Education in Mexico
Education in Mexico is often criticized for its absentee teachers, rundown facilities and poor examination results. These issues must be addressed to ensure that Mexican children receive quality educations and inspiration to continue their studies.

Many schools in Mexico have initiated innovative programs to provide children with more constructive learning environments. In August, Mexico City-based newspaper Reforma published a magazine advertising many such initiatives.

According to Reforma, 24,500 schools are now taking part in the Full-Time School Program (PETC), a program emphasizing indigenous languages, English, art, sport, culture, music and what UNICEF calls “participatory learning.” This learning model encourages communication, creativity, teamwork and technology use in interactive projects.

National Escala exam reports reveal that children enrolled in PETC schools obtain better results than do their peers, according to one PETC school headmistress. When implemented correctly, PETC has the potential to improve education in Mexico.

For a long time, education in Mexico focused exclusively on academic subjects without promoting the development of other skills. Schools today, however, have started expanding their curricula to give children new opportunities.

The Modern American School in Mexico City, for example, collaborated with the Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico to design an eight-month radio, newspaper and television production course. The course allows student to think creatively and learn new and exciting skills.

Other schools in Mexico City have incorporated dance into their curricula to promote physical fitness, creative expression and self-esteem. Dance programs also allow students more non-classroom time during the school day, reducing burnout and enhancing learning ability.

Private schools that have added dance, sports, music and art to their curricula have often experienced the best results. Mexico’s task now is to make sure public schools have the same opportunities for improvement. The country must also ensure that it has the necessary infrastructure, technology and personnel to support its efforts.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Educators around the world
Amazon, a large internet-based retailer, recently launched Amazon Inspire. The website provides an online marketplace for educators around the world, but with one key difference: all of its products are free.

Marketed towards K-12 educators around the world, Amazon Inspire has tens of thousands of free online resources, such as lesson plans and apps available for download. Educators around the world can browse the site by subject matter or grade level, and teachers can download and edit lesson plans to better fit their own personalized courses.

Other features of Amazon Inspire that distinguish it from other educational resource databases include:

  • Collections, which allow educators to group resources on the Amazon Inspire site. These collections can then be shared with other teachers on the site, so everyone has easy access to similar information.
  • An intuitive upload system, wherein it’s easy to drag and drop files on the site, as well as add content to the site to share with fellow teachers.
  • Teachers can also rate and review resources on Amazon Inspire, helping their colleagues select the best resources for their needs.

Earlier in 2016, Amazon also signed a multi-million dollar deal with New York City public schools to help provide more digital books to the schools’ students. This agreement indicates how Amazon is no stranger to the power of funding education and programs that will contribute to making education more accessible to all students and teachers, regardless of location.

These free resources will help teachers in a multitude of ways. Not only will Amazon’s provisions help educators transition into an ever-more digital age of teaching, but they will do so without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money or spend ludicrous amounts of time searching Google for free scholarly resources.

However, since Amazon Inspire is an online resource, countries with limited or no Internet cannot benefit from its resources. While Amazon Inspire is a great site, it is important to remember that not all countries are as privileged to have nationwide Internet coverage as the United States. There is great potential in this field to not only connect more teachers to students but to connect and educate more people globally.

Bayley McComb

 

Education in Georgia
In the years following independence from the Soviet Union, the country of Georgia faced a variety of challenges from natural disasters to political unrest. Times were tumultuous for over a decade, but in 2003, the year of the Rose Revolution, a new dawn broke for the nation. A new government arose and enacted many new programs–some of which address the ever-present issue of public education in Georgia.

Although the national plan for education in Georgia direly needed a make-over by the turn of the twenty-first century, the system had not yet become a hopeless case. All age groups within the country were evaluated with over 98 percent literacy, but it was usually only basic literacy with very few individuals making it to higher levels of education.

This phenomenon of widespread but low-level education can be attributed to the inefficiency and low quality of the public education programs. Ultimately, families did not feel that it was worth their time to put their children through more than the minimum required years of education.

After a primary education, the government would no longer support the entirety of a student’s tuition; thus, to continue on in education, the child and his or her family would need to pay a good portion of tuition–funding that few families had to spare.

Shortly after the Rose Revolution, the newly appointed government developed a plan that would allow for the growth of a more efficient and cohesive education system.

The bill passed through the Georgian legislature was dubbed the Law on General Education, and it opened up services that the Georgian public had previously been unable to access.

This new law established equal treatment for ethnic and linguistic minorities, ensuring that all could receive a free education to the newly raised requirement of the ninth grade.

The law also gave more local power to families to elect the principle of their child’s school, and be privy to other rights that had previously been unavailable.

With this new focus on issues surrounding public education, the government has improved many services, such as vocational training and higher education, which are now also more readily available to the public.

A great number of children enter the fifth grade, but there are unfortunately many students who do not make it past the primary levels of education. Generally due to poverty, two percent of primary-aged children are compelled to drop out of their educational endeavors before completing their primary education.

Many see the drop-out rate due to poverty as a self-perpetuating problem. The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) states that, “Households in which adults have better education are less likely to be poor.”

The key drivers of social exclusion include “low education attainment levels among household members, unemployment, lack of land ownership, lack of access to health care, lack of access to loans or credit and lack of social assistance.”

To address this prevalent issue, and to better retain and educate its students, the Georgian government has increased its spending on public education by 43 percent over recent years. The effort is commendable, but the BTI argues that improvement needs to increase even more in order to keep up with prevailing economic issues and bolster the educational infrastructure of the country.

With an increased amount of students graduating from secondary education, the government will soon need to provide stipends to graduates for further education in institutions of higher learning.

The issues facing the growing sector of public education in Georgia are many, but various international organizations are optimistic for the emphasis placed on education reform by the Georgian government.

With its limited resources, these global figureheads agree that it is key that Georgia puts a high priority on developing its human capital, and in this way, secure the long-term progress of the country.

Preston Rust

Photo: Pixabay

Education in Ecuador

In 2008, more than 65 percent of the Ecuadorian population voted to implement a new constitution. President Rafael Correa proclaimed Ecuador a new nation that day. He asserted that this constitution, with its potential for broad social reform, would help catalyze his efforts to transform the economy and alleviate poverty.

The president considered education reform to be an essential component of his initiative: The Citizens’ Revolution. Section Five of the constitution is dedicated to outlining the ways and means by which education in Ecuador should be viewed as a human right. This includes Article 27, which guarantees “Universal access, permanence, mobility and graduation without any discrimination.”

While access to higher education for all is a top government priority, quality has become the focus of many reform efforts. Standards are a relevant concern in discussing education in Ecuador largely because of the country’s past. Despite previous attempts to make education a primary concern, none of the conventions or programs ever gained any traction.

Well-implemented public education programs in the 1970s increased school life expectancy. Decreased illiteracy brought on a “Golden Era” for education in Ecuador. By 1980, education amounted to a third of total government outlays, yet expansion came with resource issues that forced the 90s to be a decade of regression. Free public education was abandoned, the Ministry of Education weakened, student enrollment came to a halt, as well as a plethora of other problems.

To avoid the trends of the past, President Correa established the Council for Evaluation, Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEAACES) in 2010. This government organization is charged with the responsibility of improving the quality of higher education in Ecuador.

CEAACES evaluations are obligatory and use a multi-criteria methodology to make numerically subjective judgments when evaluating an institution. Each institution then receives a ranking, the worst of which are subject to suspension for lack of quality. Accreditation is required in order to provide any academic programs, thereby regulating the academic standards of education in Ecuador.

Yet, while the CEAACES ensures a quality system, it does nothing to maintain it.

In 2013, as a part of The Citizens’ Revolution, President Correa introduced Yachay, the City of Knowledge. “Yachay” translates to “knowledge” in the indigenous Quechua language. It is a pivotal step in Correa’s plan to transform Ecuador into a knowledge-based economy. When all is complete, the City of Knowledge will house Yachay University (known as Yachay Tech), 13 public research institutes, a technology park and industry.

Yachay Tech opened for its first semester in March 2014 as one of the only institutes for postgraduate education in Ecuador. Its staff currently consists of 32 teachers, all of whom have PhDs, most of whom are international. The objective of the institution in the short term is to provide its students with a research-intensive education rare to Ecuador. In the long term, it aims to produce “about 1,000 master’s and PhD students, who will eventually provide staff for other institutions.”

As hoped, the Citizens’ Revolution has been an effective agent in President Correa’s poverty relief initiatives. With the education reform set in place, along with the other social policies the new constitution has allowed Correa to implement, Ecuador has become a regional frontrunner in poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, the poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines has decreased by 12.6 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Other countries can learn from this revolution, that investing in people is a winning strategy. Correa has managed to actuate a new form of economy, not reliant on resources that may one day be exhausted, but instead reliant on its own human capital. With the aid and skill provided by the government now, the people of the Citizens’ Revolution will be the catalyst of a diverse Ecuadorean economy. They will lift others out of poverty and create opportunities for all in a hub of innovation.

Alexis Viera

Photo: Flickr

Project-based learning
The concept of project-based learning is powerful: actively working through a project allows students to show creativity and adaptability that may be lacking in students who are exposed only to a traditional classroom setting.

In India, project-based learning places students’ focus on solving issues of personal interest and mitigates the high pressure of traditional education.

Often, students are lectured by teachers for the sole purpose of learning information to perform well on standardized board exams. These tests have the potential to determine whether a student can attend top colleges, receive the best jobs and have an overall successful future.

This method of testing puts intense pressure on students to the point where cheating scandals occur every year. Numerous gadgets are marketed and sold, one example being small in-ear microphones that allow someone to remotely feed students test answers. According to the Los Angeles Times, there have even been reports of principals allowing students to cheat for a fee.

Students who perform well on these tests often go on to top colleges and careers. For everyone else, dropping out is a likely alternative. In India, 99 percent of kids are enrolled in primary schools, however only 37 percent continue on to college.

To help change the status quo, the American School of Bombay (ASB) provides an alternative to traditional education in India. ASB believes that students learn and perform better when guided by internal motivation.

This international school located in Mumbai strives to be forward-thinking in terms of its less traditional teaching methods and strong ties to technology. The school believes that “teachers are most effective when they facilitate collaborative student learning through a wide variety of media-rich, interactive, and authentic learning experiences.”

In most schools across India, teachers provide lectures that do not deviate from a set curriculum. However at ASB, teachers are willing to let students take the lead on getting involved in projects that suit their personal interests and skills. One example of such a project is Plugged In, where tech-savvy students decided that they wanted to impart their knowledge to other children in Mumbai who did not have the same access to technology.

The ASB students did not know until arriving that the less fortunate school where they volunteered had no access to a computer, and they were forced to work around this obstacle.

At the end of the program, the volunteers were able to donate a computer to one student who had excelled, only to discover that his family could not afford electricity. This discovery, however, led the ASB students to embark on a new project of developing a power source that can be fueled by burning trash.

Receiving an education is an important hallmark of ascension out of poverty to the middle class. Project-based learning offers an alternative to students who drop out of school if they do not perform well on board exams.

Furthermore, many projects that students engage in offer new and inventive methods of reducing poverty. Project-based learning gives hands-on practice for improving the quality of life for people living in poverty.

It allows students to take a role of leadership and find what works for them to make use of their natural drive. When it comes to her students, one ASB teacher felt that it is important to “be their partner in learning and mentor them to a place where they can take off.”

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Pixabay

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, called for this year’s first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. He scheduled the summit for May 23-24 as a response to levels of humanitarian crisis around the world.

The goal of the World Humanitarian Summit is to bring together world leaders and the international community in order to address the issues facing those in crisis. The United Nations listed such problems as lack of food, shelter and medical care. Furthermore, violent conditions and lack of care for pregnant women and young children threaten families in crisis regions.

Also on the agenda is the issue of education. The WHS will see the launch of a new platform designed to provide funding for education specifically in crisis situations. This program, titled Education Cannot Wait, is the first of its kind.

After recognizing that education is a basic human right and that war and other humanitarian crises disrupt children’s education, ECW developed a multi-pronged strategy. This strategy includes calling on the international community to accept more financial responsibility. Additionally, the community should take part in the planning and execution of strategies to improve access to education in crisis areas. It also holds the other nations and people involved accountable for their actions.

Financial pledges are certainly of primary importance. According to A World at School, less than two percent of humanitarian funding has gone to education each year since 2010. Consequently, this lack of funds results in the deprivation of schooling for tens of millions of children in crisis situations.

The website details the “Breakthrough Fund” component of ECW, with key points including the necessity for multi-year financial commitments. These commitments adequately meet the needs of funding education for those in crisis without taking funding from other humanitarian projects.

UNICEF will take charge of the Breakthrough Fund for its first year. Afterwards, the Breakthrough Fund will transition to a more permanent administrative host. The fund will attempt to raise $3.85 billion USD by year five of the project.

The WHS website reports that the World Humanitarian Summit held a roundtable discussion of Education Cannot Wait at a Special Session. It was open to the media and webcast live.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: UN Multimedia

BuildOn
The buildOn organization has been building schools globally and domestically for more than twenty years, but the construction of schools is not the only focus. The organization builds and develops the abilities of every member of the community in which the schools are placed.

In 1989, Jim Ziolkowski, a recent college graduate and the future founder and CEO of the buildOn organization, took a trip around the world by way of hitchhiking and backpacking. During his travels, he came across a village in Nepal that had recently built a school, and he noticed a dramatic difference between this community and others that he had visited in his travels. This Nepalese village had a unique brightness about it that was centered around education.

Upon returning to the United States he was unable to remove the comparison of what he had seen from his mind. After a short time, he quit his job and began to develop ways in which he could give the gift of education to those who would not be able to obtain it otherwise. In 1992, the first school was built in Malawi, and since then, hundreds of schools have been built in some of the most impoverished locations across the world.

The buildOn website notes, “Our holistic approach ensures that schools are built with a community rather than for a community. It involves villagers as true partners rather than as recipients of aid.” The program claims that this nature of approach incentivizes the residents, and shows them what can be accomplished when they work together in a common cause.

When a community is under consideration for a new school, each member is required to give his or her consensus in writing—or in fingerprint—that he or she will fulfill respective obligations to render local supplies, assist in construction, and maintain the school upon completion. It has been observed that “Even as many must sign with a thumbprint, everyone is overjoyed to pledge their commitment to a school that will end illiteracy for their children, their grandchildren, and themselves.”

As mentioned, young children are not the only ones who benefit from the placement of these schools. At night, in the same schools where their children are educated by day, parents and grandparents are given the opportunity to engage in adult literacy classes. These classes address the issues of healthcare, poverty, and inequality, in addition to the fundamental teachings of reading, writing, and math. This is all gauged to help the people build a better life for themselves and their children.

Unfortunately, in many countries, women do not hold the same status as men. For this reason, buildOn places a centralized focus on gender equality. In the written covenant, there is an included agreement that boys and girls alike will be allowed to attend school in equal numbers. From the beginning to the end of each project, women are highlighted as key members of the community. The right of education is for everyone.

Though the construction of schools is the physical product of buildOn’s effort, it is not the ultimate focus. When asked as to what his favorite aspect of working for buildOn is, Badenoch answered by saying simply, “The people. Unlocking opportunity for people who are very capable and intelligent. The key players aren’t our staff, rather the people in the community play the major role.”

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

Education_LiberiaNew efforts on education reform are being implemented by the Liberian government through the recently developed Partnership Schools for Liberia.

Across Africa, bolstering public education infrastructure can be one of the best ways for governments to fight poverty in their own countries. UNESCO’s recent Education for All Global Monitoring Report cited that income jumps 10 percent for every grade finished and a country’s Gross Domestic Product benefits 0.37 percent.

As a global deficit of 69 million children out of primary school continues to grow in low-income countries, poverty threatens the societies in these nations.

Helping children to obtain basic reading skills has the potential to lift 171 million people out of poverty, almost double the primary school deficit. These results show the multiplying effect that education can have on income levels.

Liberia has recently taken steps towards education reform after being ravaged by Ebola. The African Business Review cites that “42 percent of children are out of school, and only 20 percent of children enrolled in primary school complete secondary school.”

These statistics are relatively high compared to education levels around the time of the Liberian civil war. Before the Ebola outbreak greatly affected the country, the Liberian Department of Education had enlisted the help of USAID to rebuild the school systems and replenish the trained workforce.

The aid organization cites that their “education programs focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning (especially in early grade reading and math) and increasing equitable access to safe learning opportunities for girls, as well as for youth who missed out on education due to the prolonged civil conflict.”

The relief efforts led to the passing of the Education Reform Act in 2011. The programs within the act looked to strengthen the degraded Liberian school system and provide the new framework more centralization with a way to gauge efficiency.

This year, the Ministry of Education will roll out a new program called the Partnership Schools for Liberia in September. The head of the Ministry of Education, George Kronnisanyon Werner, spoke to Medium last month about the change.

The project will take developing ideas from developed countries around the world and local African nations like South Africa and Kenya in order to design a system that, Werner says, can “adapt to our unique context.” Schools will be set up in conjunction with social organizations like NGOs, but funded by the public sector.

Initially, 120 schools will be opened in late 2016 so that methods and models can be tested before the program is implemented on a large scale. Werner hopes to “generate evidence before we scale further” so that funds are spent efficiently and results are guaranteed when expansion to the entire country is considered.

The Partnership Schools for the Liberia program looks to put the Liberian government in place to reduce the number of children out of primary school. With this tool at Minister of Education George Werner’s fingertips, he hopes to get one step closer to his mission “to provide every child, regardless of family background or income, access to high-quality education.”

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

Education StandardsOn Mar. 28, 2016, figures for the New Delhi, India budget were released. They showed an increase in attention to education standards. According to the Times of India, the 2015 plan allocated 24 percent and emphasized attention to classroom infrastructure and model resources. This year, 2016, that number has increased to 25 percent, with a focus on quality education and teacher training programs.

Presented by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, the annual budget of Rs 46,600 will extract 95 percent of its expenses from its own resources and five percent from the central government. These figures are according to Delhi Finance Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Other notable allowances in the plan are housing and urban development, public transportation, road infrastructure, and women’s safety and empowerment projects.

That the education standards tops the list, however, says much about the district’s plans and India’s promising development as a whole. On Mar. 31, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a restructuring of India’s national education system. The policy will shift from access to education to educational quality. The World Bank ranked the country’s gross enrollment ratio (GER) at a rate of 114 percent in 2012.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) (RMSA), both governmental programs to enhance access and quality to primary and secondary education, will receive improvements. Evaluation will be implemented to document grade-wise learning goals, target learning weaknesses, and improve teacher accountability.

The prime minister also announced the introduction of 800 vocational schools. These will be specified secondary school training that provide students with tools to compete in a competitive global market.

There are disparities between school attendance, literacy rates, and adequate educational infrastructure within rural and non-rural schools. The improved education standards will seek to improve these disparities the most. The India Education Fund (IEF) is a U.S. based foundation with the mission for providing high standard education to millions of Indian children trapped in the cycle of multi-generation poverty due to lack of privilege and marginalization. The organization is an example of an international group founded with the mission of education equality in India.

With the help of outside organizations, the provision of scholarships and resources to those unable to utilize public education, and the improvements of quality and accountability from within, the Indian government hopes to address the needs of its next generation of learners.

Delhi’s budget increase in public education serves as a microcosm of India’s focus as a nation. With increased enrollment, gender diverse classrooms and educational accessibility in poorer areas, the country has made significant progress as an emerging player in the international stage. Data released from the Brookings institute demonstrate direct correlation between higher education standards, clean water, functioning toilets and improved quality of life.

India’s steadfast dedication to country-wide educational improvement shows promise for its citizens.

Nora Harless

Photo: NY Times

MTN South AfricaMTN South Africa (Mobile Telephone Networks), part of a multinational telecommunication company operating in 21 countries across the world, is rewarding top performing students in rural schools across the country. The organization is honoring these studious teenagers with scholarships and laptops to enhance their education.

The beneficiaries of scholarships and 200 laptops include three top students in the LSEN (learners with special educational needs) category at rural schools. One of the elite learners, who is legally blind, will receive a personalized laptop with 10 GB of data.

The 18 scholarships will be rewarded to qualifying students per province, selected by the provincial education department. The bursaries will cover tuition, textbooks, pocket money, fees and other costs.

In an interview with It News Africa, Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager of the foundation, states that “MTN is [aware] of the socio-economic conditions that hamper academically gifted learners from furthering their studies.” She believes that “this gesture provides a lifeline to these students, providing them with hope for the future and an opportunity to break the vicious cycle of poverty and reach for their dreams.”

According to Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, MTN SA Foundation is dedicated to working in tandem with the South African government to support programs aimed at improving teaching and education in rural schools. The organization has been involved with improving the spread of knowledge and technology for over a decade.

Because the foundation works with impoverished locations that typically struggle to develop adequate places of learning, MTN SA usually creates programs that address student, teacher and teaching environmental needs.

Mtunzi-Hairwadzi also mentions in the interview that “the exceptional academic achievements of these learners is indicative of what hard work and focus can achieve.” The Foundation believes these rewards will act as an incentive and encourage even more students to excel at school. The general manager views the support from the Foundation as a “part of [the company’s] ongoing commitment to ensuring that [they] make a positive difference in the communities” where the company has a visible presence.

MTN South Africa aims to help develop a team of students that will eventually contribute to the growth and develop of the South African economy.

John Gilmore

Sources: IT News Africa, MTN 1, MTN 2
Photo: Tyballo’s Blog