Education plays a vital role in transforming a developing country into a fully developed nation. By educating the youth, countries are able to ensure a stronger future and promote innovation in their own communities, thus making them more globally competitive and increasing the overall quality of life.

The Basic Education Coalition is “an independent, non-profit organization working to ensure children around the world have access to quality basic education.” Working together with 17 other organizations, the Basic Education Coalition will be a key player in the development of the developing world and the bettering of children’s lives throughout the world.

In 2000, several global leaders founded the Basic Education Coalition with the established goal of Education for All (EFA), with the goal that “all children receive an education that enriches their lives, expands their opportunities, and empowers them to participate in society.” In order to set more distinct goals for themselves, the EFA developed six goals which were then endorsed by several member countries and their leaders.

One EFA goal is to expand and improve the comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for disadvantaged children. The key aspect in this is the provision of both care and education. Often, children in extreme poverty are made to worry about where their next meal will come from, if their parents will come home and if they will be able to survive.

By providing care to these children, these troubles somewhat disappear and they are able to focus on their education, and on being children. Childhood is where a lot of a people’s personality is formed and if the global community raises kind and education-loving children, we are only creating a stronger future for ourselves.

Another key goal of EFA is “eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender parity in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.”

In many developing countries with relatively accessible education platforms, there is a huge gender disparity with boys being much more educated than girls. In the future, this will only lead to increases in population growth, domestic violence and lower self-esteem and self-respect for many women in the developing world.

When young girls are provided with a strong education they are able to gain the confidence to run their own businesses, innovate, support their families and make decisions that benefit their futures.

This has become an increasing focus in the global community and many NGOs have been created solely to help women and girls in developing countries to gain the confidence and education to support themselves.

Some of the other EFA goals include a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy levels by 2015, compulsory education for children, especially girls, and ensuring equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programs.

By teaming up with global leaders and several different countries throughout the world, the Basic Education Coalition has created a buddy system in which every nation must make sure that their counterparts are doing well. By working together, the youth of the world will be able to grow up in a totally different, and much better, world than our own.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: Basic Ed, Interaction
Photo: Huffington Post

Technology has helped create a learning landscape that expands the access of education to citizens living in rural villages and children living in poverty. Enrollment numbers are rising, but children are not learning enough when they enter school. Some children are not able to attend school or drop out because their families face financial challenges that keep them from learning and sometimes have to join the workforce.

Mobile phones help increase literacy rates in developing countries by providing access to reading materials. There are 123 million youth who cannot read or write and most of them do not have any access to books. Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa lack the resources to have textbooks for their students.

UNESCO found that many parents read stories to their children from mobile phones and that it helps empower women as they read six times more than men on their mobile devices.

Liza Villanueva, an Anaheim resident, had another idea for mobile learning: a mobile learning bus that travels between cities.

She created an international foundation to help children in rural villages without access to education in the Philippines through a Girl Scout Project. Her community service requirement through the Girl Scout’s Gold Award created an opportunity for Villanueva to invest her time in helping children. Therefore, the iDream Express was created in the Philippines with the support of local churches volunteering to keep the program running to provide access to education in the Philippines.

Villanueva, who is getting ready for her freshman year in college, travels to the Philippines to visit her family. She found out many of the children on the street were not attending school and developed the learning center to provide access to education for these children.

The organization is only a year old, but Villanueva says that there are about 30 children who show up at the different locations for education from the iDream Express. One challenge is that many children wander from city to city because of their living conditions on the street, which makes it hard to keep track of who is showing up to fulfill educational needs.

“I feel that every country is in need of mobile learning centers because education is not accessible, provided for, or enforced everywhere,” says Villanueva. “I plan to expand iDream Express globally, but next in line are Mexico and India.”

The Philippines ranks 80th in the world in access to basic knowledge. 88.2 percent of people are enrolled in primary school, and 75.8 percent are enrolled in upper secondary education. There are still six million young people who are not enrolled in school in the Philippines.

To help Villanueva expand education in the Philippines and around the world, you can donate to the cause on the iDream Express Crowdrise page.

Donald Gering

Sources: GSMA, The Guardian, OC Register, Social Progress Imperative, UNESCO
Photo: YASC

improving_literacyStatistically, if you walk up to someone randomly and ask them to read aloud your favorite T.S. Eliot poem, nine times out of ten that stranger will be very embarrassed by the prospect of reading aloud, and a staggering one out in ten won’t be able to read the poem at all.

According to a new report by the World Literacy Foundation (WLF), a staggering 10 percent of the world’s population is either completely or functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t perform basic tasks like reading a medicine label or balancing a checkbook.

Globally, more than 796 million people are illiterate, and according to the WLF report, this year alone it will cost the global economy over one trillion dollars.

A rare uniting factor between countries with great wealth and those with very little, illiteracy around the globe traps individuals “in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation,” said the report.

Aside from being unable to do simple things like read a nutrition label or fill out a job application, the WLF says poor literacy also affects a person’s ability to engage in critical thinking activities. Examples of these include understanding government policy and voting in elections, analyzing advertising and recognizing scams, and of course, the ability to pursue higher education or advanced training.

All of these hurdles placed before the illiterate severely hamper their ability to be as socially and economically productive as their literate counterparts. Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less due to difficulties with communication and handling tasks that require some degree of literacy.

Illiteracy places even more strain on society by creating barriers to healthcare and financial planning for the illiterate, which can lead to increased crime rates or welfare dependence.

“One can put figures on the social cost in terms of welfare payments or the burden on the health system. But the real opportunity cost will never be known. These are the costs of lost opportunities to create individual financial wealth, encourage entrepreneurs, build healthier and more stable families whose members can make a productive contribution to all areas of society (political and cultural as well as economic),” said the report.

A formula developed by the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates the cost of illiteracy to a country at 0.5 percent of their GDP, meaning the wealthier the country, the more dramatic the impact. The U.S. alone stands to lose an estimated $362 billion this year due to the combined costs of illiteracy.

Ensuring access to quality primary education for all children is critical to improving literacy levels globally, and reversing the economic drain it creates, says the World Literacy Foundation. Progress has been made, said the organization and initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals and the recent Sustainable Development Goals are drawing attention to the issue, but more needs to be done, according to the WLF.

The WLF offered some recommendations in their report to bolster the current efforts to eradicate illiteracy. These included: establishing adult and parental literacy programs, establishing programs to attract and retain students in schools, and ensuring access to quality resources, training and technologies to students.

The organization even went so far as to suggest that if the global economy is going to “literally throw away money” through inaction, that it might as well actively invest in literacy programs.

Gina Lehner

Sources: The Guardian, World Literacy Foundation
Photo: Flickr

Vocational education is defined as a procedural process of instruction that prepares the students for skilled work. The skills taught a range from various aspects of industrial work to skilled craftsmanship to handicrafts, among other things.

Vocational education has become quite popular in developing countries because of its affordability and expedited completion. This approach also focuses on teaching workplace skills, so the education provided, therefore, gives a more immediate monetary return. The financial incentive is furthered by the fact that vocational education is usually of a shorter duration than formal education.

The market for skilled labor is made lucrative by offshore manufacturing industries in developing countries. The market for handicraft products from Asian and Latin American countries is also becoming popular in the West, opening up job avenues for skilled artisans.

The vast potential of vocational, skill-based training has become an exceedingly prevalent tool in the rehabilitation of refugees as well. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has initiated many programs for vocational education in conflict areas, such as Palestine, Yemen and Myanmar, as well as in countries hosting large numbers of refugee populations.

As in many other aspects of life, vocational education is also plagued with gender inequality. A multitude of UNHCR vocational programs are aimed at women to teach them marketable, employable skills to ensure their self-reliance. However, these goals are hindered by the social stigma surrounding female education and employment.

In many regions, the widely accepted notion is that vocational education equates to hard, manual labor and should, therefore, be reserved for men. In an analysis of Yemeni vocational education, early marriage was identified as one of the main reasons for the low enrollment rate for women. Another common denominator is the traditional attitude that men are supposed to be the “breadwinners” of the household, which leads to the exclusion of women from any job training. Moreover, the training curricula for certain fields exclude women in their specificity as well.

The issues plaguing vocational education are in many ways similar to those facing female education in general. However, the former has a direct immediate financial motivation for women that is potentially more prone to be heeded by society. In an attempt to use this to the advantage of women, the World Bank is focusing on decentralizing training centers. By establishing smaller, more community-focused education centers, the needs of the labor market in the particular region can be better realized, which in turn supplies a higher likelihood of employment and income for the women.

The incentive for increased household income also needs to be supplemented with pacifying the stigma against female employment. The UNHCR has initiated programs in India specifically aimed at women that combine computer and language training with more socially acceptable trades for women, such as handicrafts. The program also focuses on setting up home production centers for the women so that they may work there as opposed to traditional workplaces. These attempts have the objective of empowering women while accommodating social norms as well.

The problems that women face in acquiring a vocational education stem from the traditions of a male-dominated society. The objective of female empowerment continues to be compromised by gender inequality. With the current economic state of the world coupled with the refugee crisis in many developing nations, the gender gap for technical training and employment for women needs to be bridged now more than ever.

Atifah Safi

Sources: ILO, UNHCR, IADB, World Bank
Photo: The Conversation

Popularity of Private Schools Growing in Developing World
Many see education as a path out of poverty, and it definitely can be. But for this idea to be true, real quality education must be administered for children to have any hope of crawling out of destitution. Quality education can sometimes be a rarity in the developing world, but a new trend is changing that.

That trend is private schools. Private schools are quickly rising in popularity in the developing world. In fact, private schools enroll more students in developing countries than they do in richer areas of the globe. About 20 to 25 percent of students in developing countries attend private schools. This number is most likely higher due to the number of unregistered schools. A study conducted in the Nigerian city of Lagos found that there were four times as many private schools as previously thought – around 18,000.

The Nairobi slum of Mathare has 120 private schools but only four public schools. That’s right, four public schools for 500,000 children. This rush of private schools across South Asia, the Middle East and Africa have been caused by the inability of governments in countries like Kenya and Nigeria to provide basic, decent education. Parents are increasingly looking for alternatives to shockingly low standards of quality seen in many public schools in developing countries.

An example of the lack of quality education can be found in some Asian countries, where half of children who have completed four years of school cannot read to the minimum standard expected. The same issue is present in Africa, where the percentage is a third.

Based on parents wanting a solution where their children learn something has sprouted the trend of small, low-cost private schools started by entrepreneurs targeting the poorest families. The tuition bill for schools in Lagos can range anywhere from 7,000 naira (or $35), to as low as 3,000 naira per term.

There are a few benefits to private schools in the developing world. First is performance – students who enroll in private schools often perform better in subjects like English and math than their public-school counterparts. This success translates to a better value for their money, achieved for a third of the cost of public schools.

Besides better value for money, private schools are innovative. More access to technology might pose useful in the classroom, a welcome change from many public schools that are so severely under-resourced. More technology-based education will also prove necessary as the jobs climate moves from farming to more skills-based work in developing countries.

Finally, private schools also bring investment to their countries. Lots of schools are single entities that only charge a couple of dollars a month, but chains are beginning to form. Bridge International Academies has built 400 schools in Kenya and Uganda with plans to expand to Nigeria and India. Some of its backers? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the International Finance Corporation.

Private schools in the developing world are a promising second option for children who do not receive sufficient education in public schools. With cheap schools comes more potential opportunities for better-educated children who can then go on to change the world.

Greg Baker

Sources: The Economist 1, The Economist 2, Marginal Revolution, Education World
Photo: The Guardian

Historically, Brazil’s educational system has been lacking. Primary education was mandatory but extremely ineffective. Even tertiary education was offered with insufficient supplies and buildings. While Brazil is still behind many nations in its scope of educational initiatives, progress has been made especially in regards to Brazil’s primary education.

UNESCO’s 2015 data reports that among 15-24 year olds, 99% of females and 98% of males are literate, as compared to only 82% in 1980. The general population’s literacy rates are also improving as 72% of the total population aged 65 and older are literate whereas only 42% were literate in 1980.

Education in Brazil is compulsory between the ages of 4-14 with attendance and completion rates improving. Primary school completion is well over 100 percent – a number possible because of the inclusion of older students returning to school or the students who may have repeated a grade – which exceeds most developed countries.

This shows improvement because people who were previously uneducated are now going to school. However, it also shows that there has been a serious educational gap for Brazil to overcome. Smaller classrooms are also the average as the teacher/student ratio is currently around 20:1.

While those numbers are amazing, much work can still be done. When comparing Brazil’s literacy and math skills to other countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “ranked Brazil 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania” (HuffingtonPost).

One of their higher education institutions, the University of Sao Paulo, also falls far behind being ranked on a global university scale at 178 out of 200 institutions. This could pose a future problem for Brazil as their economy is becoming more vibrant; they will not have adequate educated workers coming through their educational system.

Another problem that can skew the astounding numbers presented is the disparity between those students in wealthier parts of the country and those students living in extreme poverty. The educational system is not maintained by the nation as a whole; each individual municipality is responsible for the maintenance of their schools. Much like what is seen in the United State’s educational districts, the schools maintained in wealthier municipalities are given more money while the poorer ones lack the same resources.

Children in poorer parts of the country are also subject to absenteeism due to malnutrition, child labor and high examination failure. So although education is free and compulsory, many children are still falling through the cracks especially those in poverty.

The UN has addressed this very issue as countries are progressing towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #2, Achieve Universal Primary Education.

In a UN article, a press report by Mr. Lake says, “In setting broad global goals the MDGs inadvertently encouraged nations to measure progress through national averages. In the rush to make that progress, many focused on the easiest-to reach children and communities, not those in greatest need. In doing so, national progress may actually have been slowed.”

This appears to be the case in Brazil. Many children are in school and the benefits are being seen through national literacy rates. But many children are still left behind and not in school like they ought to be.

Hopefully, the media attention surrounding Brazil’s sporting events over the next few years will help draw out this disparity and some permanent changes can be made for those children still not receiving an adequate education. Even with so much still to do though, the quality of education in Brazil is improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Brazil, Huffington Post, The Global Economy, UN 1, UN 2, UNESCO
Photo: The Rio Times

More Aid Needed to Support Universities in Developing Countries
From 2002 to 2013, approximately one point six trillion dollars was spent on foreign aid by the world’s richest countries. Only two point seven percent of that total was spent to support higher education, such as universities in developing countries.

The second Millennium Development Goal was prioritized to reach free universal primary education because studies showed that primary education increased the level of social capital. However, tertiary education builds human capital and contributes to economic development.

The World Bank and IMF’s structural adjustment policies helped expand the challenges to increase access to tertiary education by pressuring developing countries to decrease their investments in education to reduce public spending. In return, universities lack the resources necessary to address the rising number of students.

Many private institutions find markets in developing countries, and many are creating more problems. In Ghana, 43 private institutions are banned because they did not meet the requirements of the National Accreditation Board to operate.

Private institutions admit students who fail to achieve university-level grades, their admission standards are relaxed to turn tertiary education into a business, and over 1,000 students have been withdrawn due to the university procedures.

In order to create a successful tertiary education structure, it must be aligned with primary and secondary education structures. By aligning these programs, students are more prepared to transfer their skills to universities in developing countries. Also, an effective tertiary education program provides trained teachers for primary and secondary schools.

Sustainable Development Goal targets for education include increasing access to tertiary education. Many donors are already preparing to make higher education a larger part of their aid programs. The UK Department for International Development is expected to make its biggest push ever for higher education funds in 2016.

In June 2015, USAID launched a statement for their Higher Education for Development Partnership Program that will make investments for tertiary education in developing countries a bigger priority moving forward. Higher education increases national output and helps meet the demand for skilled workers.

USAID goals include increasing access to higher education, improving its quality and research, and improving the relevance of development programs for the workforce in developing countries. Global partnerships will be the key to increasing the quality of education for students and to meet the growing demands for more universities in developing countries.

Donald Gering

Sources: The Conversation, UN, University World News, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post

In 2015, enrollment for higher education in Ethiopia reached only 8%, compared to the 32% global average enrollment rate. While enrollment numbers fall short, Ethiopia’s education system has improved since the end of their civil war in 1991.

Recovering from the damages of civil war is a difficult task and Ethiopia has been successfully making education a top priority. In 1990, 7.5% of government expenditure went to education and in 2009, 23.6% of government expenditure started going to education.

Most of the challenges for the infrastructure of higher education in Ethiopia are due to funding cuts and lecturers being committed to political parties. Anonymous workers at many universities say the schools require students to join the party and that spies report what is being said in the classrooms.

Over the next two years, Ethiopia plans to expand the number of universities to 42, an increase of 40 universities since 2000. The University of Jimma, which opened in 2013, has become one of the top research schools in Africa for materials science and engineering. Materials science and engineering is seen as the one of the most important fields for development and alleviating poverty in Ethiopia.

For primary education, the World Bank helped provide more than 78 million textbooks to students and improved conditions for teaching and learning in 40,000 schools through the General Education Quality Improvement Project. Teachers are becoming more qualified and many more are earning a three-year level diploma level.

Enrollment in primary education rose 500% from 1994 to 2009 with 15.5 million students in school. Today, 67.9% of school-aged children are attending primary school, a dramatic increase since the end of the civil war. Their progress in education exceeds the numbers of other war-stricken countries, such as Liberia, where only 40.6% of children are enrolled in primary school.

USAID is impacting the lives of 15 million children in primary school by improving their reading levels. In 2010, reading performances were low, and one-third of second grade students were non-readers. With the help of USAID, Ethiopia is experiencing an increase in reading and writing skills and more involvement from parents.

As primary and secondary education in Ethiopia strengthens, it is hopeful students will enroll in higher education and take part in PhD programs, which few Ethiopians have a chance to achieve. University of Jimma’s engineering department graduated their first 18 PhD students without any funding from the government.

The university staff volunteered their time to help students with the opportunity of gaining a high degree that will help propel those living in poverty and improve development in Ethiopia.

“You only need a couple of weeks in Ethiopia to realize that materials science is a priority,” says Pablo Corrochano, associate professor at Jimma. “Even in the capital you’ll experience cuts in power and water; in rural areas it’s even worse.”

Donald Gering

Sources: The Guardian, ODI, Social Progress Imperative, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Pathfinder