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

15600273066_72859a7557_bBRAC 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 which 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 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 communties have better access to the tools they need to survive, like an education, they have a better chance at 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 for 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 Openmindness

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

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