Akshar SchoolEducation is one of the most important catalysts for the alleviation of poverty. It equips individuals with valuable knowledge, skills, talents, resources and networks. Although education plays a remarkable role in dictating the future of an individual, not everyone has equal access to education. The Akshar School, also known as the Akshar Forum, strives to combat unequal access to education in India by providing all students with an equal opportunity to attend school.

Education in India

India is home to the second-largest number of impoverished people in the world. However, its large and increasing population of youth presents an opportunity for economic development for the entire Indian population. In India, children must attend school from the ages of six to 14 years old. Although India’s education system includes government-funded public schools, many parents prefer to send their children to private schools.

During the 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 academic years, enrollment in India’s public schools decreased by 11.1 million. At the same time, enrollment in India’s private schools increased by 16 million. Private schools that charge low fees have seen an especially large increase in enrollment, particularly from low-income families. This is largely because most Indian private schools offer English as a core feature of their curriculum, unlike India’s public schools.

This increase in enrollment in private schools also reflects the poor quality of India’s public school system. Low-income families prefer to pay tuition in order to send their children to schools where they will receive a quality education, hoping that this education will allow them to escape poverty.

The Akshar School

The Akshar School, a private school located in Assam, India, is revolutionizing the Indian education system. It allows students from low-income families to receive a quality education in exchange for plastic waste.

Wife and husband Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar founded the school in 2016. They were tired of smelling burnt plastic and toxic waste in their classrooms, produced by families living nearby their school trying to eliminate waste. The couple then decided to ask the students at their school to pay their tuition in the form of plastic waste. Tuition for the school is equivalent to 25 pieces of plastic waste collected from a student’s community.

The school then recycles the collected waste into new items, like eco-bricks, at its recycling center. The center offers paid jobs to older teenagers attending the school hoping to also earn an income. Many of these teenagers come from low-income families that depend on their children for an additional source of income, though it is illegal in India for children under the age of 14 to work. In this sense, the Akshar School ensures that older children are able to stay in school and also earn an income for their families.

The students at the school have performed exceptionally well, especially during the most recent year academic year. In addition to affordable tuition, the Akshar School employs older teenagers as coaches for younger children, providing younger children with individualized help that their regular class teachers may not always be able to offer. This program also enables teenagers to gain a source of income, leadership skills and the opportunity to strengthen their own academic skills.

The Akshar Foundation: Expanding Its Reach

Sarma and Mukhtar’s nonprofit organization, the Akshar Foundation, aims to open up 100 schools similar to the Akshar School. Given that attendance at the Akshar School has risen by 500%, they plan to follow the same model for new schools. In addition, the Akshar Foundation intends to offer opportunities for technology-based learning, vocational training, environmental conservation, community leadership and involvement and entrepreneurship. It also plans to offer an its own fellowship for all students in the new schools.

The Akshar Foundation’s educational model attempts to combat the cycle of intergenerational poverty that many Indian families face. By providing all children with an equal opportunity to attain a quality education, the Akshar Foundation presents a model that the Indian government itself should consider adopting and implementing. Given its population and notable economic progress, India has the potential to alleviate much of its existing poverty in the upcoming years. However, India must recognize that education is one of the most important components in ensuring economic stability, progress and overall wellbeing.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Educating children in India
The new coronavirus pandemic has imposed previously unforeseen obstacles on education systems across the globe. This especially applies to those in low-income areas or rural communities. The responsibility to provide a sufficient alternative for the in-classroom education model has been placed on virtual resources. This is because online lessons keep children safe from exposure while learning. However, digital access may not be either adequate or equal in certain countries. The digital divide separates many people from the Internet. However, NGOs in India are working to provide children in India with the necessary tools to participate in virtual classes. Three NGOs in particular are taking care of vulnerable children who are unable to meet educational needs in India. Here are three NGOs educating children in India.

3 NGOs in India Facilitating Virtual Education

  1. The Miracle Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a focus on vulnerable children in orphanages. Furthermore, the foundation has a focus on vulnerable children in other institutions as well. Alongside the Child Care Institute (CCI), the Miracle Foundation is setting out to cover children’s COVID-era education, in vulnerable areas. Some activities facilitated by the duo include providing students with full use of CCI libraries. It also supplies teachers for remote lessons via video conference applications and hosts virtual Life Skills Education classes, among other things. CCI and the Miracle Foundation are operating successfully throughout seven states in India and they have shown no signs of slowing down.
  2. E-Vidyaloka, based in Bangalore, is an NGO that focuses on imparting education to students of rural, government schools in India. It does this through crowdsourcing volunteer teachers and connecting them to the rural government schools, using the power of information technology. The group creates digital classrooms for children in remote Indian villages. Consequently, this makes education more accessible to students during the current pandemic. The goal is to create a virtual learning environment that provides high-quality, e-learning for children in India. E-Vidyaloka has done just that by using technology for educating children in India.
  3. Magic Bus is one of the most prevalent poverty alleviation NGOs in India. The group helps more than 375,000 children in India, spanning across 22 states and 80 districts. Magic Bus supplies disadvantaged children in India from ages 12 to 18, with the necessary skills to overcome poverty into adulthood. In partnership with Classplus, Magic Bus provides an online, education platform to young students in India. The platform is called the Magic Bus Livelihood Programme. Classplus has enabled Magic Bus to engage in a virtual classroom setting while quarantined. According to the EdTechReview, Magic Bus’ expert staff is utilizing the platform to share assignments and broadcast messages. It is also utilizing it to deliver learning content and evaluate students’ performances, online. The application’s reach is incredible. The platform is projected to impact more than 2,000 children across 22 states in some of India’s most remote areas. These areas include Kurnool in Hyderabad, Ambadi and Shahpur in Mumbai and Thane.

An Educated Outlook

Overall, the upcoming school year will be an unprecedented event for students everywhere. It is far from likely that any parent could have prepared their child for education in this environment. Online education may soon become the new norm. Groups like the aforementioned NGOs are working to provide equal opportunities for children in vulnerable areas. With the beginning of the school year fast-approaching, educating children in India is under the care of notable organizations like the Miracle Foundation, E-Vidyaloka and Magic Bus. Students will now be enabled to study virtually, alongside other learners in any country.

Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Pixabay

Distance Learning in Madagascar
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused school closures in countries around the world, including Madagascar. Schools in Madagascar remain closed, according to the U.S. Embassy. The country already struggles with education access, specifically for children in poverty. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on education access, the government is using existing systems to help students utilize distance learning in Madagascar.

Poverty and Education

The World Bank reported that about 1.4 million children dropped out of primary school in Madagascar in 2012. When 55 teachers in Madagascar participated in a survey, 38% said poverty was a reason students did not progress through school. With 75% of the population living in poverty, many people are vulnerable to the impacts of poverty on their access to education.

How Distance Learning Started

Madagascar’s government noticed that children in poverty, specifically those living in remote areas, were often not in school. In order to address this problem, the government began creating distance learning programs in 2005. The programs were directed toward the radio because pre-tests showed that children were “glued to the radio” whether or not they were attending school. With the use of wind-up radios, students in rural areas were able to access distance learning in Madagascar even if they did not have access to electricity. After its completion in 2017, each one was about 15 minutes long. Their target was children between the ages of 5 and 9. Not only do the programs encourage children to re-enter school, but they also teach important life skills. These skills include self-esteem, getting along with others, communication, gender equality, assessing risks, decision making and protecting the environment.

UNICEF also helped develop distance learning programs in Madagascar. The organization created a radio show designed to teach things like math, life skills and literacy. The name of the show is ‘O!O’ and it approaches education through engaging entertainment.

Distance Learning During COVID-19

Since schools have closed as a result of COVID-19, programs for distance learning in Madagascar have been expanded. In addition to the radio, Madagascar’s government is using television and Youtube broadcasts to help students access education. The radio programs are aimed at first and second-grade students. They air on both the radio and a platform called WeTransfer. UNICEF is supporting these programs.

Madagascar’s television programs focus on teaching math in French to students in primary school and they are also available on YouTube. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is helping to provide support for television learning in Madagascar. In order to ramp up the production of educational television programs, The Ministry of National Education and Technical and Vocational Education (MENETP) is stepping in. The ministry is running a recruitment drive in order to increase the number of designers working on the programs.

Additionally, the media is playing a role in ensuring that students have access to education through the edutainment program Kilasy Pour Tous. In partnership with MENETP, the media is helping to make sure that educational television and radio programs air every morning.

While COVID-19 has caused many schools to close, existing infrastructure for distance learning in Madagascar has helped address access to education. Educational radio and television programs are available to students. With support from UNICEF, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the media, these programs air every day and provide students with a pathway to learning at home.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education in Mexico
One of the most fundamental features of poverty and inequality in Mexico comes in the form of educational corruption. Despite its size and economic power, Mexico’s education system is rampant with inequality and inefficiency: according to recent rankings in 2018, among OECD countries, Mexico’s national higher education system ranked a mere 46 out of 50. As a result, education reform in Mexico has reemerged as a major focus of national politics in recent years.

The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO, has highlighted education reform in the country’s 2018 general elections. Although AMLO and his MORENA party had promised to bring about seismic change and reform to Mexico’s public education system, ongoing corruption and the country’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic may halt any hope of bringing change to this important issue.

Nieto’s 2013 Reform Plan

The contemporary debate over education reform in Mexico dates back to the beginning of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency in 2012. During the campaign, Nieto had promised to tackle the deep-rooted corruption in Mexico’s national teacher’s union. The national teacher’s union in Mexico is the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE, an organization ubiquitous in the country for its kickbacks, bribery, record manipulation and various other forms of corruption.

Nieto’s reform aimed to restructure the distribution of salaries and the overall payroll policies of the SNTE, which entered law soon after his ascendancy to the presidency. Primarily, the reform enforced performance-based criteria for hiring and salaries, with promotions and bonuses being based on students’ testing results. Furthermore, the reform has placed more control over school management and bureaucracy in the hands of the federal government instead of the SNTE.

Criticisms of Nieto’s Education Reform in Mexico

Nevertheless, a significant wing of the SNTE and Mexican teachers, in general, have found Nieto’s education reforms to be inadequate or outright malevolent. Even with a new performance-based structure, the issues of a bloated bureaucracy and unequal spending continued to be a significant issue.

Importantly, Nieto’s reform did not address the inequalities of the education system. Five years into Nieto’s education reform policy, many of the same differences in quality of instruction and schooling between Mexico’s rich and poor remained the same. According to Patricio Solís, a professor at the Center for Sociological Studies of the National Institute, young Mexicans in the highest income group have seven times greater access to higher education than those in the lowest income group.

Nieto’s popular mandate in fighting corruption in Mexico’s education system came to a sudden halt in 2016 when violent protests broke out between dissident teachers and Mexican police in the southwestern state of Oaxaca leaving six people dead. Many of these demonstrators were members of the SNTE who viewed Nieto’s education reform as inadequate; they criticized the redistribution of funding, the recently adopted merit-based philosophy for promotions and the arrest of several union leaders on charges of money laundering.

AMLO’s Reform in 2018

AMLO, Mexican’s first left-wing president of the 21st century, made discontent with Nieto’s educational reform a central tenet of his 2018 campaign. The 66-year-old often said on the campaign trail that Nieto had “turned education into a business.”

The scrapping of Nieto’s education reform under the new administration had two primary components; firstly, repealing the merit-based structuring to salaries and promotions which had come under fire from Mexican teachers and the public at large, and, secondly, expanding access to free higher education among the country’s most impoverished children. This latter part involved the construction of over 100 new public universities and the introduction of public scholarships for 300,000 students.

Nevertheless, many ordinary citizens and experts alike have criticized these new policies under AMLO. For example, Alexandra Zapata, director at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness in Mexico City, views the repeal of the merit-based system as a way for corruption to grow internally. She believes educational achievement criteria may be less trustworthy than under the previous system. Furthermore, much of the revenue for free higher education came at the expense of funding for early learning and primary care, resources that many rural and impoverished Mexican families desperately need. Zapata believes that the greatest efficiency for upward social mobility comes at the beginning of education, not at the university level. The question of to what extent this balance between earlier education and higher education can alleviate the issue of inequality in Mexican education can only be determined down the road.

COVID-19 and Education Reform

Like many other places around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown have created a paradigm-shifting challenge for public education in Mexico. Stay-at-home orders early in the spring shut down Mexican public schooling; the access to resources for learning at home, such as internet connection and computer hardware, has further exacerbated the educational and economic gap between Mexico’s richest and poorest.

However, some experts view the chaos stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to kickstart real, lasting reform in Mexico’s public education system. Julia Coyoli, a Ph.D. candidate from Harvard focusing on educational reform in Latin America, believes that home-schooling and remote learning will shine a public light on the underlying inequities in the country’s public education system. Once these blatant injustices come into the light, it should force the Mexican government to take more of a stand-in specifically targeting low-income students’ education.

Jason Beck
Photo: Flickr


Kenya, a country in East Africa, has made strides in battling poverty by reforming childhood education. In 2003 Kenya established a free primary school education program meant to ensure that young children receive a basic education. However, the Kenyan school system still has challenges to overcome. Teachers often lack proper training and support, and students often do not have enough school supplies. These obstacles ultimately contribute to low learning outcomes for students. Tusome, which means “let’s read” in Kiswahili, is a national literacy program powering childhood learning in Kenya that attempts to address these education shortfalls.

Origins of The Tusome National Literacy Program

Despite previous efforts to improve childhood learning outcomes by the Kenyan government, assessments from the years 2010-2014 showed no significant change in literacy and 40% of primary grade students could not understand their reading material. Tusome was built on this prior research and “was one of the first experiences of taking a piloted literacy program to national scale through government systems.” Tusome is funded by both the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education and the USAID organization. The program was implemented in January of 2015 and will run until 2020 with a goal of improving reading for 6.7 million students.

Training and Support of Faculty

Two of Tusome’s key goals are to address the need for faculty training and support in the Kenyan school system. Tusome educates teachers, administrators, coaches, and support staff on the Ministry of Education’s expected learning outcomes. The program also provides Curriculum Support Officers that regularly visit schools to coach and monitor teachers in learning outcomes, though these are not professionals trained in general classroom instruction. Youth associations are also working to help to tutor children and develop a reading culture in their area.

School Supplies and Integration of Technology

One of the Tusome program’s notable achievements is that is has provided 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials for primary school students, ensuring that each student has a textbook of their own. Tusome also offers its students tablets with digitized learning materials, which can also provide feedback and progress monitoring for teachers. The performance of each student is uploaded to a cloud-based network system which is meant to promote greater responsibility within the school system.

Conclusion

Tusome has been able to improve teacher support, training and availability of school materials in Kenyan primary schools. This is, in part, due to the integration of technology in the form of digital materials, tablets and cloud-based technology. Learning outcomes have been promising, even in the early pilot phase. In 1,384 schools, children who reached the Tusome standard for an understanding of the English language increased from 8.6% to 43.7%. Overall, Tusome is considered a successful example of large-scale governmental implementation of a national program that can power childhood learning in Kenya, and serve as a model to education systems around the world.


– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Cambodia Job FoundationBetween 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist leader Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime. Under his administration, millions of Cambodians were forced to labor without adequate food. In order to improve the lives of Cambodians who are recovering from the regime’s rule and help impoverished people become self-reliant, The Cambodia Job Foundation (CJF) is using steady employment to empower people. 

Cambodia’s History of Struggle

During Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime’s rule, those who were educated–or those who appeared so–were seen as a threat. People were profiled by something as simple as wearing glasses and many were killed. The majority of teachers at the time were murdered; thus, the education system was largely destroyed. 

Cambodia is still in the process of recovery from the Khmer Rouge. 37.2% of the country still lives in poverty, according to the2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index issued by the United Nations. Many Cambodians are also illiterate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that the 2015 literacy rate in Cambodia for the population over age 65, most of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge, was only 53%.

Many NGOs have been working to alleviate poverty in Cambodia, and one in particular labors to help educate and create jobs for Cambodians. 

The Cambodia Job Foundation

The Cambodia Job Foundation aims to help impoverished young Cambodians become more self-reliant. According to its mission, the organization “empowers individuals to improve their lives and support their families through quality and stable employment.”

With teams in both Cambodia and the United States, the foundation mentors Cambodians, specifically those aged 30 and younger, with a focus on business startup and operation as well as financial management. It also provides access to information and resources, to which those learning the programs can apply what they are taught. In 2018, the foundation helped 131 families complete financial training lessons, mentored 66 individuals in starting a business and led 80 individuals to graduate from an IT class.

A Former Intern’s Experience

A native of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, Theary Leng was an intern for CJF during the summer of 2019. Leng has helped the organization with various training and mentoring programs as well as grant approvals. She’s seen the foundation’s impacts in her country. 

“They have helped some of the low-income families to get on their [feet] by giving them a $500 grant to start up a small business,” she said.

Leng said she believes a variety of obstacles prevent Cambodians from obtaining work, including a lack of vocational training skills and education, gender inequality in the workplace and government corruption. But through the Cambodia Job Foundation, she is able to help those in her country.

“As someone who grew up in Cambodia and as a direct witness who has been impacted by poverty, I understand and know how hard it would be to live in poverty,” Leng said. “That’s why I want to help Cambodians to become self-reliant.”

The Cambodian people are still recovering from the Khmer Rouge regime. Many people still live in poverty and lack literacy skills. CJF is working to lift up Cambodians by empowering them through resources that can help them gain and retain stable employment. 

Emma Benson
Photo: Unsplash

Literacy in TuvaluThe World Bank has awarded a grant to improve early childhood development and literacy in Tuvalu. The grant will help Tuvalu provide a better educational infrastructure for its citizens, while also preserving aspects of Tuvaluan culture. There are only 198 teachers on the island leading to a high ratio of pupils to teachers at 18:1. The scarcity of educators creates a disadvantage for students whose one-on-one time with teachers is crucial to their development.

Tuvalu’s Educational System

Tuvalu became independent from Britain in 1978; Tuvalu’s colonial past has greatly influenced the country’s modern society and culture. For instance, although both Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of Tuvalu, many schools only teach in English. The current system may cause the next generation to forget their native language. Consequently, some citizens worry the current educational system may lead to the disappearance of the Tuvaluan language altogether. 

The World Bank initiative will foster more teacher training and activities for children. Moreover, The Tuvalu Learning Project will aid communities in educating the population on the importance of health and physical activity in early childhood.

The Tuvalu Reading Program

The World Bank believes that early reading is critical to ensure a promising future and build a better society. This mission is addressed by the Tuvalu Reading Program, which teaches students to read in Tuvaluan. The curriculum introduces students to new reading material and relies on teacher-led lectures. The program exposes students to a robust curriculum and assesses them on what they have learned.

The Tuvalu Learning Project and Reading Program expand on existing initiatives, including the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), which was initiated in 2014. The Tuvalu Reading Project enhances PEARL by focusing on Tuvaluan children and preserving their native language. 

Helping the Tuvaluan Community

The World Bank will direct additional funds toward increasing community access to education overall. For example, schools located in outer-island regions will recieve funding to increase their internet connectivity. Better internet in these areas will increase students’ access to valuable educational tools and improve their communication with teachers. Furthermore, The Tuvalu Learning Project also hopes to add more school activities that benefit students through the availability of technology. 

The World Banks’ contribution of $14 million is estimated to benefit 10 thousand people on the island. New job opportunities from the program will extend to teachers, community leaders, and the department of education.  In Tuvalu, 26.3% of people live below the poverty line. For this reason, the expanded education sector can create more opportunities, increase literacy in Tuvalu, and eventually raise the country’s overall standard of living. 

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia

The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

young advocates

Today, some of the most innovative, forward-thinking change-makers happen to be under the age of 18. Keep reading to learn more about these three top young advocates who are doing their part to address global issues from poverty to gender equality and education.

3 Young Advocates Who are Changing the World

  1. Zuriel Oduwole
    Since the age of 10, Zuriel Oduwole has been using her voice to spread awareness about the importance of educating young girls in developing countries. Now 17 years old, Oduwole has made a difference in girls’ education and gender issues in Africa by meeting with and interviewing important political figures like presidents, prime ministers and first ladies. To date, Oduwole has spoken in 14 countries to address the importance of educating young girls in developing countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. “They need an education so they can have good jobs when they get older,” Oduwole said in a 2013 interview with Forbes. “Especially the girl child. I am really hoping that with the interviews I do with presidents, they would see that an African girl child like me is doing things that girls in their countries can do also.”
  2. Yash Gupta
    After breaking his glasses as a high school freshman, Yash Gupta realized how much seeing affects education. He did some research and found out that millions of children do not have access to prescription lenses that would help them to excel in their studies. Gupta then founded Sight Learning, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to children in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and India.

  3. Amika George
    At the age of 18, Amika George led a protest outside of former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s home to convince policymakers to end “period poverty.” Period poverty is the unavailability of feminine sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them. Girls who can’t afford these products are often left to use rags or wads of tissue, which not only raises health concerns but also keeps girls from their education. In order to combat this issue, George created a petition with the goal for schools to provide feminine products to girls who receive a free or reduced lunch. As of now, George has mobilized over 200,000 signatures and helped catapult the conversation of period poverty at the political level in the U.K.

These three world-changing children prove that age does not matter when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr