Education in Yemen
On August 13, 2016, a Saudi-led airstrike killed 10 children at a school in the country’s northern region, and all were under the age of 15. Unfortunately, children in Yemen have become accustomed to this fallout from the civil war that has raged within their country since March of 2015. Currently, education in Yemen has become a crucial subject for the country’s youth, who struggle to continue learning despite the war surrounding them.

Here are some features of what education in Yemen looks like for millions of children today:

  1. On any given day, the number of children in Yemen who miss out on school exceeds 2 million. Reasons range from lack of textbooks and chairs to the destruction and militarization of school buildings.
  2. Children in Yemen often face grave danger both in and out of class. Students have been killed on their way to school as well as while attending classes, raising questions within families as to the safety of pursuing education.
  3. Staying home, however, raises further concerns. The fear of child recruitment is very real — children as young as eight have been counted by the U.N. as some of 1,200 enlisted to fight in the conflict. Education proves an effective tool for keeping children from the violent arms of war.
  4. According to the U.N., more than 3,600 schools have closed in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015. Bombings destroyed many of these buildings, while many others are now used as training facilities for military forces. UNICEF currently estimates that it needs $34 million for its Back-to-School campaign to help rebuild Yemen’s education system, which includes building restoration, training, textbooks and provisions.
  5. In the 14 years leading up to the conflict, education in Yemen saw an incredible period of growth and improvement. Yemen’s enrollment rate rose from 71.3 percent to 97.5 percent during this time, an incredible stride, according to The World Bank.
  6. In July 2015, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Education trained 50 teachers and social workers to help children deal with the psychological fallout of living in the country torn apart by civil war. Specialized training in psychosocial approaches offers a healing hand to children growing up in war zones and helps equip them with the tools to deal with the violence.

In the midst of such difficult times, both teachers and students have proven that education in Yemen is a valuable thing. Although a large number of children currently struggle to find ways to learn, their path is becoming increasingly clear due to the hard work and resolution of educators in their country.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Current Education in Kyrgyzstan
Many formerly Soviet-controlled nations struggle to this day to bolster strong national institutions and free compulsory education. Kyrgyzstan has proved one of the most difficult to satisfactorily supply.

Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan’s economy and industry were regulated by Moscow. Since Soviet disbandment, the nation has painstakingly transitioned toward a free market economy, which has had severe effects on the economy. Economic and governmental instability of Kyrgyzstan over the past 25 years leave 41 percent of the population below the poverty line, with many living on less than two dollars per day.

Kyrgyzstan’s challenging post-Soviet renovation undermined the nation’s education system. With more and more families slipping into poverty, many required every household member to work and contribute to sustaining the family, and schooling became a kind of luxury. Simultaneously, the staggering government could ill afford to provide effective educational benefits. With limited resources, the government reduced compulsory education to nine years and passed on the responsibility of funding schools to local governments and parents.

Poor access to education in Kyrgyzstan impedes the restoration of the educational system. Costs of schooling continue to rise while educational quality remains quite low. School infrastructures are deteriorating, discouraging students from attending and the cost of mandatory uniforms for primary school students deters poorer families from participating at all.

Teachers in Kyrgyzstan are underpaid and poorly trained, and with a student to teacher ratio of one to twenty-four, they are likewise over-burdened. The result is a student body that remarkably underperforms in science, mathematics and reading.

As concerns educational equity, there are hardly discernable discrepancies between boys and girls in school. However, the incongruities between urban and rural students are highly problematic. The difference is most drastic in pre-primary and secondary school students; about three times as many urban students attend pre-primary and secondary school than their rural counterparts.

After Kyrgyzstan gained independence in the 90’s, almost 75 percent of pre-primary schools closed for lack of funding, and to this day less than 25 percent of students benefit from early learning institutions. This lack of early education has exacerbated the low performance in attendance of primary schools in Kyrgyzstan, for early childhood stimulation enhances the intellectual and social development necessary to succeed in school.

Since 2015, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic have worked to address the severe dearth of pre-primary and early learning schools throughout the country. Throughout the nation’s rural and underprivileged communities, 17 new kindergartens servicing more than 1,000 children have opened. These new facilities will be essential to expanding school readiness to rural Kyrgyzstan.

The World Bank has also implemented a project to improve the current education in Kyrgyzstan called Sector Support for Education Reform. The $16.5 million program will improve the management and accountability of schools, enhance teacher training and make Kyrgyz students better learners. By its conclusion in 2018, the plan should “reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and encourage a better quality of life.”

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Global Education
Macroeconomist and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential world leaders of our time. Best known for his New York Times Bestseller “The End of Poverty,” Sachs recently published a statistically rich article on Project Syndicate calling for the U.S. to increase its support for global education.

Sachs is currently the director of the U.N. Sustainability Development Solutions Network. Sachs once optimistically claimed, “extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grandchildren, but in our time.” His call for increasing access to global education is expressed primarily in tandem with his focus on meeting the U.N. Sustainability Goals by 2030.

A Global Fund for Education (GFE), a coalition that would bring together wealthy countries to collaboratively provide financial assistance to countries that need it the most is, for Sachs, the essential key to doing so. Yet, Sachs’ presents startling statistics representing an enormous imbalance in U.S. priorities and an overt militarization in its defense strategy. Moreover, the numbers signal the United States’ negligence. in pursuing a successful strategy towards eradicating poverty.

According to Sachs, roughly $1 billion per year is spent on supporting global education where approximately $900 billion is spent on military-related programs. These military programs included in the sum constitute the Pentagon, CIA, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons systems and veterans’ programs.

Sachs claims that an extra $45 billion per year would guarantee children access to education, one that would allow them to be literate, and minimize risk from joining gangs, drug traffickers and jihadists — all elements that encourage a more dangerous global terrain.

In another article published on Project Syndicate, Financing Health and Education for All, Sachs claims that if the U.S. followed in the footsteps of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in supporting health and education, the U.S. could add roughly $90 billion per year to global funding. The extra $45 billion per year then, would offer an easy and complete fix to the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The U.S. could also utilize $90 billion of the $900 billion allocated to military projects towards development aid. These steps would promote the U.S.’s national security as well as give the 200 million children currently out of school the opportunity to become literate and contribute to their own country’s economies.

The Global Fund for Education, if implemented, would allow low-income countries to submit proposals for support where if approved would receive both financial funds and monitoring of its implementation.

Bolstering educational systems and the world’s youth in an increasingly knowledge-based economy will increase the U.S.’s national security and alleviate poverty by 2030. Sachs’ optimism then is not misplaced — so long as the U.S. as well as other wealthy countries reform their strategies.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Education Crisis
Finding a home, food and an income aren’t the only circumstances refugees must concern themselves with. There is currently an education crisis within the refugee communities worldwide. The UNHCR recently published its new report, Missing Out: Refugee Education Crisis. The report calls attention to the disheartening rates at which refugee children and adolescents are struggling to receive a proper education.

The detailed report reveals statistics like just 1% of refugees attend university, compared to a global average of 34%. This fact alone conveys the message that major work needs to be accomplished to give these children the chance to excel in a life that was supposed to be better than where they were prior to obtaining refugee status.

According to the UNHCR report, 1.75 million refugee children are not in primary school and 1.95 million refugee adolescents are not in secondary school. Although these numbers are alarming the report could not have come at a better time. Sept. 19 marks the date of the Summit for Refugee and Migrants, which means this topic will need to be addressed. Hopefully, education for refugees will no longer take a back seat as a major problem when discussing refugee situations.

With the world watching, the UNHCR has put pressure on world powers and will be asking for support for the international community, humanitarian agencies and private sectors in order to rectify the situation. The report calls attention to how marginalized refugee children are in the academic arena, accessibility to education is too difficult for them.

Turkey is the country hosting the most Syrian refugees where only 13% of lower-secondary age adolescents are enrolled in school. That number is extremely low on its own; when placed alongside the 84% of adolescents enrolled in school worldwide, it becomes even more stark.

The UNHCR began the hashtag #WithRefugees in order to remind world leaders that all refugee children need access to formal education. The report also decided to reveal some of the refugees who were able to claw their way out and now are doing everything possible to provide aid on the heels of refugee education. It concluded the report with the story of Nawa, a Somali refugee who initially began any education at 16 in a community learning center in Malaysia. Four years later she is about to begin a foundation course at university while volunteering at her school as a teacher.

This proves that investing in education creates a generation filled with compassionate beings who understand the atrocities of war and displacement, who will do everything to prevent other children from living through that. Addressing the refugee education crisis is of the utmost importance to progress as a global community.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ChinaIn recent years, poverty in China was cut poverty in half making it one of the great success stories.

“China is doing well, but you still see children begging on street corners with horrible diseases,” said university student Ariqua Furse, whose mother emigrated from Hong Kong.

By 2020, China will replace the U.S. as the biggest economy, according to Standard Chartered Bank. Much of the world anticipates China becoming the global superpower, with its increasing overseas investments and influence.

However, it has a ways to go if it wants to match these expectations within five years. China is polarized by its advancing technologies and a large number of people that remain impoverished. Tall glass-and-steel skyscrapers loom over gritty, crumbling slums.

Part of the problem is the lack of education in rural areas, which keeps families steeped in poverty.

“Kids in some southern provinces don’t have access to education,” said Ji Da, a native of Chengdu, Sichuan. “We send them clothes.”

Because much of the population is doing well and China functions like a healthy first world country, it’s not easy to determine the full extent of poverty in the country.

10 Facts about Poverty in China:

  1. China is one of the top five poorest countries in the world.
  2. One in 10 Chinese is poor.
  3. At least 82 million people in China live below the poverty line.
  4. Two hundred thousand Chinese don’t have access to electricity.
  5. The Chinese yuan is less valuable in areas with a greater gender imbalance.
  6. Close to 70 million earn an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($376).
  7. Over 6 million Chinese don’t have access to clean fuel to heat their homes and cook.
  8. Three-quarters of global poverty reduction between 1990 and 2005 occurred in China.
  9. About 12.3 million people rose above the poverty line in 2013.
  10. Since 2013, the percentage of Chinese living below the poverty line has been cut nearly in half.

China has made significant progress in recent years in reducing poverty and is continuing to do so. Beijing hosted the 2015 Social Good Summit to raise awareness for the Sustainable Development Goals, which include eradicating poverty.


Poverty in China Graph

During the conference, Tencent, Inc., China’s largest Internet service portal, relayed its efforts to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural areas of China.

Ji reported that the Chinese government is building schools and “government-subsidized housing for the poor.”

If the country can face the facts about poverty in China and stabilize the economy, it will be well on its way to matching, and even surpassing, the U.S. economy in 2020.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: MIC, All Girls Allowed, UNDP, Forbes, IB Times, Index Mundi, RT, Rural Poverty Portal, Personal Interviews

Photo: Flickr

Education in QatarWhile Qatar’s location — Surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq — makes it a hot spot of human rights violations and war, education in the country is blossoming.

Public education in Qatar was first established in 1952. Since then, the Muslim nation has created entities to preserve the heritage and uphold the integrity of the nation.

One such body is the Supreme Education Council (SEC). Dedicated to creating, “Education for a New Era,” the SEC focuses on modernizing standards and making education highly accessible, regardless of economic status. The SEC also subsidizes independent schools, which cover elementary, intermediary, and secondary educational stages.

Within the public sector, there is a specialization of education exclusively for boys, which include a religious institute, a secondary school of commerce, and a secondary school of technology.

Additionally, the SEC created several institutes concentrating on special education. Originally separated by gender, the Al Amal School for Boys and Al Amal School for Girls now provide an education for both genders.

Qatar also offers many private and public universities, including Qatar University, Weill Cornell College of Medicine in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

In order to achieve Qatar’s 2030 national vision in human development, education in Qatar focuses on the exploration of information and communication technology, both in the learning and teaching processes.

To create this vision, Qatar has developed the Exploring ICT Education Conference. Now in its seventh year, the keynote speakers gave presentations addressing topics such as digital literacy, Lego EV3 robotics, and security awareness.

One of the most recent initiatives to increase education standards and development in Qatar is the leading nonprofit Qatar Foundation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programs in three essential areas: education, science and research, and community expansion.

The nonprofit organization is responsible for collaborations, such as seminars to promote intercultural communication at the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar University’s, which were held in July.

Education in Qatar is rapidly growing. With the aid and support of the government, the education sector demonstrates the potential to provide access to high-quality education for all, as well as the ability of traditions to be modernized, while maintaining their integrity.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Prioritizing Education in Myanmar Moving Forward
The spring of 2016 has brought exciting changes for the citizens of Myanmar. Although Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally ineligible to run for president, due the fact that her sons are of British nationality, she and her supporters have still found a way to impact the education system in the country.

A close friend and aid of Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, was elected into office. President Kyaw has given Suu Kyi a place in the cabinet, and she will oversee foreign affairs, as well as the reformation of education in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s new branch into democracy, breaking away from the debilitating rule of a military regime which abolished the once prominent higher education system, brings hope for proper education back to the people of Myanmar.

Primary education in Myanmar is mandatory and free to the public. However, for decades the education sector has been neglected, and it shows. The rule of a military regime, which lasted nearly half of a century, discouraged education amongst Myanmar’s citizens and invested little money or resources in the education system.

The constant conflict and poverty in Myanmar which ensued disrupted students from being able to attend school. The current students and graduates of Myanmar’s public education system have not been properly prepared.

Deepak Neopane, founder of City College Yangon, comments that the economy in Myanmar has recently rebounded, but the those entering into the workforce are unequipped with basic thinking skills and much of this influx of opportunity is going to waste.

With the National League for Democracy (NLD) at reigns of the government, a plan is in place to mend and improve education in Myanmar within the next five years. Beginning in the 2017/18 academic year, the grade structure will be reconfigured and increased to follow a 13-year format.

The goal for the curriculum moving forward is to expand and enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills within the pupils. Though the budget is yet to be finalized, it is likely that following the last year’s investments in the education system that more significant increases are to be made.

The Myanmar education sector has been receiving grants from several humanitarian organizations including UNICEF, the British Council and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, to ensure the prosperity of education for the children in Myanmar moving forward.

Undoubtedly, the government’s agenda to revitalize education in Myanmar is promising. However, they do not deny that there will be hurdles to overcome. The Myanmar government has not neglected to see that every facet of the current education system will need updates and revision.

The plan includes re-training teachers to bring them all up to the modern regional level of teaching and reconfiguring existing schools to situate smaller class sizes, which will improve teacher to student ratios. The end-goal is to have education in Myanmar completely modernized and fully up to standard with regional accreditation by 2030.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

Early Childhood Education in the Middle EastOngoing conflict continues to hinder early childhood education in the Middle East. There are about 8,500 schools that are unusable in the region. UNICEF reports that 13 million children are not attending school as a result of violence, displacement and structural damages to schools.

Schools in countries like Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Sudan are used as shelters and storage areas in war zones. This damages the quality of the education facilities and makes them unusable when the conflict ends.

The report also suggests that there should be more financial support for early childhood education in the Middle East. Such a change needs effective work from policy makers to bring the attention of donors and supporters to the problems of child education in the region.

Moreover, the Middle Eastern governments were known for their low spending on education and basic educational facilities for children. This has even decreased from in the recent few years. In 2001, the Middle East and North Africa region spent 17.6 percent of its GDP in education. In 2008, this measure fell to 13.6 percent.

In spite of the discouraging statistics, parents in the Middle East are realizing the importance of providing education. For example, families in the UAE are willing to spend less on luxurious services and more on their children’s education. Parents realize that improving early childhood education in the Middles East provides a foundation for success in higher education and sustainable future generations.

Many students in the Middle East are looking forward to studying abroad, mainly in the United States. Parents want their children to gain an international experience that will ensure success and interaction with different cultural perspectives.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

EmpoweringBRAC is a development organization in Bangladesh seeking to alleviate the lives of the country’s poor by empowering them through various efforts including disaster management, community empowerment, support programs, and education.

Overtime, Bangladesh has made major improvements in its education system. The literacy rate in Bangladesh is 83 percent for youth and 61 percent for adults. However, there is still work to be done. It is estimated that 1,300,000 primary school-age children do not have access to education in Bangladesh. Additionally, the rate of student school drop-out is still very high and the student to teacher ratio can be as high as 51:1. However, BRAC is taking steps to improve the education in Bangladesh.

With innovating teaching methods, BRAC provides children of poverty – who have been left out of the traditional education system – an education comparable with that of the mainstream school system. Education is one of the keys to fighting poverty, as upcoming generations will have more opportunities can change the course of their lives.

BRAC’s program on education in Bangladesh has four major practice areas: non-formal primary education, pre-primary schools, adolescent development program and multi-purpose community learning centers. These different practice areas reach not only children but also young adults and older members of communities.

The non-formal primary education initiative is a three-year program that aims to help kids aged eight to ten who have dropped out or never been enrolled in school. This program now has over 22,000 schools and over 681,000 students. The recent pass rate of BRAC’s pre-school graduates on the Primary School Certificate is 99.99 percent, and its students perform outstandingly on the exam, compared to national numbers.

Schools lead by BRAC not only provide a traditional education but also vocational skills, health awareness classes and financial services. Additionally, the schools provide safe places for children to play and participate in community activities, fostering community growth. The education program additionally brings mobile libraries to developing communities, which promotes reading and allows the members of the community to have access to computers and the internet.

The education program “has evolved organically, following a ‘life cycle’ approach with capacity and potentials to empower communities through livelihood improvement, citizenship development and poverty alleviation” according to BRAC.

As members of developing communities have better access to the tools they need to survive, like education, they have a better chance of thriving and building a successful life. By bringing education to poor communities in Bangladesh, BRAC is taking significant steps in order to fight global poverty. Its extensive education program will soon help children in many more poor countries, as the organization brings its schools around the globe. Improving education in Bangladesh will ultimately set an example of what needs to be done in other poor countries and communities.

Julia Arredondo

Photo: Flickr

ndia's Education
India’s education pipeline is clogged all the way through. International care and attention needs to occur to ramp up this dismal state and increase developmental efforts. Thankfully, USAID is already on this track and created the life-changing program of Let Girls Learn.

Let Girls Learn

USAID’s recent Let Girls Learn initiative claimed that “if India enrolled one percent more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.” While this may be true, observers of U.S. development assistance note that only $3.5 million was allocated to Indian primary and secondary schools in 2015.

Researcher Jandhyala Tilak, from the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), cites government neglect of the secondary and higher education sectors as one of India’s major problems. She explains that while primary education is indeed crucial for moving citizens above the poverty line, “the danger of their falling below poverty line at any time could be high.”

Private vs Public Sector

Moreover, gains in India’s education pipeline come with a tainted reputation. As more and more private firms invest in this sector, questions arise concerning the quality and payoff of programs. Geetha Nambissan, from the Max Weber Foundation, reveals that the rise of “budget private schools” (BPS) offering scalable, pay-as-you-go learning has negatively affected teacher training.

In particular, she outlines the advent of para-skilling, which standardizes and streamlines lesson planning so that instructors are less costly to firms (earning lower wages) while still providing rudimentary support.

Nambissan believes this practice will hurt Indian education in the long term, since teaching is degraded from a profession to semi- or unskilled labor. “In some low-cost schools, teachers are so underqualified that they cannot speak English, let alone teach in English,” she says.

Nambissan’s views are echoed by those of Pramath Raj Sinha, Dean of the Indian School of Business, the very first Indian institution to earn a spot among The Financial Times’ top 20 MBA programs. He observes that too many investments have been made by business people with a product delivery approach.

“They saw themselves as providing a service,” Sinha says, “and the service was providing somebody a degree that could get them a job.” The result was “a mushrooming of many mediocre private universities” with “little incentive . . . to improve. That will have to change.”

And for that to change, the public and private sectors will have to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. In order to funnel students through to quality universities, India’s education pipeline must maintain teaching quality and support.

The Importance of Open-mindedness

In return, the Indian government might need to cede some ground: it currently imposes a $5 million guarantee from foreign educational firms, as well as a prohibition on the extraction of surplus profits.

Therefore, there is a definite possibility of a system with in-kind benefits between public entities such as USAID and private firms who would invest in the education sector.

Surplus profits could be used to invest in new infrastructure or housing projects, thereby keeping the benefits of human capital with the Indian people. Such a development would serve a dual purpose: boosting the Indian economy and bettering India’s education pipeline.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr