Information and stories on education.

Total Literacy in KeralaLiteracy has always been an important measure of development and a huge means to further progress through an educated population. People usually define literacy as the ability to read, write and comprehend information. This is important in even basic infrastructure improvements for a community, such as implementing road signs in order to lower road injuries and deaths. Literacy in India is improving rapidly. The most recent measure of literacy in India took place during the 2011 census. India’s 2011 literacy rate was 74.04 percent, an immense increase from the previous census, where the literacy rate was only 12 percent. But even more impressive, Kerala has the highest literacy rate of all the states and even has the label of a total literacy state. In fact, the total literacy in Kerala is 93.91 percent.

History of Kerala

Kerala is a fairly small state and largely rural, rather than being a center of commerce. Additionally, it does not have a high level of industrial development. However, Kerala rises above other states regarding development indicators like literacy, health outcomes and life expectancy. It is crucial to analyze and understand Kerala’s success so that the literacy rates can improve in other regions.

Kerala’s history as a region plays a role in its literacy success. Starting in the 19th century, royalty called for the state to cover education costs. While still a colony, Kerala implemented social reform in the early 20th century that allowed access to education for lower castes and women. Post-independence, socialist or left of center governments overarchingly controlled the state government and they made equity and social goals a huge priority.

Literacy Programs in Kerala

However, aside from these factors, one of the biggest contributors to Kerala’s total literacy is its literacy program, Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority. This is an institution that works under the state government and received funding from it, but operates autonomously. The values of this organization are clearly framed in its slogan, “Education for all and education forever.”

The program works on many levels, including basic literacy programs and equivalency programs. The basic literacy programs include a push to take Kerala to a full 100 percent literacy rate. These programs focus on regions and peoples who tend to have lower literacy rates, including urban slum, coastal and tribal populations. District-specific programs target localized issues, needs and a total literacy program for jail inmates. The equivalency program provides the opportunity for adults who did not go through all levels of primary and secondary school to take classes and tests which will bring them up to fourth, seventh, 10th, 11th, or 12th-grade literacy standards. The program also offers certifications and is constantly adding smaller, new programs in social literacy as different areas require attention.

The Goal

The goals of this program center around developing literacy skills through continuing education and offering opportunities for all who have an interest in learning. This ensures secondary education, providing the skills necessary for those learning to read and write to apply these new abilities in their daily lives and to conduct research on non-formal education. The organization and practices of the Keralite government in terms of improving literacy in their state are undoubtedly successful.

In the development field, it is easy for one to become bogged down in the failures. The total literacy in Kerala is a success story that should receive attention. This is the value of investing in development projects. There are concrete gains when development receives careful formulation and funding with the population in mind. There is much that one can learn from the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority and apply to achieve total literacy around the world.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Education in Rural UzbekistanAfter gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Uzbekistan gradually lifted itself off the ground, despite malnutrition problems, a lack of government transparency and high unemployment rates. Since then, advancements have been made to improve opportunities for education in rural Uzbekistan.

Education in Rural Uzbekistan

Children living in rural areas are at a geographic disadvantage compared to those who live in cities. Issues affecting children living in impoverished, rural areas include a lack of access to basic education and healthcare services.

Approximately 46 percent of children living in urban areas are enrolled in school, but in rural areas, this number drops to 23 percent. The population of children aged 0-3 living in rural Kashkadarya, for example, grew by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016, yet rates of enrollment have not kept up with a growing rural population.

Making a Difference

Ameliorating the effects of child labor and the lack of access to primary education coupled with the establishment of protections over children’s rights have set the foundation upon which Uzbekistan has begun to build its nation. Programs such as the Rural Basic Education Project have been allocating funding to improve learning conditions in the rural areas of Tashkent, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. The goal is to increase opportunities for higher education for children living in rural Uzbekistan.

Child Labor Issues

A major, longstanding issue Uzbekistan faces is the state-controlled labor system that supports massive amounts of cotton exports. This hinders education in rural Uzbekistan from making lasting and important impacts on children.

Government-mandated labor quotas that previously included children forced out of school are becoming lenient and age-restricted. As a result, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of children working in fields. This has led to an increase in funding and the number of schools, increasing education access for rural children. In rural areas, more children are continuing their education, rather than being forced into state-mandated labor. As a result, more adults, specifically women, have greater job opportunities than they otherwise would.

Increased educational opportunities lead to greater attention to human rights laws and how they impact children living in poverty. The availability of a more open education system has also improved gender equality.

For the first time, 56,000 children are enrolled in partial-day preschool programs because of the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project administered by the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and regulated by the World Bank. Developing the education system, specifically in rural areas, has led to greater economic success and improved livelihoods.

The Future for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan still faces pressing issues, including forced labor and violations of human rights. However, by investing in its children, the country has become characterized by progress and improved quality of life. The children living in poverty are the future of Uzbekistan. Through a focus on providing education for children in rural Uzbekistan, the nation is helping them grow and flourish.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education for Tea Pickers' Children in Sri Lanka 
Tea is the number one export of Sri Lanka, accounting for around $1.67 billion in revenue. This business creates jobs for about 5 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Tea picking includes the whole family, who often live in housing just off the plantation. As a result, access to education for the tea pickers’ children can be difficult or non-existent.

Sending kids to local schools is also not an option since most families either do not have a method of transportation, or their children are already working in the fields by the age of 13. Despite the fact that tea pickers are the skeleton of the economy, the majority of these tea workers are overworked and underpaid, meaning children often grow up in this same cycle of oppression. Two companies are trying to change this: Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe. Both are successfully paving the way for a better future by providing tea pickers’ children access to education.

Why Does Education Matter?

Education changes the lives of the people in these tea picking communities. Education can target domestic violence, hopelessness and poverty through learning skills such as professionalism and proficiency in English. By encouraging young people to be role models in their community and instilling a sense of hope and confidence in them, they are able to break out of the tea business and choose their own paths. Families in these communities view education for their children as a means to escape poverty. Without education, many children often commit suicide or self-harm. Suicide rates on plantations are the fourth highest in the world.

Tea Leaf Trust

Started in 2007, Tea Leaf Trust is a company that strives to create a way out for children living in tea picking communities. Alcoholism, malnutrition and disease/lack of sanitation surround many of these communities. Families of six to eight members must live in barrack-type homes which often have no windows and no means of ventilation. The conditions these families are living in hinders their ability to learn in school settings. The main way Tea Leaf Trust is improving conditions is by giving tea pickers’ children access to education, providing a future for both them and their families.

Tea Leaf Trust raised money to start a school to give tea pickers’ children access to education. This school, called Tea Leaf Vision, offers advanced diplomas for people who train and learn to become teachers and two-thirds go on to a university to earn their degrees or get a job off the plantation. Those enrolled in the advanced diploma allocate time to teach the English Community Programme at primary schools on the tea plantations as a part of their own schooling.

Schools in these communities are open once a week at 24 locations. Between 1,600 and 1,900 children attend these schools. These schools offer classes such as Business Studies, English Grammar and Emotional Health. Their focus is twofold: instilling a sense of value and purpose in youth through education and providing community service. Tea Leaf Trust also have plans to open a vocational center in the coming years. This will allow the students to not only learn within their community but also gain skills to move forward in their lives.

Kindernothilfe

Kindernothilfe, German for “supporting children in need,” is a company founded in Germany in 1959. Through its partnership with local NGOs, it has implemented 609 projects in 32 countries. In Sri Lanka, its focus is mainly on women and children, both of whom are often victims of violence and abuse.

Kindernothilfe wants to provide tea pickers’ children access to education. This program, founded in 2005, started its partnership with the Eksath Lanka Welfare Foundation. It now has around 80 children and 60 women enrolled in its program. This includes two children’s clubs where children grow their personal skills. The program also provides funding to children who have previously dropped out of school, allowing them to continue their education for free.

Kindernothilfe also offers an empowerment class to women in these communities. This is where they can discuss their situations, talk through how to manage their household and understand and counsel their children on domestic violence and children’s rights.

Uniformity and Equality of Education

There is a great need for quality education in Sri Lanka and not just in tea picking communities. The education sector is lacking in providing quality criteria and curriculums. Schools on plantations (if they exist at all) lack the most basic equipment and have teachers who are undereducated themselves. A reduction in poverty can be a result of proper education. Poverty is only 18 percent for those with an education, rising to 46 percent for households without an education.

Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe are just two examples of foundations that have stepped in to fill the gaps. They want to assist in providing educational assistance for those who lack it and change the lives of Sri Lankan tea picker’s children.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

The Evolution of Brain Drain in Developing Countries  The impact of establishing systems of education on the economies of developing countries and the well-being of its citizens are without question; education allows for higher-paying, skilled jobs to enter the market, it promotes gender equality among children and it has positive effects on the health of those children who go to school. A phenomenon that has stemmed from an increasingly globalized world is brain drain, which is the migration of educated and qualified people to countries with job opportunities better suited to their skill level, higher standards of living and higher rates of technological progress. Here is some information about brain drain in developing countries.

Brain Drain in Developing Countries

Brain drain in developing countries is a proven difficult hurdle for governments to overcome, and the effects of globalization have redefined what brain drain entails for countries such as India and Pakistan. The issue with this movement of intellect and skills lies in the fact that oftentimes, foreign-born workers and students in developed countries rarely return to their countries of origin, and they do not put the knowledge they obtain back into developing economies and development programs.

Why Does Brain Drain Happen?

One of the major causes of the phenomenon is the greater rates of technological advancement in developed countries compared to those in the developing world. Many developing countries have established education programs and continue to do so, but funding for research opportunities and investments in the scientific sector is lacking. For example, in 2000 there were 836,780 immigrants from India to the United States, with 668,055 of them having received tertiary education. These people tend to stay and work in the countries they migrated to. Brain drain does not only affect jobs in technical fields. Ten percent of teachers and people in academia are foreign-born, with 6 percent of them from developing countries.

Brain drain in developing countries produces more immigrants to countries such as the United States, and the theory suggests that the knowledge they obtain in a foreign country remains there and fails to make its way back to their country of origin.

As economies and education become more dependent on technological advancement, the circulation of foreign-born workers becomes increasingly important to globalization. An inverse effect of globalization as the world becomes increasingly aware of other countries’ international influence is the expansion of technological and scientific programs at a much faster rate in developed countries. One can see this in those nations with existing programs, funding and infrastructure to support technological advancements as opposed to those that do not.

The Future of Brain Drain

At the heart of the discussion of brain drain lies a necessity for a better understanding of how globalization affects perceptions of brain drain and its implications for education and employment in developing countries. Despite the negative effects of brain drain in developing countries, good things come from it too. An increase in attention from governments to education, incentives for developing countries to invest in the development of skilled jobs and globalization brings greater mobility and intellectual circulation that enhances the knowledge of the general population. The circulation of knowledge allows for an exchange of intellect between countries, improving relations and promoting understanding of different cultures. Brain linkage creates an opportunity for increased technological advancement when foreign-born workers interact with their home countries, furthering transnational connections. The understanding of brain drain in developing countries has shifted to allow for more positive mindsets surrounding brain circulation to allow for poor countries to experience the benefits of globalization.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

8 Facts About Education in the Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands, born out of colonization and slavery, consists of many different cultures today. This cultural diversity represents the torn history that the Virgin Islands experienced centuries ago with the arrival of European explorers such as Christopher Columbus. The peoples of the U.S. Virgin Islands reflect the many cultures of the West African, Danish, Spanish, Irish and German people. Here are 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands.

8 Facts About Education in The Virgin Islands

  1. The Virgin Islands education system provides public and private education to all residents from preschool to college. The U.S. Virgin Islands Public University has over 43 degree programs for students to excel in. Additionally, the education system focuses on preparing citizens for employment.
  2. The territory spends 7.5 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP) on education. The Virgin Islands care strongly about supplying their citizens with the education necessary to make an impact on the world.
  3. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States. Because of this, it receives federal entitlements as well as beneficial educational programs, including Head Start, nutrition programs and Upward Bound.
  4. The program Upward Bound provides fundamental support for students to succeed in high school and prepare for college. This program serves lower-income and first-generation students, whose families may have a difficult time helping them prepare for college, as they never attended and/or completed college themselves.
  5. A project known as From Farm to School communicates with local farmers to bring students in public schools locally grown, fresh produce. From Farm to School has supported school gardens to enrich students’ learning and promote healthy eating habits. At this time, From Farm to School has constructed school gardens in 50 percent of public schools across the Virgin Islands.
  6. The Virgin Islands must comply with the education law which states equal learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. A court case in 2007 – Nadine Jones v. the Government of the Virgin Islands – changed the way the Department of Education operated forever. Nadine Jones, a student with a disability was not receiving free and required services to aid in her learning. As a result of this case, the Department of Education was required to conform more closely to the educational law of the U.S. They have to provide free public schools to all students and be inclusive to students like Nadine Jones.
  7. Schools in the Virgin Islands such as Charlotte Amalie High School are still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes from over a year and a half ago. Students and teachers are still struggling after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged their school facilities. Consequently, this makes daily school life difficult to thrive in. Students are often forced to eat in crowded hallways due to overpopulated schools and destroyed cafeterias.
  8. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided over $1.4 billion for reparations after the two hurricanes struck. Approximately $874 million went to emergy work, including debris removal, while the rest is designated for combating the damage to the education system. FEMA’s support has allowed for the reconstruction of many school facilities that were destroyed by storms.

These 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands help illuminate the successes of education initiatives as well as some recent struggles caused by natural disasters.  The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory that cares deeply about its education system, however, and strong efforts in the aftermath of the hurricanes are helping get students back on track to a high-quality education.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Randomized Control Testing
“It can often seem like the problems of global poverty are intractable, but over the course of my lifetime and career, the fraction of the world’s people living in poverty has dropped dramatically.” – Dr. Michael Kremer

In October 2019, Michael Kremer of Harvard and Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee of MIT won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their extensive, randomized control testing-based research in tackling global poverty. At 46 years old, Duflo is the youngest economics laureate ever and only the second woman to receive the prize over its 50-year history.

Incorporating Scientific Studies

The trio set out to establish a more scientific approach to studying the effects of investment projects in the developing world. One of the ways they discovered that they could accomplish this is through randomized control testing. Commonly used in the medical field and made legitimate in the social sciences by the trio, this type of testing involves randomly selecting communities as beneficiaries of experimental projects. Randomly selecting the beneficiaries removes selection bias, providing more accurate and legitimate results.

Randomized Control Testing in India and Kenya

Duflo and Banerjee used randomized control testing experiments in schools in India in an effort to improve the quality of education. The authors discovered that simply getting students to school was not sufficient in improving test scores. Previous research also noted that additional resources, even additional teachers, had minimal impact on students’ performance.

The laureates discovered instead that providing support for an interventionist to work with students behind on their educational skills and making computer-assisted learning available so that all students could have additional math practice improved their scores. In the first year, the average test scores increased by 0.14 standard deviations and in the second year, they increased by 0.28 standard deviations. In the second year, the children initially in the bottom third improved by over 0.4 standard deviations. Those sent for remedial education with the interventionist saw 0.6 standard deviations increase and the computer-assisted learning improved math scores by 0.35 standard deviations in the first year and 0.47 in the second year for all students equally. These results provide clear and definite numbers on the success of the program and show that those who experienced the most benefits were the students in the greatest need of assistance.

Kremer completed a similar study in Kenya. Again, the research found that additional resources did little to improve the learning abilities of the weaker students and that much of the school policies and practices were helpful to the advancement of the already high achieving students. Another of Kremer’s studies in Kenya further showed the impact small interventions can have on student retention. His research found that by bringing deworming medication directly into the classroom, school absenteeism rates decreased by 25 percent, leading to higher secondary school attendance, higher wages and a higher standard of living.

Impact vs. Performance Evaluations

The key to Kremer, Duflo and Banerjee’s success was not the result of pumping out positive statistics. Their success, and reason for winning the Nobel Prize, came from the rigorous scientific approach they took with their studies by using randomized control testing that led to not only positive results but also to meaningful impact where they were working and beyond. For instance, after the success in Kenya with the deworming, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) agreed to finance Kenyan scientists to travel to India to help expand the program. Soon, 150 million children were receiving treatments of deworming medication each year.

This example shows the lasting impact of the work of the laureates. When the fields of economics and politics use more rigorous and randomized studies, it becomes clearer what programs work and which do not, creating greater efficiency and enabling successful projects to expand. The work of the three professors has already led to the leaders of USAID to question the utility of performance evaluations over impact evaluations. In other words, the agency has started to see a shift from success defined as the generated output of the programs to success as the net gain or impact as a direct result of the programs.

Altogether, the work of Kremer, Duflo and Banerjee has raised the bar for economic and social research in the future. Their work has set new expectations that will force researchers to create more detailed and accurate studies that will continue to guide policy.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Income Inequality in South Korea
As South Korean film “Parasite” celebrates an Oscar win, the conversation about income inequality in the nation is appearing in public discourse again. The film’s portrayal of the income gap between South Korea’s poor and rich portrayed a bleak picture. Income inequality in South Korea is most apparent in the nation’s education system and affordable housing. South Korea recently elected President Moon Jae-in in 2017, whose platform promised to reduce the income gap in South Korea. As a result, citizens are more conscious about income inequality than they have ever been. What is the reality of income inequality in South Korea? What are some of the solutions experts suggest will alleviate this issue?

The Economy

The society and economy in South Korea function on a winner-takes-all mentality. Some studies indicate that South Korea has one of the fastest-growing income gaps. The nation’s P90/P10 ratio, which compares the income of those in the top 10 percent to the income of the remaining 90 percent, indicates an interesting trend. While the overall P90/P10 ratio shows that income inequality in South Korea has improved since 2011, the curve rose between 2015 and 2017. Further, in 2017 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked South Korea 32nd based on the P90/P10 ratio.

The Education System

One can see an aspect of income inequality in South Korea in its education system. According to the OECD, nearly 70 percent of South Koreans, aged 25 to 34, completed some form of tertiary education. Comparatively, the United States’ tertiary education attainment rate of 49.4 percent makes it clear that South Korean culture puts a tremendous emphasis on college education. Ironically, this demand for higher education has significantly lessened the value of the degree. This decline of value in college degrees has resulted in students competing aggressively to gain acceptance to the three most prestigious universities in Seoul.

Subsequently, to assure children’s competence in the ever more competitive academic scene, many parents send students to “Hagwon,” or private after-school education institutions. In 2017, for example, reports suggested that 83 percent of 5-year-olds in South Korea were studying in these private institutions.

In addition, estimates determine that South Korean parents spend over $15 billion on private education annually. In only a single year, from 2016 to 2017, South Korean spending on private education rose 5.9 percent. Education in South Korea is becoming more burdensome for Korean parents who are not as financially well-off because, in the case of illegal private tutoring, one institution charged up to $8,000.

The Housing Market

Individuals who live in semi-basement homes also reflect income inequality in South Korea. As of 2015, over 360,000 households have a semi-basement floor-plan. The conditions in these semi-basement homes include lack of sunlight, the prevalence of critters and moldy smell due to homes’ high humidity. As a result, these residences became the stock image of housing for the poor. In Seoul, the country’s capital, the rising housing costs in South Korea are impacting these semi-basement homes.

According to the Korea Appraisal Board, the average apartment price in Seoul surpassed 500 million won (about $413,541), meaning that buyers need at least 300 million won (about $248,125) in order to even consider a purchase. This seemingly continuing rise in housing prices is making it harder for the average person to maintain responsibility for an apartment.

The Government’s Reaction

The government’s response to income inequality in South Korea takes the form of restructured tax policies. Since the 2017 election of President Moon Jae-in, the Korean government is working to expand the country’s elderly welfare and unemployment benefits. In this pursuit, the current administration imposed stiff tax hikes in 2017 which targeted leading corporate conglomerates, investors and high-income individuals. Estimates determine that this newly imposed tax plan will raise approximately $3.14 billion to support welfare programs. Many Koreans hope that this newly gained revenue will improve the circumstances for the ever-aging population of South Korea. In addition to increasing taxes for high-income South Koreans, the current administration has also increased the minimum wage.

However, there are concerns over how effective these new policies might be. For example, some reports suggest that the administration’s increase in minimum wage throughout the country might backfire. In response to the rising minimum wage, many small and medium-sized businesses simply cut back the hours that workers can to work.

Income inequality in South Korea is a complicated issue. The portrayal of families living in semi-basement homes paints a dismal picture of the middle to lower class. The ever-rising housing and education costs limit the accessibility of these resources for many South Koreans. The government’s effort to close the income gap in South Korea does not seem to be entirely effective either. However, it is significant that the South Korean government is taking active measures against income inequality. While there are plenty of issues to tackle, many South Korean citizens hope that the current administration’s efforts will result in a future with more equal opportunities and financial success.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Sitting on the eastern African coast, Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Though Comoros is experiencing steady economic growth, government debt could cause a decline in the growth rate as time goes on. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Comoros

  1. Poverty: One household-conducted survey from 2014 found that approximately 18 percent of Comoros’ population lives below the international poverty line. The government is continuously funding infrastructure projects with non-concessional loans aimed to improve the island’s living conditions.
  2. Unemployment: Rates of unemployment in Comoros currently rest at 14.3 percent. With about 38.4 percent of people working in agricultural zones, employment is one of the country’s top priorities. 
  3. Education System: One aspect of living conditions in Comoros is that students are required to attend Quranic schools for two to three years from the age of 5. Then, students will advance to primary and secondary school, which is modeled on the French system. Subsequently, students receive six years of primary education and seven years of secondary education. Comoros does not have any post-secondary education in place, like universities, therefore students will either pursue higher education abroad or partake in business, teaching, or agricultural training.
  4. Political Unrest: Much of the living conditions in Comoros, specifically the education system, are negatively affected by political unrest and instability. This often results in teacher and student strikes across the island, which has affected student performance and completion rates. In 2004, education indicators showed that while 85 percent of children were enrolled in primary education and only 35 percent continued to enroll through secondary school.
  5. Life Expectancy: Comoros has a life expectancy of nearly 64 years, a significant improvement from 41 years in 1960. The country currently spends approximately $57 per capita on health care which falls below the average of sub-Saharan Africa ($98) but is significantly higher than that for lower-income countries overall ($37). According to the World Bank, public financing for health makes up 8.7 percent of total government spending.
  6. Clean Water Access: Over 90 percent of Comoros’ population has readily accessible potable drinking water. Clean water supply and access have been improving tremendously because of programs like UNICEF, which has received funding of almost $1.3 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid’s office. This funding supports endeavors such as cleaning and protecting roughly 1,500 reservoirs across the nation.
  7. Human Development: In 2016, Comoros ranked 158 out of 188 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. This low number indicates a dire need for focusing on initiatives that combat hunger and malnutrition. Further, a report by the World Bank found that nearly 30 percent of children face chronic malnutrition and stunted growth.
  8. Malaria: The government has developed a goal to fight malaria, where the aim is to reach zero cases on the island. A surge of malaria cases has hit Comoros over the past two years, primarily due to the weak health system. In 2018, nearly 16,000 indigenous malaria cases were reported.
  9. Child Labor: In an effort to improve living conditions in Comoros, the government has recently launched an initiative to reduce child labor rates. Children often perform domestic and agricultural work in order to provide support to the family. Often, these children are sent to wealthier families if the parent is unable to properly care for the child. It has been found that 20.8 percent of children between the ages of seven and fourteen work while in school.
  10. Working Women: Over a third of women in Comoros are in the labor force, providing financial support for a majority of the home bills and school fees for the family. There are strong matrilineal traditions present across the island. Women represent approximately 20 percent of key positions in the government, like the minister of telecommunications and labor minister.

As one of the world’s poorest countries, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros are essential in understanding the importance of economic growth and reduction of poverty on the island.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is a small country located in southeastern Europe neighboring Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. The country has endured many socioeconomic hardships since the fall of communism in 1991 but is now on the rise from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a middle-income country. As in most countries, education is an integral part of social, cultural and economic development. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Albania.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Albania

  1. Most girls attend primary and secondary schools. Albania considers the first nine years of school mandatory, which it calls primary education, although most students complete three additional years of school which are part of secondary education. According to the World Bank, the female net enrollment ratio for girls of primary school age (ages 6-15) was 94 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 89 percent of females ages 15-18 enrolled in secondary schooling in 2018. However, these percentages of girls in the Albanian school system are still very good, as nearly the entire population of eligible girls attended some type of schooling.
  2. A little over half of the population of young adult women attend tertiary schools. Tertiary schooling is typically at universities and students aged 18 and older can study to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or a Ph.D. The gross enrollment rate in 2018 was 68 percent for women in tertiary education, up from 39 percent in 2009. Even though the gross enrollment rate in 2018 for tertiary schooling is not as high as the net enrollment rates for additional schooling, these numbers show that girls’ education in Albania is rising.
  3. There are more girls receiving an education than boys. In the same study that the World Bank conducted, only 90 percent of boys of primary school age enrolled in school, compared to 94 percent of females in 2013. As for secondary schools, the male net enrollment rate stood at 84 percent compared to 89 percent for females in 2018. Thankfully, boys’ education and girls’ education in Albania have a very small gap between them. However, since 2009, there has been a significant gap between the gross enrollment rates in tertiary schools by gender. The most recent data has the male enrollment rate in tertiary education at 43 percent, a 25 percent difference between genders.
  4. Unemployment for women could impact tertiary education enrollment. Women’s participation in the labor force has dropped drastically from 78 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2005, likely due to the collapse of communism and social upheaval in 1991. This number did not reach 50 percent until 2013 and has been gradually rising since then. For decades, Albania has held onto strong patriarchal values that place women outside of the labor market. Because of these values, “women of reproductive age are discriminated against in the market because they may start a family, and thus have fewer opportunities for retraining and qualification.” If women experience exclusion from employment and have to operate in the domestic sphere, they may not see the value of an education, thereby contributing to lower rates of enrollment beyond compulsory schooling.
  5. Women earn less than men on average. In addition to hiring difficulties, women also earn 10.5 percent less than their male counterparts. The good news is that Albania has a lower gender wage gap than most of the European Union. The E.U.’s gender wage gap average was 16.2 percent in 2016. However, the gender wage gap could exist due to women’s lack of participation in the labor market, or vice versa. This could also be related to the rising net enrollment rate for girls’ education in Albania, specifically in tertiary schooling.
  6. Similarly, there is a low representation of Albanian women in decision making. In 2007, women occupied only 7 percent of seats in Albania’s parliament, with only nine women total in senior-level positions and 2 percent of local government leaders women. In 2017, the number of seats that women occupied in parliament rose to 21.4 percent. Having years of low representation of women in the Albanian government has allowed for the gender-based discrimination in education and employment to run rampant throughout the country. With fewer women involved in decision making, girls have fewer protections, making something as necessary as education difficult to obtain.
  7. There are low government expenditures on education. Unfortunately, Albania spent only 3.95 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education in 2016, according to UNESCO. A government undermines the value of an education when it invests so little in it.
  8. However, the Albanian government is helping girls in other ways. The Albanian government has spent this past decade focusing on undoing the decades of gender inequality through the law, specifically the Law on Reproductive Health, Measures on Domestic Violence and laws on Prevention and Elimination of Organized Crime and Trafficking Through Preemptive Measures on Personal Assets. In 2015, the Prime Minister of Albania publicly announced to the United Nations the national government’s commitment to gender equality. Following this, the national government adopted the Gender Equality and Action Plan 2016–2020 with the aim to consolidate efforts by all institutions to advance gender equality. The government used funds to benefit women’s enterprises and support services for survivors of domestic violence.
  9. Other organizations have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of women in Albania. The Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is an organization creating programs to empower adolescent girls and protect them from domestic violence and trafficking on the ground in rural communities in Albania. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Albanian national government and civil society to create programs to end gender-based discrimination, like the Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence Programme in 2015. UNICEF has partnered with Albania’s Ministry of Education to implement new systems to improve access to education for children throughout the country. In November 2019, the World Bank loaned Albania $10 million to improve women’s access to economic opportunity.
  10. Female education is on the rise in Albania. Female enrollment has been rising since 2009 by roughly 1 to 2 percent every year. The total net enrollment rate is at 96 percent, so, fortunately, the majority of Albania’s children have access to public education. Despite having a lower percentage of girls attending primary and secondary school, over half of the women aged 18-22 enrolled in tertiary education at 67.58 percent in 2018. The girls who enrolled in education continue on to undergraduate and graduate studies.

Albania is a country rich in history. Unfortunately, much of that history has allowed gender-based discrimination to take root, even affecting girls’ education in Albania. Because of its changing political and social climate, patriarchal beliefs and a lack of protection for women have allowed the country to leave them behind. The good news is that women are catching up. Albania has worked tirelessly this past decade to undo gender inequality through laws, civil society and partnerships with global organizations to provide women the resources they need to succeed, starting with a promise of an education.

– Emily Young
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in YemenYemen is currently undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. In recent years, the nation’s warring conflicts have badly affected girls’ education. The year 2020, however, is looking more optimistic for the nation’s future. Change is on the horizon with peace talks in session and a vote passing in congress to end military involvement in the war. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

  1. Girls’ education in Yemen is in dire need of support. Seventy-six percent of internally displaced persons in Yemen are women and children, many of whom lack basic medical care, economic opportunity and access to education. Yemen’s ongoing civil war has worsened pre-existing living conditions for girls and women in the country. Educational opportunities for girls are also at risk of disappearing from the continued conflict in the region.
  2. Conditional cash transfer programs have enabled poorer families to send their daughters to school. From 2004 to 2012, the Yemeni government collaborated with other organizations to give stipends to girl students in grades four to nine, under the conditions that they maintain a school attendance of 80 percent and receive passing grades. The result of the monetary aid showed a shift in the cultural norms of the recipient communities. Adults began to change their perspectives on girls’ education and allowed more girls and women to attend school. The program has helped enroll over 39,000 girl students into primary education.
  3. In 2007, The World Bank organization implemented a rural female teacher contracting program effectively training 550 new teachers, with 525 going on to receive certification. Providing girls with access to trained female teachers greatly increases the chances of classroom retention and enrollment in the rural regions of the state, according to World Bank education specialist Tomoni Miyajima.
  4. More than two-thirds of girls marry before they turn 18. Families cope with economic hardships by selling their daughters into marriage. Early marriage has crippled girls’ education in Yemen. Instead of pursuing studies, girls take on household roles and often become victims of abuse by their husbands.
  5. In 2018, a Yemeni teacher opened his private home to over 700 students as a primary school. In the war-torn city of Taiz, both boys and girls can attend classes that Adel al-Shorbagy teaches free of charge. Most schools in the city are private and cost up to 100,000 Yemeni riyals a year to attend.
  6. Many private elementary and secondary schools teach the Chinese language to Yemeni girl students. Private school teachers believe Chinese is the language of the future, with increasing technological, scientific and industrial development taking place in China. Yemeni teachers and students aspire to become part of China’s growing economy.
  7. In 2019, UNICEF started to pay more than 136,000 teachers who had not received salaries in over two years. The program offered the equivalent payment of $50 a month to school teachers and staff to help address the low attendance rates of students in the country.
  8. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has set target goals to improve conditions for girls’ education in Yemen in 2020. UNICEF plans to provide individual learning materials to one million children, create education access to 820,000 students and ensure 134,000 teachers receive incentives to continue to teach.
  9. Yemeni authorities are taking action to ensure that children have safe access to education by agreeing to the Safe Schools Declaration. The declaration is an international commitment that 84 countries adopted to protect students, teachers and universities from armed conflicts. Yemen’s endorsement of the declaration’s guidelines commits to a future where “every boy and girl has the right to an education without fear of violence or attack.”
  10. The Too Young To Wed organization helps to provide daily breakfasts to 525 girl students to keep them enrolled in school in Sana’a, Yemen. The meals help students remain in classrooms and avoid early child marriages. Providing nutrition to students keeps them from falling further into poverty, and prevents them from becoming at risk of their families selling them into marriage. The price of one breakfast per student is $0.48.

Yemeni girls have many obstacles to attaining quality education. However, the ending of a drawn-out war and continued aid and support from organizations across the world is bettering the situation. These are small and steady steps, helping to ensure that the nation’s girls will lead lives full of learning and progression. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen shed light on the issue of Yemen’s education system.

Henry Schrandt
Photo: Flickr