Almost all countries in South Asia started family planning programs in the fifties and sixties to curb rapid population growth. Some of these programs 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 true or meaningful in many situations.
The family planning information activity’s main purpose in this narrow sense was to create awareness of controlling the number and frequency of births using various contraceptive techniques.
The family planning programs of South Asian countries have, with few exceptions, not been conspicuous successes.
This lack of success may be attributed to the high level of illiteracy among the people, the low status of women, social and religious preferences, and the absence of any social security system.
In any case, it has been increasingly recognized that programs of information-education-communication addressed to adults on a simplistic basis are not sufficient.
Adult programs 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 percent 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 be provided with an education that would help them make decisions regarding population issues.
Probably, a combination of various methods inducing population change is needed to solve the problem. Among them, education adults and children, the parents of the future, maybe one of the most influential. As to what kind of education will be most effective is still an unanswered question. There are immediate problems with trained personnel in this new field and materials that educators, teachers, and students can use.
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 programs.
Initially, the concern of population education was to supplement family programs 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 processes 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 decisions.
Many countries have initiated population education programs 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 programs in population education through Unesco, ILO, FAO, WHO, and UNDP country programs.
At the national level, population education programs 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 programs.
Two countries in South Asia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka- have national population education projects funded by the UNFPA, while Pakistan and India have programs Jointly funded by World Bank and other international agencies.
In some countries, separate units or cells for the population have been created. There are also countries in the region that have not developed any organized programs in population education as yet.
Thus, population education is at different stages of development in the South Asian countries, but almost all the countries with population policies show awareness and interest in developing population education programs for the in-school and out-of-school population as an important component of their national development activity.