Education in Bhutan
Nestled underneath the economic powerhouse of China, the Himalayan nation of Bhutan boasts a diverse population that works across the agricultural, industrial and service industries. The service industries command 22 percent of the labor force. Because of this multifaceted workforce, Bhutan’s unemployment rate mulled around 3.2 percent in both 2016 and 2017, while approximately one-eighth of the population lives below the global poverty line. Despite these impressive numbers, education in Bhutan is the one arena where the country suffers. The predominant issue is whether the nation can provide an adequate, consistent education.

The creation of school systems, both public and private, has a tremendous effect on poverty reduction. According to the Global Partnership for Education, approximately 420 million people would be out of poverty if sufficient secondary education were available to them.

Governmental Infrastructure and Plans

That said, the Bhutanese government has made substantial progress in increasing access to and improving education in Bhutan. Education starts with teachers and professors, and over the past year, Bhutan has seen a 4 percent drop in the number of teachers. In an effort to combat this stark drop and in an attempt to decrease unemployment among the young adult population, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and his government decided to double the salaries of teachers who remain in the profession for 10 or more years, thus making teaching the highest-paid civil service profession in Bhutan. In addition to this pay-raise, Prime Minister Tshering stated that his government hopes to provide career advancement for teachers, which would, in turn, lead to vast educational improvements.

The increased salary occurs at the midway point of the country’s 10-year educational reform, which aims to improve quality of and access to education in Bhutan. The Bhutan Educational Blueprint is comprised of eight different shifts, all with this central goal in mind. A few of the core tenants of these shifts (and the blueprint in total) include:

  • Improving overall access to education in Bhutan (including secondary and tertiary education)
  • Establishing a more modern, well-rounded curriculum
  • Elevating student performance to international standards
  • Making teaching a more desirable vocation
  • Maintaining the standards of high-performing schools and teachers once met

The Implementation of the Plans

Furthermore, the Bhutan government plans to dole these eight shifts out slowly over the course of three distinct waves, lasting years. The first wave, which ended in 2017, focused primarily on laying the groundwork and preparing the nation for extensive educational overhauls. The second wave, which will end in 2020, is concerned with building upon what Bhutan has established – improving access to tertiary education, rolling out new curricula and implementing new educational pathways. The third and final wave will turn to fortifying the newly established systems, guaranteeing quality education in Bhutan.

Combining this educational blueprint with increased teacher salaries is an incredible first step in improving education in Bhutan. Furthermore, these raises should help guarantee an all-important component of education: trained professionals prepared to teach the next generation of professionals, innovators and leaders in order to hopefully reduce poverty and unemployment rates even further.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Tokelau
Over the past half-century, the island of Tokelau has struggled with sustainable education due to its remote location. However, in recent years, its educational system has experienced tremendous growth and the government is overseeing its continued improvement. Listed below are 8 facts about education in Tokelau and their implications.

8 Facts About Education in Tokelau

  1. The island is divided into three atolls. According to the 2016 census, Tokelau has a total population of 1,499 people, which is fairly evenly distributed amongst the three atolls. There is one school in each atoll for a total of three schools on the island. Each encompasses primary, secondary and post-secondary levels of education from ECE to year 13. The total student population across the three schools is just over 400.
  2. The official language of study is Tokelaun but students must also learn English as a foreign language. From year three, schools introduce English into the curriculum for 20 percent of the school time; at year four, schools increase English to 30 percent of the time; year five to 40 percent; and year six to 50 percent. From year six to year 11, the curriculum consists of the preparation, teaching and assessment of students at 50 percent English and 50 percent Tokelauan. Around 45 percent of Tokelauns aged 15 years or over reported having good or very good English reading skills, whereas only nine percent of Tokelauans aged 75 or above reported this, indicating an increase in bilingualism among residents through the years.

  3. The village councils or the Taupalegas run the schools. In 2010, the average student-teacher ratio was about 17 to one. The Education Department oversees the development of schools, training of teachers and scheduling of the annual National Scholarship Examination. The examination decides which students are eligible for the Tokelau Scholarship Scheme. The government developed this program to grant scholarships to the top 10 performing students so they could pursue higher education abroad. The scholarships require the recipients to return to Tokelau upon completion of their studies abroad so that they may apply their skills toward the country’s development.

  4. Up until 2008, schools did not offer senior secondary education Tokelau. Students who wished to pursue education beyond year 11 had to study abroad. A primary goal of the Education Department was to implement year 12 and year 13 learning programs on the island. Tokelau achieved this in 2008 through the Senior Secondary Education Programme which established year 12 in each school and then year 13 in each school in 2009. This has resulted in an increasing number of students eligible and with the necessary prerequisites to access undergraduate tertiary studies.

  5. According to UNESCO, the educational system faces many challenges due to the island’s isolated nature, rendering transport and telecommunication services unreliable. Consequently, there has been poor school leadership and a shortage of qualified/certified teaching staff. A majority of the teaching staff are women with family responsibilities and the expense and inconvenience of travel make attending off-atoll training services difficult.

  6. From 2000 to 2010, the government of Tokelau has worked with the Volunteer Service Abroad Program (VSA) to combat challenges of the educational system. VSA sent 26 New Zealand volunteers undertaking 28 assignments. Volunteers on each atoll trained and recruited volunteer teachers for specifically requested subjects that local teachers lacked the teaching qualifications and experience to provide. There was strong evidence that suggested that the government built and strengthened the capacity of the schools. However, a number of factors including the structure and governance of the Tokelau Education system, uncertain leadership and unmotivated staff inhibited this.

  7. In 2011, the Department of Education implemented reforms to address the issue of poorly qualified personnel, implementing regular Principal Professional Development to improve school leadership and on-atoll pre-service teacher DFL training courses for the teaching staff. The Government currently funds up to four pre-service teacher trainees for each village enrolled through a DFL University of the South Pacific undergraduate program. Tokelau aims to have 80 percent of all primary school teachers with relevant qualifications. Effective school leadership through good management and governance structures and processes has also improved student achievement.

  8. In 2011, males were more likely to have completed secondary school than females, but in 2016, this gender gap had decreased from five percent down to less than two percent. One can attribute the decrease in gender disparity to the growing role of the women’s committee referred to in Tokelau as the Fatupaepae. The Fatupaepae is one of the three in community-based organizations (CBOs) that contribute to the well being of the community.

These 8 facts about education in Tokelau illustrate its tremendous progress in the past half-century. Education in Tokelau continues to progress, particularly as the Department of Education combats the island’s challenges of accessibility. These 8 facts about education in Tokelau show that the country is working to ensure that the educational needs of its residents are being fulfilled.

– Bradley Hu
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Uzbekistan

Since 1925, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic had been following the Soviet Union’s lead in education. But in 1991, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Uzbekistan became an independent state, which led to a need for reform in the public education process. Currently, Uzbekistan, a country with a population of around 32 million, ranks highly among the most developed countries, with an education index of 0.92, compared to the world average of 0.77. How Uzbekistan has reached this education index can be analyzed by looking at eight facts about education in Uzbekistan, focusing on educational reforms, enrollment rates, gender disparities and children with special needs and disadvantaged backgrounds.

8 Facts About Education in Uzbekistan

  1. Since Uzbekistan is under reform to gradually shift from a planned economy to a liberal market economy, it needs to do so by avoiding social conflicts, since Uzbekistan consists of many ethnicities. At the same time, Uzbekistan wishes to maximize intellectual potential and promote education as a national social priority. Uzbekistan also maintains a centralized form of implementing education reforms that are usually maintained by the National Program of Personnel Training (NPPT).
  2. One of the key changes in the education processes from 1991 to 2010 was the increase in the years of schooling from 11 to 12 years, where the last three years constitute compulsory secondary education. The Uzbek government expected the top ten percent of students graduating from high school to attend the more academic-oriented Academic Lyceum, and the other 90 percent to attend more technically and vocationally oriented institutions.
  3. Enrollment rates in both primary and secondary education reduced in Uzbekistan during the first part of the 1990s when the state got its independence, but they steadied by the 2000s. It is currently stabilized at 100 percent for primary education for both boys and girls. As for secondary education, it has steadily increased from around 89 percent in 2009 to above 92 percent in 2017 for both boys and girls.
  4. In addition to the NPPT, there are three other specialized ministries that are involved in the education reforms in Uzbekistan: the Ministry of Preschool Education, the Ministry of Public Education and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education. The Uzbek government also devotes a large share of its resources and expenditures on education, at a 34.2 percent share of the 2017 state budget. Meanwhile, the average government expenditure on education for OECD countries stands at an average of 13 percent.
  5. Despite the high percentages among male and female students, there is still some gender disparity in education in Uzbekistan. Women are only a minority of students enrolled in higher education institutions, making up only 38.2 percent. In secondary education, the ratio of girls to boys has decreased from 0.39 in 2000 to 0.37 in 2011.
  6. UNICEF is advocating for Uzbek children who are at the appropriate age to be present in preschool establishments. The organization argues that the lack of access to early learning and developmental skills does not allow for the maximization intellectual potential. In Uzbekistan, less than 30 percent of children have access to quality preschool education, which mostly consists of urban male children. However, this will change, as there are regional plans to increase access to these programs in Bukhara, Djizzakh and Samarkand.
  7. Education in Uzbekistan for children with disabilities has been getting more attention recently, as a pending new law in education is to be released that would protect the rights of these children and their education. At the present rate, the number of children with special educational needs enrolled is at a nationwide average of 0.79 students per school. The schools which accommodate these children are the only ones who currently offer accessible or inclusive classes.
  8. The government attempts to provide support to children from low-income families and orphans. Such students qualify for free school materials, including textbooks and school accessories. In addition, around 80,000 children from a low-income background are exempted from tuition fees for preschool education.

These eight facts about education in Uzbekistan only provide a brief insight into the current situation and how it can be improved. Comparatively, education in Uzbekistan is performing at a better rate than its neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan continues to strive for equality among its citizens, which include their rights to an education.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Wikimedia

Women’s Representation in RwandaRwanda has a higher percentage of representation of women in government than any country in the world. In 2017, there were 49 women in the lower house of parliament, which is more than half of its 80 seats, and 10 women in the upper house of parliament consisting of 26 seats. The high proportion of women in government came after the devastating Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the country has made significant strides since then.

A Shift in Gender Representation

The genocide in Rwanda marked a change in gender representation because, after the violence had subsided, 70 percent of the surviving population was women. This was a result of the practice of killing men and allowing women to survive as sex slaves during the genocide. However, it was not only the new gender disparity that caused an increase in women’s roles in government, but the country also introduced quotas requiring 30 percent of candidates for public office to be women.

It is important to note that the Rwandan government decided to increase the representation of women in government through candidate quotas in political parties rather than seat reservations in parliament. According to a study by Mala Htun published in Perspective on Politics, “Women and men belong to all political parties; members of ethnic groups, by contrast, frequently belong to one only.” By using quotas, the Rwandan government is acknowledging the bipartisan nature of women in government.

Therefore, the most efficient way to establish a higher representation of women in government is to promote their representation within political parties because they are a cross-cutting group, meaning that women have an active political presence across the political spectrum. This thoughtful approach to increasing women’s representation in the Rwandan government has resulted in record-breaking numbers of women becoming involved in political life in Rwanda and setting positive examples for young girls throughout the country.

The Difficulties Women in Government Face

The presence of women in such politically powerful positions in Rwanda has not come without difficulties. Many women face backlash from their families or husbands for sacrificing domestic work in order to become political leaders. In fact, Berthilde Muruta, Executive Secretary in the Rubavu District noted that “there are people who think that we come to meet men, or for other business, which makes it hard to be trusted by our husbands.” Additionally, female politicians in Rwanda are oftentimes not seen as equals to the men in similar positions.

According to Claudette Mukamana, a District Vice Mayor, “When people see you holding any of those [elected] positions as women, the very first question asked by everyone is: Will she be able to perform her duties? Is she capable of holding such a position?” Despite these difficulties, the presence of so many women in the Rwandan government has resulted in the passing of several key pieces of legislation to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the country.

These reforms include legislation to alter the Civil Code to allow women to have equal inheritance rights as men, equal pay, consequences for gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace and further prevention and consequences for violence against women and children. In addition, with 7 of the 14 supreme court justices in Rwanda now being women, new laws were passed requiring that both boys and girls must attend primary and secondary school.

Areas to Improve

A lot still needs to change in regards to the perception of women’s roles in society. Furthermore, there is still more progress to be made, especially in terms of violence against women. The Rwandan government performed a study that showed that two out of every five women ages 15 and older had been physically abused at least one time in their lives. As more women are elected to office, hopefully, more people will change their perspective in these areas and these statistics will represent that improvement.

The representation of women in the Rwandan government has led to significant advancements for the rights of women and girls throughout the country. Globally women only hold 21.9 percent of all elected seats in government. Promoting the equality of men and women in political positions in Rwanda and around the world is integral to solving many of the issues governments face. Although the system is not yet perfected, the world could learn a lot about the importance of women in government from Rwanda.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Education in North Korea

Formal education in Korea began during the Three Kingdoms period, influenced by the Chinese educational system. In 1882, King Kojong issued an edict upholding education as a “pillar” of Korea. Thus formal education in Korea opened its doors to both men and women of all classes.

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, education is entirely government-controlled. Education is required of all citizens for 11 years until the secondary level. Moreover, the education system in North Korea is based around socialistic ideals. Classes focus on the Korean language, mathematics, literature and government. These are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

Top 10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Both primary and secondary schooling are required and free in North Korea. First, children go through one year of kindergarten. Then, they attend primary school, known as the “People’s Schools,” from the ages of six to nine. Afterward, they attend a secondary school which depends on their specialties. Secondary schooling continues from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world. According to UNESCO, North Korea’s literacy rate is 98-100 percent. However, a self-reported number like this is questionable, considering the amped statistics coming out of North Korea.
  3. The literature read by North Korean students is carefully censored. Most writers remain obscure and their biographical details are concealed. Stories usually revolve around upholding socialism and the care the Kims have given the literary world. For example, “The Fifth Photograph,” by Lim Hwa-won, is told from the perspective of a woman who visits post-Soviet Russia in the early 1990s, only to witness a country failed by western influence.
  4. Women’s education is one of the more progressive aspects of North Korean schools. Secondary education and beyond is equally accessible to both men and women. In the late 1950s, the government initiated the “Chollima” campaign, which worked to more efficiently mobilize the population. As such, women were taught that emancipation came through labor, socialized childrearing and helping to build a socialist North Korea through productive work. Women make up over 80 percent of elementary teachers and 15 percent of college professors. There is no available information regarding the wage scale between men and women. However, one source from a Michigan State study states the wage is usually fixed making men earn more. Women also tend to quit their jobs after marriage.
  5. The curriculum in North Korean schools focuses on the Kims. A study by the Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation finds students spend 684 hours learning about the current leader Kim Jong-Un, his father Kim Jong-il, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his grandmother Kim Jong-suk. North Korea states its education system is for “students to acquire the concept of revolution and endless loyalty toward the party and the supreme leader.”
  6. Many students who go into higher education come from royal family backgrounds. Higher education in North Korea is divided into colleges, universities and vocational schools. One of the most prestigious schools in North Korea, Kim Il-Sung University, is extremely hard to get into. Only students who are related to higher government officials and have good grades can sit for entrance exams. If a student is gifted in science or mathematics, they often go to the University of National Defense.
  7. Military service is required for both North Korean men and women at the age of 17. Before 2017, military service was optional for women. Now they must serve until age 23, and men must serve 10 years. However, exceptionally gifted students from special schools may be exempt from service altogether.
  8. A lot of the education in North Korea is propaganda meant to indoctrinate students into the system as early as kindergarten. For example, when children learn about time, they learn it is based on Kim Il-sung’s birth year, 1912, also known as Year 1 in North Korea. Every classroom in North Korea must have a picture of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il. Children learn about “revolutionary history,” involving music, storybooks, novels and artwork related to the Kims. A report published by the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry states North Korea’s education program has two goals: to instill the utmost loyalty and commitment toward the supreme leader and to instill hostility and deep hatred toward the United States, Japan and South Korea.
  9. The education system violates international law by restricting freedom of thought and expression in its people. The December 2018 U.N. report concludes North Korea is committing “systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.” Their findings cite torture, “inhuman conditions of detention,” rape, public executions, the death penalty for political and religious reasons, and political prison camps. In addition, it cites pervasive restrictions on freedom of thought, religion, expression, assembly and movement. Consequently, North Korea “totally rejects” the U.N. resolution.
  10. North Korean “reeducation camps” are where prisoners go to perform hard labor. The Ministry of People’s Security runs the reeducation camps. Most of these crimes are political, from border-crossings to slight disturbances in order. Prisoners are often forced into hunger and severe circumstances. Most prisoners do not make it out of their sentence alive. Recently, in January 2019, a North Korean denuclearization diplomat was sent to a reeducation camp. This was likely due to being labeled a spy due to his job, serving as the United States’ contact point with North Korea.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea show the most important role of education is upholding socialistic conformity. Overall, the country doesn’t seem to be raising unique individuals who are given true freedom of expression. Instead, education, like many other aspects of life in North Korea, is political.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Pixabay

top 10 switzerland

Switzerland is a great example of how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth can lead to a multitude of positive outcomes. It is a country full of history, rich culture and magnificent mountains. Recently, the country has popped up on the radar as its general state of living has risen to a considerably high level. Many have started to consider moving to the alpine country as a result. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Switzerland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Switzerland

  1. The cost of living in Switzerland is extremely high. The value of the franc increased when the country switched to a floating exchange rate. Bern, Zurich, and Geneva were ranked among the most expensive 15 cities in the world.
  2. The high cost of living isn’t a huge problem for Swiss citizens as the net financial wealth of the average household in Switzerland is $128,415, compared to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments reported an average of $90,570. The net adjusted disposable income for the average household sits at $36,378 compared to the OECD reported an average of $30,563. This means that Swiss households have over $6,000 more to spend per year on goods and services. Switzerland was placed third on the scale of the highest amount of disposable income in Europe.
  3. Overall poverty is low. Only 6.6 percent of the population is reported to live in poverty, and only 4.6 percent live in extreme poverty. The rate of poverty has been decreasing steadily since 2007.
  4. Healthcare in Switzerland has gained a reputation of its own. Their combination of private, subsidized private and public healthcare systems experience no wait-lists, highly qualified doctors, hospitals and medicals facilities with the best equipment seen around Europe. However, the universal healthcare system is not free, nor is it tax-based. Health insurance in Switzerland is mandatory, and the out of pocket payments and monthly premiums are pricey for the individual. Swiss health insurance is reported to cost around 10 percent of the average Swiss salary.
  5. Switzerland has a high-quality education system as well. The country comes in at nine out of 65 countries in an educational standards survey given to 15-year-olds. Unlike most countries, the Swiss have a decentralized education system that is not paid for by the government. The 26 member states that make up the country are primarily responsible for the system. Education has a multilingual focus, which encourages international students and the option for public, private, bilingual and international schools.
  6. The country has a life expectancy of 83 years, which is three years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. The life expectancy is high despite the slightly higher than average level of atmospheric pollutants that are damaging to the lungs. Reports measure the rate of pollutants at 14.5 micrograms per cubic meter, whereas the average is 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter.
  7. Switzerland ranks below average in civic engagement. It has one of the lowest levels of voter turnout in the OECD at 49 percent; whereas, the reported average is 69 percent. The gap between voters is large as well. Fifty-nine percent of the top 20 percent of the population participates, in comparison to 41 percent of the lowest 20 percent of the population. This is a larger gap than the average.
  8. Crime continues to fall to lower rates in Switzerland. In fact, in 2017, crime was down by more than 6 percent. Burglaries are the most common offense in Switzerland, making up two-thirds of the reported criminal offenses. Burglaries had also decreased by 6 percent, but police threats and cybercrime were reported to rise last year.
  9. Childcare was also quite expensive in Switzerland. As a result of this, a temporary programme has set out to increase the number of child care facilities in the country. This will increase the number of options parents have for childcare and lower the rate as supply and demand will encourage competition and lower prices.
  10. Overall, Swiss are much more satisfied with their living conditions than most. They scored a 7.5 out of 10 on the scale for satisfaction, compared to the OECD average of 6.5.

