today who will be the adult of tomorrow.
In South Asian countries, children under 15 years of age constitute about 40 to 45 per cent of their population.
These young people will constitute the adult population in the next few decades, and their reproductive behaviour and attitude towards family size will be of central importance in determining population growth.
They need to become aware of the problems caused by population pressure for the individual, the nation and the world, and to be provided with an education that would help them to make decisions with regard to population issues.
Probably, a combination of various methods inducing population change is needed to solve the problem, and among them education adults as well as children, the parents of the future, may be one of the most influential. As to what kind of education will be most effective is still an unanswered question.
There are immediate problems of trained personnel, in this new field, as well as of materials which can be used by educators, teachers and students.
As a result of the recognition that education is an important instrument for bringing about changes in attitude and behaviour, many countries in the Asian region have taken an Interest in developing population education programmes.
Initially, the concern of population education was to supplement family programmes through the formal education system. Since then, a broader concept of population education has developed in South Asian Countries.
Population education, as presently conceived, aims at developing an understanding of the processess and consequences of population change on the family, community, society, nation and the world, and develop such attitudes and behaviours as may help in making responsible dicisions.
Many countries have initiated population education programmes for the formal school system, but recently they have been extended to out-of-school adults and youth in a few countries.
The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has also recognized the role of population education in promoting an understanding of the problems arising from rapid population growth and excessive urbanization.
It has provided financial support to national and international programmes in population education through Unesco, ILO, FAO, WHO and through the UNDP country programmes.
At the national level, population education programmes stem from the population policies adopted by the respective governments. Population education activities are in this sense carried out within the framework of national development programmes.
Two countries in South Asia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka- have national population education projects funded by the UNFPA, while Pakistan and India have programmes Jointly funded by World Bank and other international agencies.
In some countries separate units or cells for population have been created. There are also countries in the region which have not developedany organized programmes in population education as yet.
Thus, population education is at different stages of development in the South Asian countries, but almost all the countries having population policies show an awareness and interest in developing population education programmes for the in-school as well as out-of-school population as an important component of their national development activity.