Information and stories on education.

poverty in MexicoIn 2018, it was estimated that 42% of the Mexican population lived in poverty. This figure indicates that about 52 million people in the entire nation lived in poverty. In 2015, Chiapas continued to be the poorest state and Oaxaca the second poorest, with poverty rates of 76.2% and 66.8% respectfully. An organization based in the state of Vermont called VAMOS! helps people struggling with poverty in Mexico.

Since its founding in 1987, VAMOS! has provided residents with education, food, health services and much more for free in the state of Morales. Recently, The Borgen Project was able to speak with Executive Director Sean Dougherty about the origins and successes of VAMOS! Sean got involved with the organization because his partners were part of the founding board. He says he enjoys being part of the organization because he loves hearing about the impact it has made on families.

Education

Only 62% of Mexican children reach high school and only 45% complete their high school careers. About 38% of men and 35% of women in Mexico are uneducated and unemployed. Overall, their education rates are lower than most other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

 VAMOS! helps those struggling with poverty in Mexico to alleviate this issue by providing access to quality education, especially in the areas of Early Childhood and Primary Education.

“Education is the single-most-important driver of economic empowerment for individuals and communities,” Dougherty said. “Educated parents are able to earn an income and feed their children. Children who complete primary education are more likely to achieve food security as adults and end the cycle of poverty in their generation.”

Nutrition

A recent UN study shows nearly 14% of Mexican children under five years of age experience stunted growth. This concept means that these children are slowed in their development, often as a result of malnutrition, according to Dougherty.

 VAMOS! helps people suffering from poverty in Mexico by providing food to many families every day.

“VAMOS! Nutrition Programs operate in each of our ten Community Centers and provide a necessary and important addition to the daily diet of the poor we serve,” Dougherty said.  VAMOS! serves over 140,000 meals a year, and hosts many clean water and vitamin programs that provide a measure of food security for affected families. The organization has also managed to erase malnutrition among families that regularly visit VAMOS! centers.

Community

“On a daily basis, in our 10 community centers throughout Cuernavaca, VAMOS! is trying to create a space of love, dignity and respect for anyone and everyone who walks through our doors,” Dougherty said. “We do this by greeting everyone, welcoming each child, listening to their mothers and making sure that every child knows that they are important and that they deserve a future filled with opportunities and love.”

VAMOS! aids those wrestling with poverty in Mexico by aiding, on average, 800-900 kids and over 400 mothers per week. Since its founding, the organization has served over 3 million meals. One thousand two hundred people visit its centers per day and the staff has grown to more than 250 members to accommodate for the large size.

Future Goals

According to Dougherty, VAMOS! hopes to expand its reach to further benefit people battling poverty in Mexico.

“In our most recent surveys, our students and mothers are asking for English classes, job training, small business development, certification in computer business skills and additional programming for teens,” Dougherty said. “These are the areas we will be concentrating on as we continue to expand our programs in the near future.”

Shreya Chari

Photo: Flickr

Music Programs in Developing CountriesPlaying For Change is an organization that works to connect people through music by bringing together musicians from around the world to promote peace and unity. In 2007 its founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke created the Playing for Change Foundation to increase music programs in developing countries and unite communities through music. Playing For Change empowers children around the world by giving them the opportunity to learn the universal language of music.

The Foundation offers classes for children at 15 schools located in 11 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina and Thailand. More than 2,000 children attend these classes each week. Through the Foundation’s outlet for creativity, they learn how to express themselves and build confidence and resilience.

Supporting Local Communities

When constructing a new school, the Foundation emphasizes using local materials and employing local labor. This empowers the community’s economy. It focuses on opening schools in developing areas, so this support can make a big difference for the local economy. Playing For Change unifies communities by providing aid to these developing areas including food, water, medicine, clothing, and computers. This community development has improved the lives of thousands of people while providing vital economic stimulus and spreading the Foundation’s message of unity.

 

The Foundation’s educational programs are led by community members, with teachers and administrative staff being hired locally. This ensures that each program has strong ties to its community and can more effectively teach and impact the students. These local ties are an important way that Playing For Change establishes music programs in developing countries. Working together towards the common goal of building a school and teaching children is something that a community can take pride in.

Stand By Me

In order to guarantee that music and dance classes are available to all children, the Playing For Change Foundation created the Stand By Me Scholarship Program in 2013. These scholarships are funded by donations and provide children with the opportunity to attend classes free of charge for a year. The classes enhance the self-esteem and collaborative abilities of their students, while also giving them strong connections to their local community. Also, enrolled students can connect with other youth and staff in schools around the world. The scholarship is essential because it ensures that children who come from underprivileged backgrounds have access to the classes’ benefits and the community that music creates.

Community Unification and Strengthening

Thousands of children around the world have gained valuable skills while learning to express themselves through the Foundation’s programs. Notably, many of these children are vulnerable to poverty and violence. Thus, these classes teach them how to address these issues while giving them creative skills they would otherwise not have the opportunity to develop. At its core, Playing For Change uses music programs in developing countries to uplift people with the power of music.

 

Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Flickr

Education in Haiti
Due to the history of French colonization in Haiti, the French language and its influence have permeated many aspects of life in the country. The French language is very present in education in Haiti as a language of prestige and affluence. As a result, French was the language of instruction in schools, despite only 5% of the population speaking it. The most widely spoken language in Haiti, however, is Haitian Creole.

Called Kreyòl by its speakers, the language formed in the late 17th and early 18th century. Enslaved people from different linguistic backgrounds that came from Africa to Haiti used the language to communicate with each other. The language is a mix of French and various languages from the Niger-Congo language family, and it uses features from each of these tongues. Since then, the majority of Haitians have spoken the language, currently 95% of the population. However, despite the Haitian population speaking Haitian Creole as opposed to French, schools in Haiti have historically taught in French. More recently, though, efforts at enhancing education in Haiti have led to the use of Haitian Creole in schools.

French in Classrooms

The use of French in education is a remnant from Haiti’s time as a French colony. Since the people in power, the French colonizers, spoke the French language, it became the language of prestige and civilization. Many people believed that Haitian Creole was inferior because it was the language of slaves.

Seeing as French colonizers historically viewed the language as broken French, the attitude around Haitian Creole became that it is the language of those with the least education. This stigma is not only false but damaging.

Haitian Creole is a legitimate language with its own phonological and grammatical characteristics and has an orthography system that emerged in 1979. However, due to the stigma, schools have used French as the language of instruction.

Educating in Haitian Creole

Haitian students often feel lost and discouraged when they have to learn school subjects in a language they barely know. This is why Haiti’s government announced a policy in 2015 to educate its students in Haitian Creole due to an agreement between Haiti’s Ministry of National Education and the Haitian Creole Academy. The Haitian government made this effort to help its children establish strong foundations in their native language through education, while also respecting their cultural identity. Once the children have these foundations, they may be able to more easily learn second languages, such as French.

Schools Teaching in Haitian Creole

While many schools still teach in French, the number of schools that are enhancing education in Haiti by teaching in Haitian Creole is on the rise. Liv Ouvè school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is one school that has implemented this change for the better. In the past, children at this school have struggled with learning in French, which caused their educational performance to decline. Now at Liv Ouvè, teachers instruct in Haitian Creole, but still teach the basics of French in the context of their native language. This allows students to learn and practice both Haitian Creole and French without risking their educational success.

Another school in Haiti that conducts lessons in Haitian Creole is the Matenwa Community School. This school uses Haitian Creole for all instruction up until the third grade where the curriculum introduces French as a second language once the students have a set foundation. Unfortunately, not all books are in both French and Haitian Creole, but the school raises money to buy books specifically in Haitian Creole. A Haitian linguist, Michel DeGraff, found that the Matenwa student’s reading skills are nearly three times greater than the average score of 84 mainland schools.

Another school that has implemented this change in Haiti is the Louverture Cleary School in Croix-des-Bouquets. This Catholic boarding school in Haiti caters to students from poor neighborhoods by offering a tuition-free education. This school’s approach seeks to counteract illiteracy among Haitian youth by instructing students in Haitian Creole. By incorporating Haitian Creole into difficult subjects such as science and math, the school counteracts the idea that the language is not sophisticated enough for such subjects. This school has achieved a 98% rate of students passing national high school exams as opposed to the countrywide average of 30%.

Enhancing education in Haiti through the use of Haitian Creole both validates the linguistic identity of Haitians while ensuring that language is not a barrier in youth education. By using this language in schools, students have a better chance of succeeding academically, instead of struggling due to this linguistic barrier. Haitian Creole shows Haitian youth that their language is intelligent and important, and it gives them the opportunity to pursue the education they desire.

Natascha Holenstein
Photo: Flickr

women are more affected by global poverty
Women often make up the backbone of home and society, however, global poverty often affects women the most. Women across the globe are still fighting for equality in their workplaces, general society and in their own homes. This inequality is a significant factor why women make up the bulk of the impoverished population in the world.

According to data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2017, the maximum rate of poverty for men was 7% while the minimum poverty rate for women was 9.7%. Depending on the race and demographics, this rate only tends to increase. Here are five ways that global poverty affects women.

5 Ways that Global Poverty Affects Women

  1. Gender Wage Gap: The availability of equally paid jobs is critical in making women independent and hence improving any economy. According to the World Economic Forum, the annual average earnings of the men around the world was $23,000 in 2018. In contrast, the global average of annual earnings of women was only $12,000. The international intergovernmental economic organization G7 inferred from collected data that the gender wage gap is prevalent throughout the world. Furthermore, G7 determined that the gender wage gap does not depend on the current financial status of any country. The G7 claimed that the global average gender wage gap was still 17% in the year 2016. Moreover, discrepancies in the wages that employers paid to women, even in developed countries, affected women in economically weaker countries and low-paying jobs significantly.
  2. Job Segregation:  The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that nearly 80% of the female labor force works in the service sectors and less-paid clerical jobs contrary to managerial, professional or leadership roles. More women in administrative positions would bring in diverse and complementing perspectives into the idea pool. An increase in females in administrative positions would also allow an insight into the female consumers’ psyche. All of these benefits, plus an increase in creativity, would consequently increase revenue. In most countries, including many developed countries, the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is unquestionably lesser than men. Only 28% of employees in STEM fields, which are the fastest-growing with higher paid jobs, are women. In addition to conservative social norms and gender bias, the lack of female role models also contributes to the smaller women labor force in STEM fields.
  3. Motherhood: Pregnancy can often be the tipping point in any woman’s career path. While women may face wage penalties, men might win salary premiums. Women frequently choose to take time off to stay at home and care for their children. However, the career break adversely affects their salaries even after they return to work. From the data that a study in Denmark conducted, a country with high gender equality measures, the salary of women sharply dropped nearly 3% after the birth of the first child and never recovered.
  4. Unpaid Caregiving: Another way that global poverty affects women is that they often don the role of caregivers for the elders and children in a family more than men, which is unpaid work. This extra work, nearly twice to 10 times the work that men do, is worth almost $11 trillion per year. Although women’s unpaid work amounts to nearly four years more work than men, women still earn less at their paid jobs. This is most likely due to the fact that women prefer part-time and easily transferable jobs after having a baby, in order to provide proper care for the child. Policies targeting lower childcare costs might help women in the long run. Additionally, policies focusing on incentives for men in sharing the childcare and domestic chores would also help women greatly. In general, providing any sort of assistance to alleviate the extra work of women would help in the long run. For example, women in Malawi spend 54 minutes a day on average collecting water. Providing labor-saving infrastructure results in less time obtaining water and more paid hours for women. Gender inequality in developing countries costs their economies $9 trillion per year. In Latin America, women’s paid work increased between 2000 and 2010. This resulted in a 30% reduction in poverty.
  5. Gender-biased Illiteracy: In low-income countries, the average literacy rate of men is 70% and 50% for women. In the 2014 World Value Survey, 26% of people across the world said that university education is comparatively more essential for a boy than a girl. A 2016 study in Nepal revealed that the poorer households sacrificed the literacy of daughters for better job prospects for sons.

How Organizations are Helping

Countries around the world have begun to realize that the inclusion of women, especially in leadership roles, is necessary for sustained, overall development. LivelyHoods, a nonprofit organization, noticed that the women were mainly the ones who dealt with household energy. In Kenya, indoor pollution due to smoke from conventional stoves causes 13,000 deaths per year. In an effort to combat indoor pollution, LivelyHoods employed the rural women population in Kenya to distribute life-improving, affordable, clean-energy products to the local population. The network of saleswomen that the organization employed distributed eco-friendly products like solar products, clean-burning cookstoves and many others. Of the top 10% of the salesforce, 90% are women who earn up to $1,000 per month. Over 1,500 trained women employees have distributed 26,000 clean energy products so far. This is an inspiring example of how indispensable women are to global development.

Ideas for Moving Forward

To help impoverished women improve their quality of life, governments could offer publicly financed schemes of extended leaves of absence for new mothers; replace individual taxation with family taxation so that the burden on the secondary earners, who are mostly women, lifts; provide tax benefits for low-wage earners; reduce the childcare cost for working women; encourage businesses to develop better practices like pay transparency and regular wage assessment based on gender; conduct free workshops for women to impart vocational skills as well as to spread awareness of various available job opportunities; offer equal job opportunities to women; conduct workshops in the men’s workplaces to show them how their personal and nation’s economy will flourish by sharing the childcare and domestic duties. Even implementing just a few of these tactics could help reduce the inequality women around the world face.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj 
Photo: Flickr

education programs in Myanmar
Children are one of the most assailable groups in developing nations. Others repeatedly violate and ignore their most fundamental rights. Around 428 million children live in extreme poverty, and nearly half of this number are children working in subjugated environments. Here is some information about the education crisis and education programs in Myanmar.

Education Crisis in Myanmar

Life for children in Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, involves child labor and early exposure to gang activity. Outside of violence and natural disasters, the youth of the country cannot progress due to an education crisis. The decline of school attendance stems from military rule in 1962. However, this was not always the case. When Myanmar was under British colonialism, hundreds of English schools opened. Myanmar became independent in 1948, and Burmese schools played a pivotal role in keeping the deprived sections of the country at a high literacy rate. The additional impact of monasteries on education gave Myanmar the reputation of one of the best education reforms in Asia. Following military dictatorship, which lasted for 26 years, are years of neglect towards school systems. Due to student protests, the dictatorship shut down large universities until the late 1990s.

Myanmar has worked to improve all areas of basic necessities for its citizens, such as power infrastructure and sanitation. Newborns and children have high mortality rates in the country, so the country has placed focus on the welfare of its youth in various ways. Education programs in Myanmar prioritize marginalized adolescents in rural areas and open doors for their future.

Education Programs in Various Forms

The Myanmar Children’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization providing aid to parents. By assisting parents with work to finance their families, rural kids will stay in monastic schools longer. Getting children past primary school gives them the confidence to pursue higher education. In addition to creating education programs in Myanmar, the organization helps build and repair schools. The Stay in School Program uses annual sponsorships to gives books and school supplies and even supports teachers.

The Myanmar Local Charitable Organization enhances access to libraries. Several projects within the organization involve improving literacy throughout the country. For example, a digital literacy program collaborated with Facebook and the Beyond Access Myanmar project to provide internet access in the libraries. Meanwhile, Tech Age Girls Myanmar encourages girls to develop ICT skills, and Scratch Programming for Kids implements coding into children’s lessons in the classroom.

Forced to work to support their families, many children drop out of school. World Education keeps Burmese kids in school through the Youth and Technology Project. The program provides essential life skills and computer-based training for children who do not have access to formal education.

Utilizing fundraising towards education, enhancing the schools and feeding students brings awareness to the Burma Humanitarian Mission’s efforts. Its Minmawhaw School established several programs ranging from additional secondary schooling to teacher training. Students are not only learning global recognition but they are also gaining a greater sense of pride for their country. Migrant children in the neighboring country of Thailand also benefit from the Burma Humanitarian Mission through the Minmahaw Higher Education Program.

It is not uncommon for children in Myanmar to grow up without parents. Global Care opened Grace Children’s Home to house disadvantaged children and provide them with proper education. Education programs in the Kayah State run through limited high schools specifically for Karenni children. A focus on maintaining Karenni culture throughout the schools and better transportation to and from school is fundamental.

Education programs in Myanmar are thriving through United World Schools, one of the prime organizations paving ways for children in the country. This program built schools for those who cannot attend government schools. Certified teaching staff also supports children speaking ethnic languages.

Prioritizing sexual and reproductive health in education programs in Myanmar also helps the lives of all children. The 360ed company is teaching children through Augmented Reality (AR), also known as virtual reality, and technological advancements. Opening up the conversation of sexual and reproductive health will counter rape cases among children in addition to decreasing HIV/AIDs cases.

Impact of Education Programs

The impact of keeping kids in school is evident through the progress that the National Education Strategic Plan evaluated. A quality education that effective nurturing of students’ dreams supports is what improves the socio-economic status of the entire nation. Proper financing of education programs in Myanmar expands goals and enriches the lives of children throughout the country.

– Sydney Stokes 
Photo: Pixabay

Europe 2020 strategy on povertyEach decade the European Union (EU) establishes an agenda to achieve goals for growth and social well-being. For the previous decade, the EU strategy focused on “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” led by advancements in five main areas: employment, R&D and innovation, climate change and energy, education, poverty and exclusion. These five factors were essential in strengthening the EU economy. It also prepared the EU’s economic structure for the challenges of the next decade.

The Europe 2020 strategy set the target of lifting “at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty.” To achieve this, the EU’s agenda included actions in stimulating education programs and employment opportunities. These actions aim to help Europeans at risk of poverty develop new skillsets. They also help Europeans find jobs that position them better in society.

For the last 10 years, poverty reduction has been a key policy component of the EU. In 2008, Europe had 116.1 million people at risk of poverty. As a result, EU members sought to reduce the number of poor Europeans to less than 96.1 million by 2020. Yet, as of 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty had only decreased to 113 million. So, what were the challenges that kept the EU from achieving its goal?

Employment in Rural Areas

The main tools the Europe 2020 strategy relied on greater access to education. Eurostat research shows that employment is crucial for ensuring adequate living standards. Furthermore, it provides the necessary base for people to live a better life. Although the EU labor market has consistently shown positive dynamics, the rates didn’t meet the Europe 2020 strategy target employment rate of 75 percent, especially in the rural areas. Jobless young people in rural Europe make up more than 30 percent of people at risk of poverty. As a result, the lack of new job openings and career paths in rural areas hindered individuals from escaping poverty and social exclusion.

Local Governance and Application of EU Strategic Policies

According to reports from 2014, the EU’s anti-poverty strategy was interpreted differently in every country. There is no common definition of poverty across all 27 member states. Therefore, the number of people at risk and their demographics vary. Moreover, EU policies were not implemented in all countries equally. Regional administrations and rural mayors are responsible for implementing EU anti-poverty policies. This localized approach resulted in a lack of coordination that was needed to correctly and efficiently realize the EU’s tools and strategies.

Education: The Winning Strategy Against Poverty

Despite these challenges, the EU showed that poverty can be addressed through education. Seen as key drivers for prosperity and welfare, education and training lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. Since higher educational attainment improves employability, which in turn reduces poverty, the EU interlinked educational targets with all other Europe 2020 goals. The Europe 2020 strategy did in fact achieve its goal of reducing the rates of people leaving education early to less than 10 percent in several EU countries. It also increased the number of workers having completed tertiary education to at least 40 percent. Both of these goals provide reasonable evidence of downsizing the risk of poverty by providing access to education.

Today, upper secondary education is the minimum desired educational attainment level for EU citizens. A lack of secondary education presents a severe obstacle to economic growth and employment in an era of rapid technological progress, intense global competition and specialized labor markets. Europeans at risk of poverty profit the most when given access to secondary education because it provides a path to staying active in society and learning marketable skills. The longer young people from rural areas pursue academic goals, the higher the chances of employment.

Moving Forward

As the Europe 2020 strategy showed, universal access to education has the potential to impact poverty across the European Union. Gaining new skillsets is one of the best ways to provide Europeans at risk of poverty and social exclusion with more opportunities for development and prospects for a better life.

– Olga Uzunova 
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in Senegal
Like many developing countries in Africa, Senegal’s economy is growing. In fact, in 2018, the country’s GDP increased by 6.766%. However, economic growth has not translated into more jobs for the younger generation, thus resulting in high youth unemployment. Young people either end up unemployed or in the informal job sector where wages are low. To solve the problem of youth unemployment in Senegal, the Senegalese government and NGOs are creating new policies and programs.

Youth and the Formal Job Sector

In 2019, Senegal’s population was over 16 million with 40% of the population younger than 15. More than 300,000 Senegalese youth enter the workforce each year. The formal sector in Senegal makes up between three to four percent of Senegal’s job market. As a result, college graduates struggle to find jobs relating to their field of study. When looking for formal jobs, graduates face many difficulties, including a lack of connections and a failure to meet the job qualifications. Youths also lack the knowledge of where to look for formal jobs.

Furthermore, according to employers, the education system does not meet the needs of the workforce because graduates do not have work experience (internships). The internships that youths do manage to get are often unpaid. This results in more difficulties for young people to sustain themselves while working. CNV International works with unions to make sure that interns are not being taken advantage of. Although the youth unemployment rate for ages between 15-24 has decreased from 13.2% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2019, Senegal still faces a problem of unemployment among youth.

Youth and the Informal Job Sector

When it becomes difficult to find employment, many Senegalese youth turn to the informal sector or start their own businesses. The informal sector is made up of businesses that are not registered and therefore do not pay taxes. For obtaining an informal job, social and personal relations play a more important role than a contractual agreement. Furthermore, informal jobs often tend not to provide employees with any form of social security or insurance, and are also fairly low-paying. Many informal jobs generate income that is less than Senegal’s minimum wage, according to Investisseurs & Partenaires.

Consequences of Youth Unemployment

The problem with youth unemployment is that it often leads to poverty, crime and even migration to other countries. In Senegal, many have left their villages to migrate to Europe. However, the path to Europe is dangerous and many die attempting to reach or cross the Mediterranean. To respond to the crisis of youth unemployment, the Senegalese government and NGOs have created programs to help young people find jobs.

Efforts to Reduce Youth Unemployment

In 2017, the Education Development Center and MasterCard Foundation started a 5-year long project to help teach students in both middle and high school. The project aims to teach students how to get a job as well as how to start a business. The program, known as APTE, helps provide internships, job placement, mentoring and coaching. Currently, the program works in 50 vocational education and training (TVET) schools and 200 middle schools (lower secondary), and has reached over 11,000 youths in the country.

To help youth entrepreneurs, the government created La Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide, a fund for entrepreneurs. The fund focuses on small financing, incubation funding, equity financing and low-interest loans. In the first wave of funding alone, the program received 140,000 applications. The fund has given money to multiple industries, including food, agriculture and digital/ICT.

With the help of the World Bank, the Senegalese government also created the Skills for Jobs and Competitiveness project to help reduce youth unemployment in Senegal. The project aims to train Senegalese youth in tourism, horticulture and poultry farming. Additionally, the Programme de Formation Ecole-Enterprise (School-Company Training Program) hopes to impact 10,000 young people by teaching them crucial job skills. The government is also working with companies through an apprenticeship program to train students while they are in school.

 

Although the youth unemployment rate in Senegal has decreased, it still remains a relevant issue. Programs by NGOs and the government are essential to providing job opportunities for young people in Senegal. These efforts also serve to reduce poverty and encourage youth to remain in Senegal rather than attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. If this focus on tackling youth unemployment continues, a new future for Senegal’s youth may be peeking through the horizon.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr

Education in Japan
Despite spending less on education than many other developed countries, Japan has one of the best education systems in the world. To better understand how this is achieved, here are 10 facts about education in Japan.

10 Facts About Education in Japan

  1. High school dropout rate: Japan’s high school dropout rate is at a low 1.27%. In contrast, the average high school dropout rate in the U.S. is at 4.7%.
  2. Equality in education: Japan ranks highly in providing equal educational opportunities for students, regardless of socioeconomic status. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan ranks as one of the highest in education equity. In Japan, only nine percent of the variation in student performance results from students’ socioeconomic background. In comparison, the average variation in the OECD is 14%, while the average variation in the U.S. is 17%.
  3. Teacher mobility: Japan assigns teachers to schools in a different way than most education systems. Unlike most countries, individual schools do not have the power to hire teachers. Instead, prefectures assign teachers to the schools and students who need them most. At the beginning of teachers’ careers, they move schools every three years. This helps teachers work in various environments instead of staying in one socioeconomic group of schools. As teachers advance in their careers, they move around less.
  4. Frugal spending: Japan does not spend a lot of money on its education system, with the Japanese government investing 3.3% of its GDP on education. This is over one percentage point less than other developed countries and is a result of Japan’s frugal spending. For example, the Japanese government invests in simple school buildings, rather than decorative ones. The country also requires paperback textbooks and fewer on-campus administrators. Finally, students and faculty take care of cleaning the school, resulting in no need for janitors.
  5. Teaching entrance exams: The teaching entrance exam in Japan is extremely difficult. It is of similar difficulty to the U.S. bar exam. Passing the exam results in job security until the age of 60, a stable salary and a guaranteed pension.
  6. Personal energy: Japanese education requires that teachers put in a great amount of personal energy. More common than not, many teachers work 12 or 13 hours a day. Sometimes teachers even work until nine at night.
  7. Emphasis on problem-solving: Teachers focus on teaching students how to think. Unlike some other countries that lean towards teaching students exactly what will be on standardized tests, Japan focuses on teaching students how to problem-solve. By emphasizing critical thinking, Japanese students are better able to solve problems they have never seen before on tests.
  8. Teacher collaboration: Japanese education highlights pedagogy development. Teachers design new lessons, and then present those to fellow educators in order to receive feedback. Teachers also work to identify school-wide problems and band together to find solutions. The education system constantly encourages teachers to think of new ways to better education in Japan and engage students.
  9. Grade progression: Japanese students cannot be held back. Every student can progress to the next grade regardless of their attendance or grades. The only test scores that truly matter are the high school and university entrance exams. Despite this seemingly unregulated structure, Japan’s high school graduation rate is 96.7%, while the U.S. (where attendance and good grades are necessary to proceed to the next grade) has a graduation rate of 83%.
  10. Traditional teaching methods: Despite being one of the most progressive countries in science and technology, Japan does not use much technology in schools. Many schools prefer pen and paper. To save money, schools use electric fans instead of air conditioning and kerosene heaters instead of central heating. However, technology is now slowly being introduced into classrooms with more use of the internet and computers for assignments.

Through these methods, Japan has established that teaching and schooling are highly regarded aspects of society. By looking at what Japan has done, other countries might be able to learn and adapt to this minimalistic, equitable education model.

– Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr

Literacy for Kids in South Africa
Consistently low reading scores among South African children can confirm one thing: the country is undoubtedly facing a reading crisis. In fact, eight out of 10 children in South Africa cannot read properly, and in the Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study in 2016, South Africa ranked last out of 50 countries. While there has not been much improvement in literacy for kids in South Africa in the past, some people are stepping in and banding together to change that by making reading a priority.

The Reading Crisis

South Africa’s reading culture has been weak for many years. Literacy can transform lives, but unfortunately, a lot of students in South Africa are not succeeding in this skill. A scientific study revealed that 27 percent of children under 5 years old are not undergoing proper brain development. It is not uncommon for low-income public schools to overlook the importance of comprehensive reading. Moreover, the study showed that 78 percent of fourth-grade students that it tested could not read for meaning in any language. Many parents do not spend time reading to their children because they are not literate themselves. Another reason why South African children are not succeeding in literacy is that they do not get the opportunity to explore the world of stories due to a lack of quality books and resources. But what if stories could come to them?

 Meet the SSRS

The Schools Reading Road Show, better known as the SSRS, aims to make stories accessible to children. Founders Jann Weeratunga and Kim Hunter have organized a traveling group of authors to improve literacy for kids in South Africa. Interacting with local children’s authors can inspire children to read, and this is precisely the goal of the SSRS. Children’s authors, including Fatuma Abdullah, travel around the country visiting underprivileged schools and meeting with students. The children get to listen to the authors read their books, ask questions and even play with puppets that resemble characters from the books!

The SSRS’s hope is that meeting local authors will inspire children and motivate them to start their own reading journey, and maybe even begin writing their own stories. The members’ favorite part about the entire experience is getting to see the children’s eyes light up as they discover the excitement of reading.

The Future of Literacy for Kids in South Africa

This hands-on experience opens up a whole new realm of learning for the students. When the authors visit well-funded areas, they sell their books to students. They then use that money to purchase books for the under-resourced schools. With volunteer groups like the SSRS swooping in to improve literacy for kids in South Africa, the future is optimistic. An ignited curiosity for reading can both inspire and shape the future for many kids.

– Hadley West
Photo: Flickr