Switzerland is doing quite well. The economic growth along with the decline of poverty rates have resulted in better childcare, education, rates of disposable income and increased safety. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Switzerland act as a clear paradigm of how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth has a positive domino effect on other aspects of life. Not only do people live better but they also feel happier and enjoy a closer sense of community. Addressing global poverty does much more than just save lives, it betters the individual, the country, the economy and the impact on the rest of the world.

Mary Spindler

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in LibyaLibyan women are progressing in society because of a stronger commitment to tearing down barriers to gender equality. New policies such as the Libyan General National Congress’ funding of a study abroad program for the country’s top young scholars have opened doors for improving girls’ education in Libya.

The Funding Initiative

The program has sent educators and students alike to receive training at elite international schools to spur development upon return. The government pays for the student’s expenses and awards them a monthly stipend of 1,600 euros a month. Initially, the fund gave scholarships to students who fought in militias during the civil war but was later expanded to allow women and handicapped students to receive scholarships as well.

This legislation built on an already strong commitment to education made by previous Libyan governments. Former president Muammar Gaddafi made it mandatory and free for all students to attain a primary education. Mandating a public school education transformed Libya from a largely illiterate country before its independence to having 80 percent of its population receiving a primary education.

Education Policies in Libya

Coeducational schools were built across east Libya to accommodate the influx of students. West Libya still has male and female students attend separate schools, but the curriculum is regulated by the government as an incentive for students to choose fields that benefit the nation’s current need. A standardized curriculum helps level the playing field for all students.

The results of these policies have been largely successful for girls’ education in Libya, but the country still has a long road to true equality in education. The Libya Status of Women survey found that 52 percent of Libyan women reached secondary education or higher, compared to 53 percent of Libyan men. Both men and women are achieving similar levels of higher education which will help combat gender economic inequality. Additionally, 77 percent of female students under the age of 25 reported having plans to complete  secondary education or higher compared to 67 percent of men.

More Work to be Done

Women are striving for positions in extremely skilled and specialized positions which increases their economic desirability. These numbers are especially impressive given Libya’s recent civil war that devastated the region. Following the revolution against the Gaddafi regime, 15 schools were completely destroyed resulting in tens of thousands of students not finishing their school years. The education system has demonstrated great resilience in this chaos which has greatly benefited girls’ education in Libya.

Despite these promising statistics, Libya still has to address several areas of gender inequality in its education systems to promote girls’ education across the country. The same Libya Status of Women survey also discovered that 14 percent of Libyan girls failed to finish their first six years of basic education, compared to only three percent of boys. Unfortunately, cultural stereotypes of females still put them at a systemic disadvantage. This is especially the case in rural Libya. The schools are coeducational, but boys are required to sit at the front of the class and girls in the back. West Libya faces a similar problem. The boys’ schools are given priority in government resources because it is believed they will become more skilled workers.

Opening the study abroad program to women demonstrates the current administration’s commitment to gender equality in education which will hopefully combat the disparity observed in the primary education completion rate. These efforts need to extend to rural communities in Libya to maximize effectiveness.

The future looks very optimistic for Libyan women as activists continue to pressure the government to install change. Since 1955, notable women’s rights movements have helped level the playing field for women in education and continue to be an effective driver of change. Libyan women are continually becoming more educated and some of the most skilled workers in society.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in SwazilandSwaziland has endeavored to increase employment and economic growth. Among these efforts, still more work needs to further these goals and priorities. One area that the country has made progress in is improving living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. With continued effort, Swaziland can make positive steps in strengthening its healthcare system, increasing employment rates and economic growth and increasing the retention rate of girls in school. These top 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland will show where they are succeeding and where they need more work.

Top 5 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

  1. In Swaziland, unemployment rates, in general, have not changed much in the past few years, hovering around 26 percent. There are further discrepancies between unemployment rates for women. For example, in 2007 and 2010, the rates stayed level around 30 percent. For men, however, the rates between 2007 and 2010 were 24.0 percent and 22.7 percent. There is still more work to be done in increasing youth employment. In fact, Swaziland has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Africa. The unemployment rate has remained higher than 50 percent since 2007. Specifically, working to reduce youth unemployment is a major part in helping reducing unemployment as a whole. Solutions to decrease youth unemployment are tertiary reforms and increasing vocational and on-the-job training. In addition, adding more growth to the private sector is key to helping to create high paying and productive jobs. Companies like Orange and OpenClassrooms are working to provide digital education to Africa’s youth to help young people find jobs in the tech markets.
  2. There has been some progress made in the living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. According to the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey, the percentage of people living below the poverty line was 69 percent in 2001. However, the percentage had dropped by more than half to 30 percent in 2015. These numbers represent, on average, 20 percent for those living in urban areas, but for those living in rural areas, it was as high as 37 percent. Reasons for such high poverty rates were the decrease in incomes, the stagnation of private consumption and the decrease in the GDP.
  3. As a whole, economic growth has declined in Swaziland. Real GDP growth decreased from 1.3 percent in 2016 to 1 percent in 2017. Economic growth was projected to be at 1.5 percent in 2018. Factors that have contributed to the decline in economic growth are low demand from pivotal export market destinations, especially from South Africa and Eurozone. In addition, the sector also experienced a decline in economic growth and a loss of eligibility in status to trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act Arrangement. Swaziland’s average GDP annual growth rate had been its highest in 1990 at 21 percent, but it dropped significantly down to .7 percent in 2016. Fortunately, the GDP annual growth rate had risen up to 2.3 percent in 2017.
  4. The healthcare system consists of formal and informal sectors. Health practitioners and general service providers make up the informal sector while industry, private and public health services as well as nongovernmental organizations make up the formal sector. Swaziland puts around 3.8 percent of its GDP towards healthcare, the government providing 65 percent of the money, which is about 2 percent of its GDP. The federal budget was increased from 7 percent in 1998 to 9 percent in 2009.
  5. There still is more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education. Swaziland’s educational levels are primary education, secondary education, vocational education and tertiary education. Although there is not a great disparity between boy and girls attending primary, dropout rates do tend to rise by year 5 of secondary school. More work needs to be done in increasing the retention rates for both girls and boys in school, although more work is needed for female retention. While there are not as many obstacles for girls starting school, there are numerous obstacles that hinder girls from staying in school. Between the ages of 15 and 19, 50 percent of girls will not have completed secondary school, compared to 39 percent of boys. Some of the obstacles are poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and gender insensitivity. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of families live in poverty, and many find difficulties in paying for school fees and other costs.

These 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland show that, while there is more work to be done in areas of employment, economic, growth and education, there has been notable progress in helping to improve the living conditions of the people. One area that has seen progress is the reduction of the number of those living below the poverty line. With more effort, Swaziland can see positive developments in helping the lives of all people.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in St. Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the Caribbean that has faced a number of challenges in the past decade. The nation has a population growth rate of negative 0.31 percent and approximately 15 percent of the total population was unemployed in 2008. There are several causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but most are related to its failing economy and poor education system.

The failure of the banana industry around 2008 pushed much of the population into unemployment or poverty, and the sudden rise of the construction industry has created an income gap. There were very low wages across the country and few job opportunities, leading to a poverty rate of 30.2 percent. The nation needs to focus on better integration into the global economy and on creating a more competitive national economy.

Low education levels has also been one of the larger causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are programs in place, such as the School Meals and Textbooks program, to help low income families educate their children, many poor children still do not attend school everyday. Literacy rates were at 84 percent in 2008, but younger generations did have higher levels than older generations.

Gender inequality with relation to access to education is another of the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2008, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of women had their first pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. It was also noted that the labor market was inherently biased and women needed much higher levels of education to be able to compete with men. Households with a female head tended to be much poorer, and there was no formal legislation to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace.

Strides have been made, however, toward reducing poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In terms of the economy, tourism has become a larger sector and has created more jobs. With increased tourism has come increased construction, and that has also created the need for more labor. In terms of education, in 2000 the government set a number of goals that were to be achieved by 2015. These goals focused on providing good quality and compulsory primary education to all children, but particularly girls and ethnic minorities, and improving literacy rates and access to higher education for both boys and girls.

While there is not a lot of recent data about poverty in the nation, these goals are quite progressive and have shown solid attempts to reduce the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With continued effort from the government, the small island nation should be able to develop further and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr