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

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

KINDMillions of children throughout Africa struggle to learn while sitting on dirt floors or the ground outside for hours at a time. In Malawi, three out of five students don’t have a desk or chair.

Since 2010, Kids In Need of Desks (KIND) has placed more than 148,755 desks in 575 primary schools in Malawi, providing actual workspaces to nearly half a million students who would otherwise be sitting on the floor. The fund has also provided over 718 scholarships to girls to complete all four years of high school.

KIND also benefits the Malawian community outside the classroom. Every desk made for Malawian children is manufactured locally. This has created numerous jobs for residents over the past five years.

The fund was created by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell after a 2010 service trip to the country. There, O’Donnell learned firsthand that the number one item Malawian school teachers said would best improve the lives of students was desks.

According to Malawian teacher Saulos Mzuwala, “In as far as education is concerned a learner is more comfortable sitting at desks than on floors. They use their knees as desks which leads to poor handwriting.”

Students too, complain about the difficulty of learning and practicing writing from this position. “We fold our legs when we’re sitting and when we try to write, our papers get damaged and that wastes a lot of our time. It’s distracting and makes it hard to do well in school,” says student Lajab Saidi.

On top of this, sitting on the floor makes their clothes dirty faster, says teacher Nema Samalira. “It’s hard for these kids to afford soap especially if they have to clean their clothes every day. If their clothes are dirty they don’t come to school.”

During that trip, O’Donnell connected with UNICEF and a Malawi woodworking shop. He paid for them to make 30 student desks. With three kids to every desk, that first delivery enabled 90 students to move from dirt floors to desks. This change happened within a single week. Now, five years later, the KIND fund has received more than $10.5 million in donations.

“Ten million dollars was beyond my wildest dream when I started KIND with UNICEF. I am in awe of the generosity of our audience. There are hundreds of thousands of students sitting at desks instead of on the floor today thanks entirely to our audience. There are girls in high school today thanks entirely to our audience. This is proof that small acts of kindness can make a big difference in our world,” says O’Donnell.

Kara Buckley

Sources: MSNBC, PR News Wire, UNICEF USA, Vimeo
Photo: MSNBC

Imagine being too poor to attend your local school, too poor to go to college. Imagine your entire community and many others are in this predicament. Now imagine that you are offered the chance to travel to a new country, study, earn a degree and learn skills that will help you build a career.

Would you take it?

Nigeria failed to complete the global education goals it set for 2015, according to The Guardian. These goals included expanding early childhood education and care, achieving universal primary education and adult literacy.

Corruption and lack of investment have earned Nigeria one of the worst education systems in the world. Over ten million Nigerian children are not receiving a proper education.

The Mike Omotosho Foundation is trying to make a dent in the number of uneducated children by offering 10,000 Nigerian students the opportunity to study abroad. Because so many Nigerians struggle to afford even local education, scholarships are available for each student.

The purpose of the program is “to gain quality education abroad and hopefully bring this knowledge, expertise and quality back to Nigeria.”

To earn a scholarship, students need at least four credits in their O Level Examination, an international exam distributed by the British Council, and an eligibility date no later than June 2016. The process is simple, but competitive enough that students are required to put forth reasonable effort.

The scholarship offers a tuition waiver of up to 50 percent, but those who demonstrate outstanding scholarly abilities may receive a complete waiver from some universities. The nature of the waiver encourages students to put forth their best effort to achieve good grades even before they set foot abroad.

Countries participating in the program are Malaysia, United Kingdom, Cyprus, Russia and India. Nigerian students will have their pick of foreign cultures to learn from.

One benefit of studying abroad is a unique education. Each country offers its own education style. International students have the opportunity to experience more than one learning method, expanding their minds and providing them with a wider range of effective techniques.

Graduate schools look favorably upon former international students because they know these individuals are dedicated to their studies.

Another benefit to studying abroad is that it creates more career opportunities. Students who study abroad gain new perspectives, language skills and confidence, all of which help them stand out to potential employers.

The students who participate in the Mike Omotosho Foundation scholarship program will be better equipped to find work upon their return to Nigeria, keeping them out of poverty. Furthermore, they will bring back new skills and knowledge, which they can use to improve Nigeria’s education system and its overall quality of life.

Perhaps, in time, Nigeria will no longer have 10 million education-less children, but rather millions of youth educated, informed and ready to help their country.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Mike Omotosho Foundation 1, Mike Omotosho Foundation 2, British Council, International Student, NGR Guardian News,
Photo: Wikimedia

Anyone and everyone can change the world, even in the slightest way. An organization known as Read to Feed gives children the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of families living in poverty.

The program encourages childhood reading while raising awareness of extreme global poverty in young minds. Read to Feed teaches and informs students of the realities of malnutrition and poverty, inspiring them to help those in need and providing an educational incentive to do so.

Here’s how it works: A child chooses a sponsor for each book he or she reads during a period of time set by his or her Read to Feed leader. The sponsor agrees to provide a certain amount of money for each book read or hour spent reading. Then, after the books have been read and the funds collected, the child chooses an animal through Heifer International to give to a family experiencing poverty.

Heifer International is an organization dedicated to ending global poverty and world hunger. Heifer provides families in impoverished communities with livestock and training to combat malnutrition as well as build a sustainable lifestyle.

Furthermore, Heifer encourages the families they have helped to share the training they receive with other families in their communities and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family in need, thus creating a cycle of sustainability that has the power to lift entire communities out of poverty.

The wide variety of livestock provides families with meat, milk, wool and manure to grow their own agriculture. Kids can participate in Read to Feed individually or in groups; however, the program most often takes place in a classroom setting.

Furthermore, Heifer provides Global Education Lesson Plans so that teachers can inform students of the realities of global poverty and the impact that they can make in changing its course.

Read to Feed ultimately provides children with a way to make a difference in many lives. Reading a book is a fun incentive to end extreme poverty, both stimulating a child’s mind by increasing the number of books they read, and their knowledge of the world. Anyone can make a difference and everyone– no matter what age– deserves the chance to try.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Heifer 1, Heifer 2, Learning to Give
Photo: Hiefer International

Entrepreneurs are individuals that go beyond the status quo in order to make change happen. “They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices,” says the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

Reform and change are never made without a struggle. Social entrepreneurs in education are no different.

Many struggle with receiving the support and funding necessary to keep programs running. But despite hardships, they press forward in order to make improvements.

Occasionally, an entrepreneur will find a break in the form of investors. Schwab, Skoll and Ashoka are three such foundations that provide this relief to individuals making change happen around the world.

One such fellow, or entrepreneur, that found relief works for an organization by the name of abcdespanol. Based in Colombia, the organization worked to create a new methodology for teaching reading, writing and math skills.

Javier Gonzalez discovered that the issues across Latin America were not due to the people, but the methodology while playing a game of dominoes. “González then created abcdespañol and “ABC de la Matematica”, an innovative learning solution employing games as a teaching methodology.”

For many, this is how it works. Social entrepreneurs in education see an issue and then fight to find and put into practice new ideas to correct the issue. The journey doesn’t stop there, though.

Going back to Javier, “he continued searching for additional ways to make the learning process more interesting.”

Education isn’t an easy fix and is not a one solution fits all circumstance ordeal. Teaching the world’s future leaders takes innovation and improvement. Social entrepreneurs, like Javier, know this and continue to seek out a better way.

Ashoka fellow Flick Asvat of South Africa is another excellent example of this.

In the country of South Africa, Asvat found that many youths become more discouraged than not by the truism that education is the path out of poverty due to the strikes, violence, and other issues that have continuously interrupted such attempts.

To fight this, “Flick is putting children in control of their own out-of-school educational programs. She has developed a concept, Bugrado, based on the idea that human beings have the power to change their circumstances.”

Through innovative new techniques, real change was seen in schools. “Flick has successfully created five pilot programs around Johannesburg and is now focusing on Alexandra Township, where the program is operating in four schools, reaching approximately six thousand students.”

As a social entrepreneur in education, Flick resigned from her job as Minister of Education to solely focus on the implementation of the Bugrado program.

Such stories have become increasingly common. Through simply opening one’s eyes and caring about making a difference, individuals have made change happen. When one thing doesn’t work, new ones are tried. In this way, education is constantly improving.

Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation has expressed the importance of these social entrepreneurs around the world.

On their site, it is stated that it has become, “the premier global event for social entrepreneurship…the Forum has increasingly become a showcase to highlight large scale impact that social entrepreneurs are having on the big challenges facing the planet.”

By connecting social entrepreneurs with the resources and connections they need to improve conditions, the Skoll Foundation helps millions experience the impact of positive change.

In short, these entrepreneurs are alike in a fundamental thought process. As Skoll puts it, “I believe “a lot of good comes from a little bit of good,” or, in other words, where the positive social returns significantly outstrip the amount of time and money invested.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: Schwab Found 1, Schwab Found 2, Ashoka, Skoll
Photo: Wikimedia