Technology in South Korean SchoolsMany know South Korea for having high-quality education, resulting in influential economic and technological impacts. After World War II, South Korea reformed its educational system to emphasize the importance of national identity and benefiting all of society. One way the country began to alter education was through implementing technology in South Korean schools.

Education in Korea

A student who received an education in South Korea told The Borgen Project in an interview, Korean students must attend school for at least 220 days each year. Elementary school lasts from age 6 to age 14. Middle school lasts for three years, and high school lasts for another three years. In elementary school, each period lasts 40 minutes. For middle and high school, periods last 45 minutes. Students get between four and seven hours of instruction each day. Since 2007, Korean schools have been transitioning to five-day school weeks instead of six.  High schools have different categories; the main two are academic and vocational.

SMART Education in South Korean Schools

The “S” in SMART Education stands for “self-directed.” This means that students will initiate the learning. When the students have the willingness to gain knowledge, they are more likely to succeed in their education.

“M” stands for “motivated.” In the classroom, teachers include this concept by ensuring that the learning and teaching methods are engaging. This will help the students to be excited about their learning and more likely to work hard on given tasks.

“A” stands for “adaptation.” This allows education to be effective for different individuals. Each student learns differently, so teachers must adapt to the individual’s needs and circumstances.

“R” stands for “resources.” In order for the curriculum to be effective, South Korea aims to have the highest knowledge scores. In order to have all of the information required to teach effectively, teachers need enough resources.

“T” stands for “technology.” This shows the use of ICT—Information and Communications Technology—in South Korean schools’ curricula. Implementing technology and technology education into the education system digitalized South Korea’s curriculum to reflect the modern age.

Technology Education in South Korean Schools

Approximately 98% of Korean households use the Internet each day. Two-thirds of these households use smartphones. In addition, 5% of South Koreans say that they use their smartphones for at least eight hours each day. This is especially prominent among young Koreans between the ages of 5 and 19.

South Korea has been thoroughly implementing technology curricula into the country’s secondary level education. This decision originally occurred in 1969 due to the quick economic growth and technological advances in the country. Through focusing on middle and high school students, technology can have an impact on societal progress.

South Korea has the fastest internet speed and the widest access to the internet across the globe. This has contributed to the country’s successes related to technological advancement. Through incorporating technology into their education system, the country has continued to flourish and progress.

ICT Education

People across South Korea started utilizing Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, in 2005. The aims of the use of ICT are to strengthen the educational system, to further science and technology and to adapt to the rapid changes in the economy, society and science. In working toward reaching this goal, South Korea is constantly learning about advances in technology and having researchers and scientists developing new technology, as the interviewee told The Borgen Project.

In the classroom, one can see this in how students do not learn through the traditional methods of blackboards and textbooks. Schools have included ICT at all levels of the education system to develop a new generation of learners.

Professor Jeong Rang Kim of the Department of Computer Education at Gwangju National University described how, in order to strengthen students’ learning capacity, schools focus on the four C’s: critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, character and communication.

These skills are to help students adapt quickly and be ambitious. Not only did society quickly adopt ICT, but it is also part of many Koreans’ individual lives. A common Korean phrase is “pali-pali,” which means “quick and quicker.”

Impact on Poverty

Before the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea, Korea struggled with poverty. Now, it has become the world’s top 15th economic stronghold. Part of this is due to the promise of free, high-quality education for everybody, regardless of socioeconomic status; South Korea is aware of the importance of UNESCO’s “Education for All” initiative.

In addition to this, no matter how much money a student’s family has, each person has the entitlement to have skilled teachers. Becoming a teacher in South Korea is a career with high esteem, as the interviewee described.

High academic achievement sets up students for future career success. This, in turn, helps students break the cycle of poverty and build a financially secure life for themselves. By giving equal access to education, students will be more likely to get into universities and get a college degree. Furthermore, excellent education results in employees with special skills and a highly educated populace.

Going forward, individuals will continue to place a greater value on education that includes technology in South Korean schools. This results in future generations becoming more and more invested in their education, further establishing their financial security and stability.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

Improving Education in KashmirThe conflict in Kashmir has disproportionately affected education due to a variety of national as well as domestic threats. Children, in particular, are being significantly affected, Education in Kashmir was halted far before COVID-19 affected the rest of the world. Improving education in Kashmir is essential for poverty reduction.

Political Unrest and COVID-19

In August 2019, Article 370 of the Indian constitution that applied to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated. Repealing this article revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous ‘special status’ as a state. As a way to curb anticipated unrest in the state, the Indian government blocked internet and phone lines. This crisis along with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has put the future of education in Kashmir on shaky ground, reflective of its political landscape. Between 2019 and 2020, schools in Kashmir officially functioned for as little as 100 days.

Internet Connectivity in Kashmir

According to the latest census, 68.74% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population are literate and males are 20% more literate than females. Roughly 27.21 % of the state of Kashmir live in rural areas where access to education is a key issue, especially during COVID-19. Over time, the Indian government has facilitated low-speed internet to select areas up to the speed of 2G. The issue is that a higher speed of internet is required for classes to be facilitated via Zoom, Skype or to be watched on YouTube. Other than the children, educators, college and graduate students are faced with a continuing lag that has affected education in Kashmir. The government has whitelisted some websites and restored higher speed connectivity in some districts of the state.

Aawo Padhain

The Directorate of School Education Kashmir has set up “Aawo Padhain” (Come Lets Study). It is a portal that is filled with E-content and video-based classes for children to continue studying during the lockdown. The center is also equipped with a free Child-Line for children in need of aid and assistance. Additionally, Whatsapp has become a portal for teachers to send educational videos to students. While this initiative addresses the issue of continuing education during COVID-19, more needs to be done to address the other issues that affect education in Kashmir. Improving education in Kashmir will have benefits that are far-reaching.

Education Reform

The National Educational Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), approved by the government on July 29, 2020, was introduced to implement changes to education, with special focus on Jammu and Kashmir. The policy is based on the pillars of “access, equity, quality, affordability, accountability” and will transform India into a “vibrant knowledge hub,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the success of such a policy depends on its implementation. Its effectiveness, or lack thereof, will be seen in due time. For successful educational transformation, Kashmir also needs well-qualified teachers, access to electricity, the internet, computers, technology and libraries. Furthermore, country-wide internet bans should not be allowed.

Kashmiri students have lived in a life of lockdown longer than the rest of the world has, with their education impacted long before COVID-19 came about. To bridge the overall gap in education in Kashmir, it is essential for the country to receive assistance to implement educational reform for improving education in Kashmir.

–  Anuja Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

testing and povertyDoing away with certain high-stakes exams could help alleviate poverty. The pandemic has forced many to consider alternatives to what was the status quo, including high-stakes exams used in education systems around the world. These popular exams have roots as far back as the selection of civil servants in ancient China. During the past two centuries, the number of educational systems that make use of high-stakes testing has grown. Exams may be useful as a means of helping students, parents and educators understand how the student is doing. However, they become high-stakes when decisions regarding admissions and advancement rely on exam results. Eliminating high-stakes exams could reduce both testing and poverty.

The Positive and Negative Consequences of Testing

Research has shown that there are positive and negative impacts of high-stakes testing. The benefits of high-stakes examinations include concrete educational standards and assistance for students who perform poorly. On the other hand, disadvantages include a narrowed curriculum, cheating and policies that disproportionately impact minority students.

According to the World Bank’s Public “Examinations Examined,” “[It] is difficult to make the case that examinations, whatever the motivation in their introduction, played a major role in the promotion of equity.” With an emphasis on testing and poverty in contemporary education, understanding how high-stakes exams reflect inequity may help educators better assist disadvantaged students.

Testing and Poverty

High-stakes testing puts pressure not just on students, but also on parents, educators, schools and  governments. These pressures affect those with low socioeconomic status the most. Students from low-income families often face cognitive, emotional and social developmental deficits induced by poverty and stunting. The effects of poverty and stunting turn into a 19.8% deficit in adult annual income.

Low-income families also often lack the financial resources to pay for their student’s academic success with tutors, textbooks and materials. Moreover, educators and schools may focus their efforts on more advantaged students. Studies in Zambia, for example, reveal that advantaged students tend to do better than poor students.

Furthermore, public spending on education is higher in wealthier communities. One reason may be because the government rewards schools that perform better in high-stakes exams with additional funding. Many of these schools, comprised of students from high socioeconomic statuses, tend to have more resources than their low-income counterparts.

This lack of spending directly connects testing and poverty, as using testing to measure success gives fewer resources to underprivileged students. A report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity reports that 330 million students are in school but are not learning the basics. This may be connected to poor quality teaching or poor resources, which can result from measuring success with tests. Ultimately, being poor has become closely connected to poorer exam performance. Indeed, “Large scale assessments in exam subjects and grades routinely show a steep ‘social gradient’ in performance,” according to the Center for Global Development.

Doing Away with High-Stakes Exams

Education is central to reducing poverty. For example, individual income increases by 8% for every year that one goes to school. More specifically, having a secondary education in Tanzania decreases by 60% the chance that a working adult will be poor.

Recognizing the benefits of education and the consequences of testing and poverty, schools could eliminate some high-stakes exams. Countries such as Kenya and Singapore, as well as most Caribbean countries, use tests to determine a student’s placement in secondary schools. Yet those who made it into secondary schools in Kenya obtained employment benefits, decreasing low-skill self-employment, compared to those who did not. According to the IMF,  “increasing [the] average years of schooling and [the] reducing [of] inequality of schooling” can significantly reduce economic inequality.

If primary and secondary education were universal, extreme poverty could lessen by half. To make this happen, developing countries dealing with the pandemic should consider doing away with certain high-stakes exams. This will allow poorer students to contribute to human capital.

The Good News

While it took 40 years for American girls’ enrollments in education to increase from 57% to 88%, it took Morocco 11 years. Yet, in 2013 there was a disparity in the net enrollment rate in lower secondary education. Though 79% for boys in urban areas were enrolled, the rate was only 26% for girls in rural areas.

Since 2007, Education for All (EFA) has provided girls in Morocco’s rural communities of the High Atlas mountains the opportunity of secondary education. The organization’s provision includes nutritious meals, hot showers, beds and access to computers. EFA has at least 50 girls who are enrolled at university.

While this work is laudable, governments may be able to provide similar results by doing away with high-stakes testing. When exams act as a gatekeeper to advanced education, they reproduce cycles of poverty. All students must have access to equal education in order to escape from poverty.

–  Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

Akshar SchoolEducation is one of the most important catalysts for the alleviation of poverty. It equips individuals with valuable knowledge, skills, talents, resources and networks. Although education plays a remarkable role in dictating the future of an individual, not everyone has equal access to education. The Akshar School, also known as the Akshar Forum, strives to combat unequal access to education in India by providing all students with an equal opportunity to attend school.

Education in India

India is home to the second-largest number of impoverished people in the world. However, its large and increasing population of youth presents an opportunity for economic development for the entire Indian population. In India, children must attend school from the ages of six to 14 years old. Although India’s education system includes government-funded public schools, many parents prefer to send their children to private schools.

During the 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 academic years, enrollment in India’s public schools decreased by 11.1 million. At the same time, enrollment in India’s private schools increased by 16 million. Private schools that charge low fees have seen an especially large increase in enrollment, particularly from low-income families. This is largely because most Indian private schools offer English as a core feature of their curriculum, unlike India’s public schools.

This increase in enrollment in private schools also reflects the poor quality of India’s public school system. Low-income families prefer to pay tuition in order to send their children to schools where they will receive a quality education, hoping that this education will allow them to escape poverty.

The Akshar School

The Akshar School, a private school located in Assam, India, is revolutionizing the Indian education system. It allows students from low-income families to receive a quality education in exchange for plastic waste.

Wife and husband Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar founded the school in 2016. They were tired of smelling burnt plastic and toxic waste in their classrooms, produced by families living nearby their school trying to eliminate waste. The couple then decided to ask the students at their school to pay their tuition in the form of plastic waste. Tuition for the school is equivalent to 25 pieces of plastic waste collected from a student’s community.

The school then recycles the collected waste into new items, like eco-bricks, at its recycling center. The center offers paid jobs to older teenagers attending the school hoping to also earn an income. Many of these teenagers come from low-income families that depend on their children for an additional source of income, though it is illegal in India for children under the age of 14 to work. In this sense, the Akshar School ensures that older children are able to stay in school and also earn an income for their families.

The students at the school have performed exceptionally well, especially during the most recent year academic year. In addition to affordable tuition, the Akshar School employs older teenagers as coaches for younger children, providing younger children with individualized help that their regular class teachers may not always be able to offer. This program also enables teenagers to gain a source of income, leadership skills and the opportunity to strengthen their own academic skills.

The Akshar Foundation: Expanding Its Reach

Sarma and Mukhtar’s nonprofit organization, the Akshar Foundation, aims to open up 100 schools similar to the Akshar School. Given that attendance at the Akshar School has risen by 500%, they plan to follow the same model for new schools. In addition, the Akshar Foundation intends to offer opportunities for technology-based learning, vocational training, environmental conservation, community leadership and involvement and entrepreneurship. It also plans to offer an its own fellowship for all students in the new schools.

The Akshar Foundation’s educational model attempts to combat the cycle of intergenerational poverty that many Indian families face. By providing all children with an equal opportunity to attain a quality education, the Akshar Foundation presents a model that the Indian government itself should consider adopting and implementing. Given its population and notable economic progress, India has the potential to alleviate much of its existing poverty in the upcoming years. However, India must recognize that education is one of the most important components in ensuring economic stability, progress and overall wellbeing.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Education in South Korea
After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita of $79. Today, it is home to many innovative technology companies and has a GDP of $1.619 trillion. This massive progress is largely due to the high standards of education in South Korea. With a strong cultural emphasis on education, the country was able to develop a flourishing economy and facilitate poverty reduction.

The Principles of Education

Education has always been important for Koreans. In the 18th century Korea, neo-Confucianist ideals and a stringent class system framed the Korean social order. Many considered education essential to slowly eliminate social stratification and offer equal opportunities. In fact, King Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon dynasty, created the Korean alphabet Hangul for that specific purpose. He wanted all of his people to be able to read and write, not just those of higher social class.

During the Japanese colonization of Korea, which lasted from 1910 until 1945, Japanese became the official language and Hangul was completely banned. Despite Japan’s imposed restraints on potential educational opportunities for Koreans during this time, the desire for education persisted. It was so tremendous that after Korea gained independence, the Korean people overwhelmingly demanded more opportunities for education. It evolved into a standard of economic and social mobility, or the fairest way to move up the socio-economic ladder. The industrialization process began through this principle, subsequently making education essential for employment.

South Korea’s Rise to the Top

In 1945, around the end of Japanese colonization, South Korea’s literacy rate was 22%, among the lowest in the world. To eradicate illiteracy, South Korea launched campaigns that aimed to educate those who did not have primary education. Additionally, in the 1950s, the government made elementary school obligatory by law. As a result, South Korea’s literacy rate rose to 96% by 1958.

The policies used to increase literacy rates also contributed to the rise in post-secondary education. South Korea ranks as the number one most educated country, where almost 70% of individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed college, university or any other form of higher education.

Along with education in South Korea, the country’s economy transformed tremendously. Many consider South Korea’s economy to the most innovative economy regarding technology and has ranked number one in innovation for several years, raising its GDP to $1.619 trillion. Its ratio of research and development program spending to GDP is the highest in the world. South Korea has one of the most intricate and interconnected economies, leading in exports of information and communications technology as well as automobiles. It is also the first country to introduce 5G internet services for mobile carriers.

Education, Labor and Technology

The South Korean government believed that economic development on a national scale required high learning abilities and cognitive skills. By investing in education, students would develop skills and knowledge that would help in becoming excellent workers. The economy then flourishes and begins to invest back into education. The government also made sure to provide vocational or technical training which, alongside education in South Korea, has contributed to the low unemployment of 3.7%.

The emphasis on education in South Korea extends beyond national economic improvement. Technological companies such as Samsung encourage corporate-academic collaborations with universities like Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon where they collaborate on research in electrochemistry and the development of new energy sources. Samsung has also provided technology to classrooms in an attempt to reduce the education gap.

Reduction of Poverty

The international community has long-since known that education alleviates poverty. There is a strong correlation between education, economic empowerment and low unemployment. Education helps economies grow and infrastructures develop. In South Korea, it was government policy that made education the biggest portion of the budget, next to defense. Government policy also used land reform to boost education. Land reform redistributed land which significantly reduced land ownership inequality. It thereby changed social policy, reduced poverty and aided in bringing educational levels to an all-time high. Rural populations with higher levels of education in South Korea produced a large workforce of well-educated individuals that served as a catalyst for industrialization and reduction of poverty. Today, although South Korea still battles poverty and an education gap between the rich and the poor, the country and its economy have greatly transformed since 1945.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has a fairly high poverty rate with more than 16% of the population living below the poverty line. Because of the many people reliant on agriculture for an income and inequality in wealth distribution, about 17.6 million Filipinos struggle to afford basic necessities. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of poverty declined from 21.6% to 16.6%. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte aims to reduce the rate of poverty to 14% by 2022. Through its strategy, AmBisyon 2040, the Philippine government plans to eradicate extreme poverty by 2040. Furthermore, the government has implemented various programs and reforms to reduce poverty by targeting education, healthcare and the overall economy. Here are five ways the program is combating poverty in the Philippines.

Combating Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Greater Access to Education: A factor of systemic poverty is a lack of access to education in impoverished areas. People gain basic skills and increased job opportunities through education, which can help to combat poverty in the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippines signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2017 to encourage more people to enroll in higher education and to address the issue of education inequality. The government subsidizes the cost of tuition for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) students as well as other expenses such as school supplies. Private institutions also have access to a tuition subsidy. The Act aims to decrease the number of dropouts in higher education and promote the idea that higher education is available to all.
  2. Greater Access to Healthcare: In an effort to improve the healthcare system, President Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Act in February 2019. The UHC Act provides access to the full spectrum of healthcare by enrolling citizens in the National Insurance Program and granting health coverage to all. While healthcare is not completely free, those in poverty will have more access to health services. To ensure the effectiveness of healthcare, the Act will form the Health Technology and Assessment Council (HTAC). The Council will consist of health experts who will assess health developments, such as technology, vaccines and other advancements. Additionally, the Philippines will allocate more funds to PhilHealth, which will improve the quality of service and lower the cost of medicine.
  3. Family Aid: To further efforts to support citizens, the government implemented the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2007. The 4Ps is is a conditional cash transfer program for impoverished households. The program gives households grants so long as they meet certain requirements, including keeping the children in school, having regular health check-ups and having parents or guardians attend Family Development Sessions. The 4Ps program benefits about 20 million Filipinos, 9 million of whom are children. Therefore, the program reaches about 20% of the population with the goal of greater poverty reduction.
  4. Economic Improvement: With the goal of reducing poverty by strengthening economics, President Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019, amending the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. The Law places a 35% tariff on imported rice with the goal of prioritizing local rice production for the population by stabilizing the supply. The tariff also aims to benefit local farmers by creating a more efficient and competitive agricultural system.
  5. Build, Build, Build: Additionally, the Duterte administration created the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan in 2017. The initial goal of the program was to complete 75 projects, but Duterte revised the plan to instead target finishing 100 projects. Some projects include new public transportation and airport renovations. The government has put about 34% of the projects into action and is expecting to complete 56% by 2022. By 2019, the government had completed two of the initial 75 projects. With support from loans, the Philippines will rely on Build, Build, Build as a strategy to aid the country in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s hope is that combatting the effects of the pandemic by improving the country’s infrastructure will stimulate the economy and create more jobs. However, the program has received criticism due to its slow execution as a result of underspending.

Unfortunately, poverty is expected to increase in the Philippines because of the coronavirus crisis. This will lead to a decrease in consumption growth and further income losses. Therefore, greater efforts are necessary to combat poverty in the Philippines amid the pandemic, which has hit the impoverished the hardest.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Reforming Education in NicaraguaReforming education in Nicaragua has been a major focus of rehabilitation efforts over the past few years. Prior to 2015, there were over 800,000 people who were unable to read or write in Nicaragua. Because of the educational barriers that exist in the country, many students were kept from remaining enrolled at their schools or building the necessary confidence to pursue an education. However, over the past five years, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education (MINED) has worked hard to create superior learning institutions so that Nicaraguan children can have a more accessible, comfortable and innovative education.

The Public Education System

Nicaragua is considered the most impoverished country in Central America. With the unemployment rate rising over 3% in the past five years, the government decided to implement concrete policies that could create enough incentives to keep people enrolled in school and pull them out of poverty.

In Nicaragua, education is not equally accessible to all, even though primary education is compulsory. The government has not yet found the necessary tools to instigate accessible community action and counter the factors that keep students from enrolling in primary or secondary education. Moreover, the struggle to enroll students is not the only obstacle the government faces as over 70% of Nicaraguan children drop out of school before they reach the sixth grade.

Un Ministerio en la Comunidad

The Ministry of Education has been working to improve its participation in society. The ministry’s motto is “un ministerio en la comunidad”, which is Spanish for “a ministry in the community”. The language employed suggests the active role MINED wants to establish in Nicaraguan society, including reforming education in Nicaragua.

In 2017, the government redirected approximately 4% of the entire national GDP to MINED. The repairs that have been done since then directly benefit countless public schools, especially in terms of providing better study conditions to the many children that go to these.

In 2020 alone there have been four reform initiatives focusing on infrastructure reconstruction, student hygiene and health, drug awareness and increasing disability awareness within school institutions and curriculum.

 Initiatives Taken by MINED

  1. Special Education Curriculum Strengthening: For many students with mental and physical disabilities, the traditional classroom setting and curriculum can be overly challenging and discouraging. Because of that many students are left hopeless and unable to learn, making it nearly impossible for them to get a job that pays a livable wage in the future. In February of 2020,  special education directors from Managua to Chontales met and discussed how to implement styling, cooking and music courses into their school curriculum so that disabled students can better adapt to school and to the job market.
  2. My Life Without Drugs Program: Drug use and addiction are one of the leading culprits of high school dropouts, leading many young Nicaraguans to stay in poverty for their entire lives. The Miguel Ramírez Goyena Institute held a drug awareness discussion in March of 2020 for grades nine to eleven, covering the kinds of drugs that are prominent in their community and teaching the students points of prevention.
  3. COVID-19 Health and Hygiene: MINED started as early as March 30 with COVID-19-focused prevention workshops. There have been several health and hygiene panels held to reinforce the awareness of COVID-19 and how to prevent it by washing hands, wearing facial coverings and social distancing students and staff. In addition to that, the Ministry put effort into bringing the digital wave to Nicaragua. According to the official data released, MINED created 23 mobile digital classrooms that help low-income students and educators alike have access to equipment such as tablets, printers, projectors and printers.
  4. Bertha Díaz Educational Center: On July 10, the reconstruction of the Bertha Díaz Educational Center in Managua advanced by 60%. The improved space exhibits a new roof, electrical system and 12 reworked classrooms. The project has taken five million córdobas or $143,856. MINED hopes to have the entire project done by the end of the summer so that the center is up and running for students in the fall.

What’s the Next Step?

The Nicaraguan government has a powerful Ministry of Education that is taking the broken Nicaraguan infrastructure by the horns and pushing full force for a brighter future for the young population. Out of the 6.1 million people living in Nicaragua, 40% of citizens are under the age of 15. Children are the future of Nicaragua and MINED knows that. Each week, new efforts are pushed by those in power towards reforming education in Nicaragua to help bring students to the top of their educational and mental potential. Additional financial support from outside nations will only help bolster the potential for Nicaragua’s students and allow the country to work its way out of poverty.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr