Information and stories about Literacy Information.


Guatemala is a country made up of six primary ethnic communities, though the population mostly comprises people belonging to the Mestizo and Maya ethnic groups. These ethnic groups are generationally skilled in creating traditional forms of art, which include weaving, beading and embroidering. Over half the Guatemalan population lives in a highly populated southern mountainous area. Within this region also live the majority of communities that experience poverty in the country. Many individuals from ethnic communities in this region use art to leverage themselves out of poverty.

Poverty in Guatemala

While Guatemala’s GDP has increased by an average of 3.5% over the past five years, high rates of poverty still exist within the country. 59.3% of the Guatemalan population (9.4 million people) live below the poverty line. In surrounding Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) regional contexts, the average per capita growth is 1.6%. Due to high population growth rates since 2000, Guatemala’s recent annual per capita growth is only 1.3%. High population growth rates are, in part, caused by a young population, with a median age of 23.2 years.

The Literacy Gap

Guatemala also experiences lower rates of literacy among women than men. As of 2015, 87.4% of men and 76.3% of women were literate in Guatemala. Between 2002 and 2014, literacy rates among women improved by 13.03%. In recent years, organizations like MayaWorks have worked to address the low literacy rates among women in Guatemala. MayaWorks is a non-profit organization that partners with women from rural communities to transform artisanal skills into sustainable businesses. Across 125 partnerships that MayaWorks has established with skilled Guatemalan artisans, over 40% of women are reported to have never received a primary education — and therefore lack literacy skills. Through one program, MayaWorks offers women in rural Guatemala access to primary education to improve their literacy. Business and literacy training programs enable women to not only improve situations for their families and communities, but also to decrease overall rates of poverty in Guatemala.

Supporting Women’s Education and Entrepreneurship

MayaWorks has shared stories of how business and literacy training programs can relieve women suffering from poverty in Guatemala. The Tz’utujil indigenous group makes up 30% of the Maya ethnic population and is primarily situated in a rural highland region of Guatemala. Women from this ethnic group are skilled in creating Maya-style crafts, including cultural staples such as crochet, hand weaving and treadle foot loom weaving. With the help of MayaWorks, over 52 Tz’utujil women from Santiago Atitlán are leveraging their artisan skills and sharing their cultural forms of expression with businesses in the United States. These partnerships allow for extended solutions to both local and national poverty in Guatemala through international support. Meanwhile, the international business of Mayan artists is strengthening relations between Guatemala and the United States.

The work of Mayan artisans, combined with the financial and educational support of MayaWorks, has already begun to alleviate poverty in Guatemala. Overall literacy levels for Guatemalan women have increased, which has also led to the employment of more women within the country’s workforce. According to the World Bank, employment rates for women in Guatemala have increased from 23.24% in 1999 to 40-45% in recent years. On a localized level, many women are now able to obtain security for their families and communities. Above all, working with MayaWorks equips women to be self-sufficient in running businesses and managing finances. This results in a generationally sustainable, long-term solution for reducing poverty in Guatemala.

Lilia Wilson

Photo: Pixabay

Literacy in TuvaluThe World Bank has awarded a grant to improve early childhood development and literacy in Tuvalu. The grant will help Tuvalu provide a better educational infrastructure for its citizens, while also preserving aspects of Tuvaluan culture. There are only 198 teachers on the island leading to a high ratio of pupils to teachers at 18:1. The scarcity of educators creates a disadvantage for students whose one-on-one time with teachers is crucial to their development.

Tuvalu’s Educational System

Tuvalu became independent from Britain in 1978; Tuvalu’s colonial past has greatly influenced the country’s modern society and culture. For instance, although both Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of Tuvalu, many schools only teach in English. The current system may cause the next generation to forget their native language. Consequently, some citizens worry the current educational system may lead to the disappearance of the Tuvaluan language altogether. 

The World Bank initiative will foster more teacher training and activities for children. Moreover, The Tuvalu Learning Project will aid communities in educating the population on the importance of health and physical activity in early childhood.

The Tuvalu Reading Program

The World Bank believes that early reading is critical to ensure a promising future and build a better society. This mission is addressed by the Tuvalu Reading Program, which teaches students to read in Tuvaluan. The curriculum introduces students to new reading material and relies on teacher-led lectures. The program exposes students to a robust curriculum and assesses them on what they have learned.

The Tuvalu Learning Project and Reading Program expand on existing initiatives, including the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), which was initiated in 2014. The Tuvalu Reading Project enhances PEARL by focusing on Tuvaluan children and preserving their native language. 

Helping the Tuvaluan Community

The World Bank will direct additional funds toward increasing community access to education overall. For example, schools located in outer-island regions will recieve funding to increase their internet connectivity. Better internet in these areas will increase students’ access to valuable educational tools and improve their communication with teachers. Furthermore, The Tuvalu Learning Project also hopes to add more school activities that benefit students through the availability of technology. 

The World Banks’ contribution of $14 million is estimated to benefit 10 thousand people on the island. New job opportunities from the program will extend to teachers, community leaders, and the department of education.  In Tuvalu, 26.3% of people live below the poverty line. For this reason, the expanded education sector can create more opportunities, increase literacy in Tuvalu, and eventually raise the country’s overall standard of living. 

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia

Literacy Rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, a landlocked country in south-central Asia, houses many different ethnic groups and extremely important trade routes. The country also has a longstanding history in literature, with poets such as Reza Mohammadi and Khaled Hosseini. Unfortunately, due to the spread of the Taliban regime and devastating wars, literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world at about 45 percent for men and 17 percent for women. In 2018, Idress Siyawash had the vision to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan with the implementation of his mobile bicycle libraries.

Mobile Bicycle Libraries

Read Books, or Ketab Lwast, is a program that Idress Siyawash started to provide books and learning experiences for children in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas. Siyawash is a student at Jahan University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Each week, he and his team travel to rural areas in Afghanistan to deliver books to children. They ride around town on bright blue bicycles with baskets full of books in order to excite the children and motivate them to learn. Then, they gather all the kids and teach them to read, write, speak and understand the importance of learning. Female volunteers travel from home to home working to encourage mothers and fathers to send their daughters to school. The female volunteers serve as models for parents who want a better, more equal life for their daughters.

Motives and Inspiration

Education rates in Afghanistan are significantly lower than those of other countries. For example, Afghanistan has an average literacy rate of 38 percent, while the international average is 84 percent. Education in rural areas is especially low. Gender inequality also affects education in Afghanistan, as many women do not have permission to attend schools, and in most provinces, the amount of female teachers is below 10 percent.

Siyawash had the determination to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan and also change Afghani attitudes regarding gender equality in terms of education. In an interview, Siyawash said, “Our idea is to show that reading is fun and explain why education is so important. If we give the children books, it might help end the way of thinking that is holding this country back.”

Obstacles and Solutions

One of the main obstacles to education in Afghanistan is distance. Some children, especially in rural areas, must walk for hours to reach their schools. For example, children in the Badakhshan province walk four hours each day to go and come back from the closest government-supported school. Siyawash’s bicycle idea tackles this obstacle effectively, bringing education straight to the children.

Another obstacle is the fear of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, especially among females. Unfortunately, Taliban members have confronted and threatened Siyawash and his team twice, but they continue to travel and provide services to children because they believe in a “different future for Afghanistan.”

Read Books has had success in its goal to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan. Over the span of just a few years, the literacy rate in Afghanistan grew from 38 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2018. Overall, the future of education in Afghanistan is looking brighter.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Illiteracy in Nepal
Nepal is a country of Asia that lies along the southern side of the Himalayas. It is a landlocked nation with a territory of just 500 miles east to west. Nepal has long experienced isolation under a series of rulers who favored isolationist policies and remained closed off to the rest of the world up until the year 1905. Today, Nepal is a country between two superpowers, India and China. As a result of this extreme isolation, it has become one of the least developed nations in the world. This underdevelopment has also led to a heavily illiterate population. Here are seven interesting facts about illiteracy in Nepal.

7 Facts About Illiteracy in Nepal

  1. Illiteracy in Nepal: As recently as 2015, Nepal had an illiterate population of 6,784,566 people. Luckily this statistic has been on a steady decline of about 2 percent every year since 1991.
  2. Literacy in Nepal: Nepal’s literate population in 2015 was at 55 percent. Although this means that just under half the population is illiterate, it is still an extremely large increase from the 1950s, during which only 5 percent of the population was literate.
  3. Women: Only 49 percent of women in Nepal are literate. The average literacy rate for women in Nepal is 20 percent lower than men. This may be a result of fewer women completing a full education than men, a statistic that is slowly becoming more equal and challenging illiteracy in Nepal.
  4. World Vision: Thankfully, literacy rates in Nepal are rising. An organization called World Vision has been working to eliminate illiteracy in Nepal. World Vision has been training teachers in Nepal to use more engaging methods to get their students more interested in reading.
  5. Reading Camps: World Vision has also created reading camps outside of school, in addition to encouraging parents to nurture a reading friendly environment in their homes so students are more willing to read. In just two years, the children involved in the program were one and a half times better at reading than children who did not attend the program.
  6. Room to Read: Another organization, Room to Read, has created a Girls’ Education Program that has helped nearly 5,000 girls in Nepal since 2001 to read and write. Children in Nepali schools with Room to Read libraries have checked out, on average, more than 16 books per student. Room to Read has been a catalyst in helping many children to appreciate reading.
  7. Five-Year Initiative: In 2016, Room to Read launched a five year initiative with the government of Nepal, USAID and the research group RTI International to improve the country’s primary grade literacy programs greatly. This initiative has the goal of changing the lives of 1 million students in grades one to three in order to combat illiteracy in Nepal.

Illiteracy in Nepal is an issue that has significantly decreased due to the actions of these, and many other programs and initiatives, all with the goal of improving literacy rates in Nepal. If it were not for groups like Room to Read and World Vision, the people, and especially the children, would still be stuck in the darkness of illiteracy.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Worldreader Empowers Communities to Create Lifelong Readers
Illiteracy is not much of a problem in developed countries, but for developing countries, rates of illiteracy are high. Around 617 million children are not meeting the minimum reading level because the regions they live in do not always stress education as much or it simply is not available. Illiteracy is a huge problem, especially in this day and age. It can cause an average decrease of 35 percent in income, and a lack of reading can lead to a lack of cognitive development. Worldreader empowers communities to create lifelong readers.

Worldreader Empowers Readers

When people have an education, they tend to give posterity a better chance. Children born to literate mothers are 50 percent more likely to live past 5 years old. Worldreader is an application with a library of 35,000 books in 52 different languages. It is available on advanced but affordable e-readers and other devices. The content of these books depends on the reader but all titles aim to be culturally relevant.

There are four categories of reading on the application. Worldreader has tailored the programs to each of its audiences to best address the main problems for each crowd. These programs include pre-reading, library reading, lifelong reading and school reading.

Pre-reading is for younger people up to age 19 but can also help illiterate adults. This program promotes positive interaction, cognitive development and school preparedness. Library reading focuses on promoting reading culture through libraries no matter the age. The goal of this program is to get more people to visit libraries and more librarians to emerge in their areas.

Lifelong reading is for people from 16 and up to read digital books on the Worldreader Open Library application. This program seeks to build a reading habit in people and promote an overall joy of reading. It also wishes to gain more regular readers by transitioning users to readers. That may sound similar, but really it is for a noncommittal user to develop a reading habit and become a lifelong reader.

Lastly, school reading is just how it sounds. School programs have e-readers with books for any age or grade level, language or even cultural context. It has a teaching program for educators to help cultivate learning and reading cultures. Worldreader also works to train families, schools and libraries so they can reap the most benefit from its programs.

Worldreader’s partners help to make this happen. Worldreader’s partners provide the resources that it needs to reach people in need. Its main partners are Binu, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Opera Mini. Binu helps to promote Worldreader on its Moya app. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation helps to launch e-readers in all national Kenyan libraries. Opera Mini promotes Worldreader to its users from 34 sub-Saharan African countries. Other prominent partners include USAID, The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LinkedIn, Pearson and Amazon. Penguin Random House, Sub-Saharan Publishers, Longhorn Publishers, Modjaji Books and Rosetta Books are the partners that help to publish and translate books for Worldreader.

Worldreader’s Accomplishments

The year 2018 saw an increase of 3 million readers with over 10 million readers overall. Worldreader has gained 100 million hours of reading since 2014 and has received $12.1 million total in donations. These donations have made it much easier for Worldreader to reach more potential readers from around the world. These funds mostly went toward program services, but other notable areas are management and fundraising. Worldreader empowers communities through this funding. As of 2018, Worldreader is already in 49 countries including Mexico, Ghana, India, Kenya and Jordan.

The Future for Worldreader

Worldreader empowers communities to improve literacy rates. Worldreader’s plans for the future consist of continuing to provide cheap but good technology for under-resourced people, which should in turn help schools to save on book money. The application also plans to expand on its pre-existing book collection. While 35,000 titles is a lot, it aims to add much more. It will also collect the data from its readers to provide future insights into technology improvements. Through this data collection, Worldreader will be able to improve its technology and books. Worldreader encourages sharing costs and responsibilities for sustainable impact. Its donors and supporters help to do so. Worldreader is always searching for more supporters to bring reading to the under-resourced. The Worldreader website has options to sponsor schools, volunteer or join its Reading for Opportunity campaign.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Eight Facts About Education in Uganda

Uganda has seen significant improvements in enrollment of children in primary school over the years. As one of the youngest countries in the world with one of the fastest-growing populations, the country must work even harder to continuously improve education as a means to ensure the productivity of its increasing youth population and help reduce poverty levels. Below are eight facts about education in Uganda that show where the country stands and what more it can do to improve.

8 Facts About Education in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s Education System: The first of the eight facts about education in Uganda is that the country organizes its education into three different school levels, totaling seven years. These include primary school followed by secondary school, which is sectioned into two levels – the first lasting four years, followed by another two years. Finally, people attend post-secondary education, which lasts from three to five years.
  2. Universal Primary Education (UPE): In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE). This means that the government pays the tuition fees of all orphans in the country as well as the fees of up to four children per family. After the introduction of UPE, the number of students tripled between 1997 and 2014, from 2.63 million children to more than 7.6 million children. In 2007, the government rolled out a Universal Secondary Education (USE) program to help children continue their education.
  3. Uganda’s Literacy Rate: Estimates determined that the literacy rate in Uganda was 78.4 percent in 2015 with 85.3 percent of males being literate and 71.5 percent of females being literate. One can explain the lower rate of female literacy by the fact that about 52 percent of girls drop out at the primary school level either because of pregnancy or marriage. Local organizations, including GirlUp Initiative Uganda, are playing an important role in ensuring that girls get a chance to receive an education.
  4. School Completion Rates: While the enrollment rates of students shot up after the introduction of UPE, the number of students completing school is not as high. Only one in four students who start primary school make it to secondary school. Some factors that explain these high dropout rates include lack of school fees and money to buy important materials like uniforms, stationery and textbooks, violence in the form of caning and other corporal punishments and sexual abuse, with almost 24 percent of students experiencing sexual abuse in school.
  5. Disabled Children: Children with disabilities often receive neglect when it comes to education in Uganda. According to UNICEF, only 9 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in school from the pre-primary to secondary level. The exclusion of these children from formal schools could be because of the lack of accessible facilities as well as a shortage of special needs teachers. Organizations such as Cheshire Services Uganda are working at bridging the learning gap for students with disabilities.
  6. Teacher Absenteeism: Teacher absenteeism is high. About 60 percent of teachers in nearly half of Uganda’s public schools are not in class when they need to be. This is because of poor, inadequate facilities and overworked and demotivated teachers. Classrooms in Uganda often have up to 100 students.
  7. Uganda’s Education Investments: Education expenditure as a share of the national budget in Uganda is around 10 percent. This is significantly lower than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is 16 percent. By increasing its investment in education, the government can improve the productivity of its citizens and help lower the poverty levels in the country.
  8. Improving Ugandan Education: Several organizations are working with the government to improve education in Uganda. Examples include USAID, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Organizations like these are working to enforce gender equity in schools, improve access and completion rates at the various levels of learning, increase literacy and improve early childhood development and adolescent development. The government also builds 15,000 primary school classrooms each year to accommodate any additional students.

These eight facts about education in Uganda highlight the urgent need to ensure that education in Uganda continues to improve in terms of both quality and access. The government’s and other humanitarian organizations’ efforts will help Uganda reduce poverty as well as significantly improve the lives of its citizens.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education in Vietnam
Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr


In the poorer regions of Africa, children are unable to go to school. Developing and post-conflict countries struggle to obtain basic necessities and are sometimes unable to provide children with an education. The result of this is an illiterate generation that will eventually turn to violence in revolt against their continued dependence on aid. MindLeaps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that seeks to break that cycle, and in fact had successes, by offering these children dance lessons.

The Situation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the youth do not receive an education and are illiterate. Usually, people blame this on a lack of access to schooling; however, this claim is inaccurate. MindLeaps discovered that the underlying causes are unstable homes and living conditions, education fees while schools propose free education and even apathy towards children. In some cases, children who do have the means to attend school drop out before completing their education, believing employment and a bright future for themselves is impossible. This belief stems from their lack of a supportive home life and struggles for basic necessities, as well as the influence of crime, prostitution and drugs of the elder generations. Aware of this, MindLeaps saves children by reaching out to them with a means to improve their academic situation through dance lessons.

The Program

Studies showed that dancing and movement are important in the development of learning skills, creativity and self-esteem, as well as the improvement of memory and cognitive thinking. With this research, MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum for at-risk youths in Africa, focusing on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that they would not have developed otherwise. Students who graduated from MindLeaps have in fact shown significant cognitive and behavioral development in functions such as memorization, language, discipline and teamwork. Once dancing strengthens their minds, the children are then able to move on academically, earning sponsorships and scholarships from the organization and the dance instructors.

The Misty Copeland Scholarship

One of these instructors is Misty Copeland, a well-renowned American ballerina who came from poverty, as well. Copeland works with MindLeaps as an advisor, ambassador and dance teacher, as well as participating in their scholarship program, the International Artists Fund. In 2015, she traveled to Rwanda to help MindLeaps launch its girls’ program and established the Misty Copeland Scholarship, which provides a top dance student the opportunity to attend boarding school. Three years later, Misty returned to Rwanda and found that a student who had received that scholarship, a boy named Ali, had gone to achieve major academic success.

MindLeaps’ Achievements

Ali was not the only one to achieve success through MindLeaps. In January 2017, the organization reintegrated over 50 students into formal education in Rwanda. In March of that same year, more than half of those students ranked in the top 10 positions of their respective classes. MindLeaps’ dance lessons saved more than 600 at-risk children from illiteracy and potentially violent futures in 2017 alone. More than 3,500 children have completed the MindLeaps’ program across six different countries since 2014. The organization has seen a 0 percent drop-out rate for students whom it helped move on to formal education.

In short, Mindleaps saves children in slums and homeless children in underground tunnels thanks to dance lessons. Dance lessons offers them an opportunity to lead a life away from poverty. Developing their cognitive skills and earning their educations, enables these children to help and provide for their families, which in turn spares the next generation from illiteracy and hardship.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education in Argentina

Argentina was the seventh most prosperous nation in the world just a century ago, according to Agnus Maddison’s historic incomes database. In fact, its per capita income in 1909 was 50 percent higher than Italy and 180 percent higher than Japan. “The gap between 2000 income and predicted economic success, based on 1909 income, is larger for Argentina than for any other country,” according to New York Times’ Economix. In other words, income in Argentina is sharply declining. Much of the nation’s economic trouble can be attributed to shortcomings in their education system. Argentina’s education minister, Esteban Bullrich, says, “We don’t want to accept that we’re doing badly at anything.” While many of Argentina’s student academic goals are statistically high, other aspects of their education system have proved to be weak. Here are 10 facts about education in Argentina.

10 Facts About Education in Argentina

  1. Argentina’s quality of life is among the highest in South America. It is rated number 55 worldwide for quality of life and 40 in entrepreneurship. Due to this, many students have easy access to an education.
  2. Argentina’s literacy rate is 98.1 percent – a five percent increase since the 80s. More Argentinians are reading at a higher level now than ever before. In comparison, that is 12 percent higher than the global average.
  3. Argentina’s school year runs about 200 days. Students are in school from March to December with a two-week break during July and breaks on national holidays such as Easter. In contrast, American school years tend to run only 180 days a year. The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness found through their study that longer school years can benefit students greater than longer school days. Shortened summers prevent “summer slide-back,” a phenomenon in which students forget learned information during summer breaks.
  4. In 2005, 12.2 million students made up 30 percent of Argentina’s population. In the early 2000s an economic crisis had a severe impact on those enrolled in school. Primary level enrollment fell from 117.8 percent to 112.7 percent. Despite this, school is mandatory in the nation.
  5. School runs for just four hours a day, Monday through Friday, with a student either attending an 8:15- 12:15 session or a 13:00 to 17:15 session. In contrast, American schools average six and a half hours a day and schools in China run from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break. A study conducted by the Department of Education in Massachusetts found that longer school days can improve test scores by 4.7-10.8 percentage points
  6. As of 2016, Argentina has a secondary school enrollment rate of 90 percent, according to the World Bank. Secondary education is broken into a basic cycle of 3 years followed by a cycle of two to three years where students can study accounting, computer science, and other various specializations. Technical-vocational programs include 12-15 hours a week in workshops.
  7. Only 27 percent of students in Argentina finish their university studies. This gives the nation a drop-out rate of 73 percent – one of the highest in the world. Esteban Bullrich, the education minister says that only about half of students finish their secondary studies.
  8. The Minister of Education in Argentina refused César Alan Rodríguez, a student with down syndrome, his graduation certificate, arguing he had received an adaptive curriculum. Rodriguez was the only disabled student attending his school at the time. In response, he sued his school for discrimination of basis of disability. Argentina ruled in this case to start taking the education of disabled students seriously, creating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). CRPD is the first human rights treaty clearly stating all students have an equal right to education regardless of ability.
  9. A teacher’s gross salary in Argentina is $10,747 in American currency. This number is roughly a fifth of what teachers make in the United States. In contrast, Regional IT Managers in Argentina make $134,336 and Software Engineers make $55, 535 on average.
  10. Argentina’s Ministers of Education met at the G20 Summit on September 5th, 2018 to create an action plan. There the ministers pledged to keep up with societal and technological innovations, better equip teachers, “[promote] multiple and flexible pathways into lifelong education and training,” improve policies, and engage students. Furthermore, they discussed how to finance these goals in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.

Like the rest of the world, education in Argentina is not perfect. Drop-out rates run high and school days run short. However, the nation is making a clear effect to improve the situation for students and educators across their country.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr