Technology to promote literacyPapua 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

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is located in central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan bordering. Though the smallest in land size, Tajikistan does have a higher elevation average with a more mountainous landscape which should place it at a disadvantage with the spread of health care. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan

  1. According to data from the United Nations, Tajikistan ranks 134th in life expectancy for both sexes and second in relation to its neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Tajikistan follows the global trend of rising and currently has a male life expectancy of 68.6 placing it at rank 126 for male life expectancy. Tajikistan has a female life expectancy of 73.1 years placing it at 134th for female life expectancy.

  2. During the past 60 years, the only time life expectancy in Tajikistan has dropped was during its five-year civil war through May 1992 and June 1997. The civil war resulted in between 65,000 and 150,000 deaths, which accounted for about 1 percent of Tajikistan’s population at the time. Additionally, severe food shortages, as well as refugees and internally displaced people negatively affected Tajikistan’s standard of living.

  3. Since 2005, Tajikistan’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 95/100,000 to 32/100,000 in 2008. Afterward, the rate decreased to 25.2/100,000 in 2016. Throughout this time USAID and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFP) were working with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen its health care programs through improved health care education and financial support. This support came through the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Project which focused on improving health, nutrition and hygiene for the women and children at the community level, as well as the UNFP training of doctors and midwives on effective perinatal care.

  4. Tajikistan has 170 physicians and 444 nurses per 100,000, which is comparatively less than the EU average of 347 and 850, respectively. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) is currently working to help improve the condition of health care education by promoting medical education. Currently its efforts are supporting roughly 900 undergraduate medical students, several hundred nurses and over 100 postgraduate residents per year.

  5. Since 2009, USAID has helped to create or fix 76 water systems allowing 242,000 or more people to access safe drinking water. Tajikistan also has an estimated 354,000 cubic meters per year, which is four times the average water flow than the entire region of Central Asia. This is important as roughly 3.7 percent of deaths are related to water-borne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.

  6. Non-governmental organizations are working to fill the gaps in their health care systems relating to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These gaps exist due to Tajikistan’s limited manpower and financial resources.

  7. At 99.8 percent Tajikistan has a high literacy rate compared to countries of similar economic standing. The high literacy rate should help facilitate the spread of health care information.

  8. Since 1994, Tajikistan has had legislation to protect patient rights and give patient choice, complaint and reimbursement procedures. Tajikistan’s constitution even includes this legislation in Article 38 which promises that each person has the right to basic health care and any other sort that future laws deem necessary.

  9.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan ties for the 76th rank in road fatalities at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.K. has 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people related to road fatalities. Though road safety contributes to a large number of deaths in Tajikistan, the road affects access to health care as well. As mentioned previously, the mountainous landscape proves to be a major obstacle in improving access to health care.

  10. The 10th fact about life expectancy in Tajikistan is that even though these problems and solutions are occurring, 45 percent of women from the ages 15 to 49 agree that the largest issue is getting the necessary money to afford health care treatment.

Life expectancy in Tajikistan is steadily improving with help from NGOs and further promoted health care education. While proper laws are in place to allow the population to seek out proper/adequate health care, financial limits burden those in poorer parts of the country and force them to seek the cheapest alternative.

With data being collected on Tajikistan’s health care system, an interest in increasing clean water access and an ample desire to better its system, Tajikistan is on the road to progress. There are several ways to contribute to helping improve the life expectancy in Tajikistan through supporting NGO’s efforts to provide children and families with clothes, food and shelter and to improve education standards and accessibility.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: World Bank

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman
Oman is a country located in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. The majority of the country’s population is located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Wealthy in oil and progressive in culture, Oman is experiencing high levels of immigration and some expect its population to double by 2050. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman contribute heavily to this.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman

  1. Oman, with a population of 4.6 million (as of the last census in 2017), ranks 97th in the world in life expectancy with the average life lasting 75.9 years. The country ranks eighth in life expectancy out of the 19 Middle Eastern countries and fifth out of the seven countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. Women outlive men by approximately 4.1 years on average with the female life expectancy at 78 years and the male life expectancy at 73.9 years. These averages are by no means abnormal on a global scale and are due to men being more prone to heart disease and accidents on the roadways.
  3. The life expectancy in Oman has more than doubled since 1950 when the average Omani life lasted just over 33 years. This is a 233 percent increase. The U.N. projects that the average Omani life expectancy will reach 80 years in the early 2030s. This is in large part due to the country’s advancing health care system. Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman since 1971, has stated multiple times that health care is a basic human right. He established the Ministry of Health (MoH) by a royal decree. The MoH guarantees that Omani citizens receive basic health care, free of charge.
  4. As of 2016, Oman had 69 hospitals and over 6,400 beds within them. That calculates out to slightly more than 15 beds per 1,000 people. This serves as a sign of substantial progress, given that when Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to power in 1970, only two hospitals were in operation.
  5. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working in collaboration with the MoH, and in 2014, the organization announced a long-term plan entitled Health Vision 2050. This plan calls for larger investments in the health care field. The WHO is assisting in the development and sustainment of health-related technologies. The organization also commits to teaching more proper methods of personal and professional care. The MoH currently covers more than 80 percent of the costs associated with these health care expenditures, which is roughly 11 percent of the Omani government’s entire yearly budget.
  6. Ischemic heart disease, road injuries, stroke, diabetes and lower respiratory infections are the leading causes of death in Oman. Communicable diseases have seen a sharp decline in frequency and severity in Oman due to the steadily increasing quality of life. Now, lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are on the rise.
  7. Obesity has become substantially more prevalent within the past decade. As of 2017, approximately 27 percent of Omani adults are obese. Oman is now the 36th most obese country in the world. The MoH is attempting to address this by educating the populous on the importance of having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  8. Typically, as birth rates decrease, life expectancy increases. Omani women are having far fewer children than their parents before them. The average Omani woman living in 1982 had 8.35 children. As of 2016, this number has fallen to a mere 2.67 children per woman, and many expect it to continue to decrease.
  9. As the Omani family is getting smaller, individuals are receiving more attention. Literacy rates are rising quickly, and as of 2017, 97 percent of Omani citizens are functionally literate. This is drastically higher than the surrounding countries, with the average literacy rate of the Middle East and Northern Africa at 80 percent.
  10. Oman is a young country with a median age of 25.8. Roughly 30 percent of the population falls between the ages of zero and 14.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman highlight just some of the extraordinary strides the country has made since its renaissance in the early 1970s. Although its health care system still faces issues, the way the country has tenaciously planned to advance itself is admirable and people should view it as a model for what thorough and proper planning can accomplish.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America
Recent news has increasingly mentioned the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and its migration crisis. Each of these countries have economic systems that have similar financial agreements with outside countries. These 10 facts about poverty in Central America will identify issues, solutions and trends that lead back to Central America’s poverty crisis.

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America

  1. The Economy: The political economy of Central America has parallelled that of the world for the past five decades. A combination of factors such as a vulnerable bureaucratic system, a shifting population and aggressive globalization are causing Central America to experience gentrification on a national level, creating more significant gaps between economic classes.
  2. Climate Change: Changes in nature such as unusually warm temperatures, nutrient-poor water and the comeback of the southern pine beetle are occurring throughout the region of Central America. This insect is a result of a change in climate where the ocean temperature rises significantly, placing additional demand on presently strained water reserves.
  3. Population: In the past five decades, Central America’s population has continued to increase with the most considerable change occurring up to the mid-1970s, after which the difference in community numbers became highly sporadic. As the population continues to increase, resources like infrastructure and the economy struggle to match demand. As a result, the levels of poverty and extreme poverty have increased by approximately one percent between 2014 and 2017 and extreme poverty increased two percent between 2014 and 2016. Congresswoman Alicia Barcena mentioned the need for public services such as social security and labor inclusion, and how pairing these resources with increased wages could lessen the amount of poverty.
  4. Legislation: Central American countries are making efforts through previous legislation to alleviate their economic hardships. Since 2004, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement has promoted stronger trade and stability throughout these regions. FTA reduces the barriers that countries previously had to access U.S. exports. As a result, traded goods all originate between Mexico and Canada with the exceptions of agricultural commodities. These areas give considerable attention to the conditions and the rights of workers in their countries. Countries are currently updating NAFTA to address additional concerns such as how to verify labor standards and eliminate the time restraint on labor violations.
  5. Clean Water Accessibility: Nicaragua is the only country in the region that has substantial access to waterways but the surrounding countries, like Honduras, Guatemala and Peru, do not due to the steep terrain that can make up significant portions of their countries. These collections of water are rarely safe for consumption even if they are accessible. For many households, accessing water is a timely chore that can take hours traveling back and forth between sources of water and homes, and limit people’s ability to attend work or school. For example, around 63 percent of Honduras’ population is living below poverty and those who live in rural areas work as farmers; as a result, their earnings rarely go to education, but rather daily tasks like water collection. To help with water accessibility, Doc Hendley started Wine to Water. Wine to Water is a nonprofit organization that works to bring clean water to underserved communities. It has served over half a million people in over 300 communities, across five continents. To date, it has worked in Honduras within eight communities and aided over 11,000 people.
  6. Literacy: Many regions have limited water supplies that are safe or close in the distance, meaning that in a single day, a trip for a container of water takes several hours. As a region, Central America has lower literacy rates with an average of 79.4, compared to the global average of 83.7. The countries in Central America with the highest literacy rates are Costa Rica and Panama, while the country with the lowest is Guatemala.
  7. The Northern Triangle: The Northern Triangle is a subregion in Central America between El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These countries have a secure connection with each other economically due to legislation that passed during the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of those changes, however, have had macroeconomic effects on the region leaving large portions of the population enduring unequal access to resources and encouraging many to migrate elsewhere, working against stimulating its economy. The House Committee of Foreign Affairs introduced legislation to address the causes of migration and authorized $577 million in foreign assistance for the years 2020.
  8. Women in Central America: Central American women are facing challenges to raise their economic status while being met with social obstacles. For example, some women in El Salvador meet with sexism, fragile protection and few rights. These challenges, along with limited assets, the possibility of extortion and insufficient education about business management and finances make some businesswomen wary of growing or succeeding with their activities.
  9. Migration: Many people have made efforts to migrate to other countries due to the rising concern of survival. Droughts, economic instability, increased violence between gang members and civilians, corrupt legal systems and a weak government have made daily life challenging.
  10. Violence: The violence in Central America has been on the rise for decades, causing hundreds of thousands of migrants out of the region. Of those who remain in the area, the violence, extortion and corruption are frequent. Legislation such as the Global Fragility Act of 2019 prevents and addresses the primary causes of violence in various countries.

These 10 facts about poverty in Central America emphasize the point that poverty is a broad issue with a number of solutions. While situations in Central America may seem dire, the efforts by nonprofits like Wine to Water and legislation like the Global Fragility Act of 2019 should aid in improving the area’s conditions.

– Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

literacy in bangladeshThe term “literacy” means far more today than in the past, incorporating not only the ability to read physical texts, but to also be able to comprehend and break down internet sources and articles as well. Bangladesh has been striving to make the country’s educational system develop these skills through the implementation of newer programs and the infusion of technology into schools. The government’s goal of creating an accomplished, educated population through digital education has helped to increase literacy in Bangladesh.

Education Overview

Bangladesh’s school system is broken down into four categories: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. The country currently has five years of compulsory education from age six to age ten. The country has been working to decrease the number of out of school children throughout the past ten years, with only 753 children not in school as of 2017. The number of out of school adolescents has also decreased, dropping from 2,776 children in 2010 to 995 children in 2017.

Impact of Digital Education

With these decreases in out-of-school children, Bangladesh has been working to increase the literacy levels throughout the country. Digital education is making access to reading materials and textbooks easier throughout all regions, which helps to improve literacy in Bangladesh. Using digital materials to increase the level of education in schools is helping children to understand the tools available through the internet and infuse a larger amount of knowledge into the current school systems in place. Many schools have adopted the use of technology to aid education throughout the country, incorporating digital white boards, tablet devices and learning apps to infuse more learning materials into classrooms.

JAAGO Foundation

One group working to improve literacy rates in Bangladesh is the JAAGO Foundation, which has helped through the creation of a digital school. This school helps to teach information and communications technology (ICT) to students, which was accredited by UNESCO in 2017 as an innovative, new method for ICT education. The school is set up into parts: a headquarters for teachers located in Dhaka, and classrooms in remote areas with video-streaming technology to broadcast lessons from the headquarters. JAAGO’s school also includes interactive calls between the students and the teachers in Dhaka so that these students have opportunities to ask questions and get individual learning time.

JAAGO has also partnered with Bangladesh’s government through the A2i project, which provides an e-learning platform for students looking for an online education. This platform, named Muktopaath, features both videos and educational lessons to supplement traditional education forms and help to increase the literacy rates throughout the country.

Literacy Rates on the Rise

Because of institutions like the digital school from the JAAGO Foundation, literacy in Bangladesh is currently at an all-time high, with 72.76 percent of the population being literate in 2016. This number has increased by 26.1 percent from 2007, where literacy rates were measured at 46.66 percent. The literacy rate for people between 15 to 24 has also increased drastically, from 61.87 percent in 2007 to 92.24 percent in 2016. These figures show how Bangladesh is working to break out of the Least Developed Country (LDC) designation and improve overall quality of education throughout the regions.

Bangladesh’s government has also been increasing funding to local schools to benefit the quality of literacy and education throughout the country. Government spending toward education was over $4.3 billion in 2016, which is more than double what the government spent in 2008. The National Education Policy of 2010 helped to make education accessible for everyone, and over 26,000 primary schools have been accredited by the government as national schools to ensure that a primary school is in every region of the country.

Literacy in Bangladesh has been steadily increasing by infusing technology into local schools. Through increasing government funding for schools and with the help of outside programs like the JAAGO Foundation, educational systems throughout the country are beginning to rise to meet international education standards. As more technology is added into school systems, Bangladesh will continue to improve in international standings and surpass LDC status within the next few years.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

Literacy Rate in India
India witnessed an increase in its overall literacy rate, jumping from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011. To further encourage this upward trend, Pratham Books is introducing children to new adventures and worlds. Pratham Books is a nonprofit publisher empowering Indian children with the joy of reading. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), in 2016, one out of two Indian children could not read at their grade level. Pratham Books is on a mission to improve the youth literacy rate in India.

Accessibility of Pratham Books to Different Reading Proficiencies

Pratham Books offers children a variety of programs to encourage them to read. From their bright and colorful storybooks to their cost-efficient story cards, Pratham Books has created a platform for everyone to enjoy. The storybooks expand over a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.

Pratham Books divides books into four levels; emergent, early, independent and fluent readers. Instead of children deciding to read a book based on age, they can choose based on their reading proficiency so they can learn at their own pace. The nonprofit publisher also explores STEM, cultural and bilingual topics.

The Importance of Library-in-a-Classroom

According to the World Bank, nearly 22 percent of India’s population was living in poverty in 2011. For many low-income families, children do not have access to school supplies, including books. Pratham Books created a solution to this issue through its Library-in-a-Classroom (LIC) initiative. The LIC is a portable bookshelf that schools can hang on a wall and can hold over 100 books. Though the LIC does not have rows upon rows of shelves, it does provide children with a library-like atmosphere and inspires them to read.

StoryWeaver and Digital Books

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 40 percent of the world lacks access to education in a language they can understand. Aside from print books, Pratham Books also supplies children with digital storybooks through its digital platform, StoryWeaver. With over 15,000 stories in nearly 200 languages, StoryWeaver is not only a place where children can read and learn but also create, translate and download content for free. In an interview with The Economic Times, Chairperson, Suzanne Singh, stated that with nearly 400,000 users on StoryWeaver, the company’s “readership…has grown outside India.” People as far as African and Canada explore StoryWeaver’s rich content while supporting a good cause.

“A Book in Every Child’s Hand”

From 2017-2018, Pratham Books shared nearly 1.5 million books across India. Through the assistance of its partners, Pratham Books also established 300 libraries in government schools. That same year, the nonprofit publisher’s Donate-a-Book campaign was able to provide 45,000 children with access to a library. Pratham Books has recently released PhoneStories, granting children access to its stories while on the go.

Through Pratham Books, thousands of children now have access to books in school and their language. With more and more young children introduced to reading, the youth literacy rate in India continues to increase. The nonprofit publisher may have begun in India, but it is greatly impacting the world and empowering children.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

eight facts about education in tanzaniaComprised of what once were two separate states, Zanzibar and Tanganyika, Tanzania now sits in East Africa between Kenya and Mozambique after gaining independence from Britain in 1964. With a population of over 55 million people, Tanzania is the biggest and most populous East African nation. The following 8 facts about education in the United Republic of Tanzania will highlight problems students face in the pursuit of education. They will also map out efforts being made to ensure that students are able to access education.

8 Facts about Education in the United Republic of Tanzania

  1. Throughout the 1970s, a focus was placed on education. Universal primary schooling consisting of seven years was instated. Unfortunately, the demand for secondary school outweighs the budget allotment, and as a result, many parents have been forced to help sponsor said education.
  2. While there is little to no disparity between boys and girls enrolling in the mandatory primary schooling, just one-third of girls who enroll in secondary education will complete it. This may be a contribution to why 83.2 percent of males age 15 and over being able to read and write as opposed to the 73.1 percent of females at the same age level. Contributing factors to girls’ having restrictions on their educations include premature marriages, gender-based violence and financial hardships.
  3. Due to low literacy rates, the Tanzanian government has put a focus on adult education in addition to childhood education. Because of the success of these programs, adult literacy rates have improved drastically. While Tanzania’s literacy rates are still below the world average, in terms of African nations, it ranks above average.
  4. Another hindrance to children’s education in Tanzania is the lack of qualified teachers available to teach. UNICEF reports that for every 131 students, there is one qualified teacher. This leaves many students without access to the education they deserve.
  5. In addition to not having a sufficient number of teachers staffed in schools, many teachers are left without proper tools to teach adequately. Sixty-six percent of teachers say that they are not equipped with proper teaching supplies. Not providing teachers with the necessary tools to teach is a massive contributor to lower literacy rates.
  6. USAID is working to provide various services designed to increase student retention rates. The organization is working closely to address the restrictions that young girls face in order to let them continue their education. USAID is working in partnerships with the National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children.
  7. With USAID’s involvement, an estimated 19,000 young girls will benefit and have increased support for their continued education. It is predicted that nearly 1.5 million students as a whole will see improvements in their reading, writing and math schooling by 2021. Increasing the quality of school materials will lead to massive change throughout the country.
  8. Another organization passionate about affording education to those in need in Tanzania is UNICEF. By 2021, UNICEF, along with the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG), hopes to increase the availability of safe and inclusive access to basic education. With this plan, the hope is to provide even the most vulnerable young people in Tanzania with proper primary education.

While Tanzania, like many other countries, has room for improvement, these 8 facts about education in the United Republic of Tanzania show that there are strong efforts being made. With effective plans of action in place for the next few years, the future of education in Tanzania looks brighter.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Education in Tunisia

Tunisia is a small country in Northern Africa with a population of 11.5 million people. Both Arabic and French play a large role in Tunisian culture and both are considered primary languages of instruction in schools. Education in Tunisia is an important part of society and is compulsory until the age of 16. The following seven facts about education in Tunisia further illuminate the country’s challenges and initiatives to improve the current system and community.

Seven Facts about Education in Tunisia

  1. While Tunisia’s education is influenced by the French system, an emphasis on Arabic language and culture is prioritized within schools. After gaining independence from France in 1956, Tunisian education has seen significant Arabization since the 1970s. In recent years, however, there has been yet another cultural shift marked by the demand for English speakers within the workplace. As a result, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research partnered with the British council in 2016 to offer English speaking certificates within their Tunisian universities in order to increase employability for Tunisians at home and abroad.
  2. Schools in Tunisia are overseen by the Tunisian Ministry of Education and Training. There are three main levels of schooling: basic, secondary and higher education. In 1991, the Tunisian government passed the New Education Act which lengthened the duration of the basic and secondary levels to 13 years.
  3. The Tunisian government has also significantly invested in a pre-primary level of education intended for children from ages 3-5. These exist in two forms: traditional kindergartens and kouttabs, which are supervised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, respectively. In traditional kindergartens, children follow a standard curriculum. In contrast, kouttabs, the educational focus is on religion. From 1987 to 2007, the number of kouttabs has nearly tripled from 278 to 961. Though there is no data comparing the enrollment between kindergartens and kouttabs, this increase in the number of kouttabs does reveal higher levels of enrollment today.
  4. According to UNESCO, Tunisia spends about 6.2 percent of its GDP on education. Many modern technologies used in Tunisian classrooms today are funded by major organizations such as the World Bank, Microsoft and Apple. This has seen an especially significant impact at the University of Tunis: 20 percent of its courses have been offered online in the last 15 years. This has also increased the number of students able to complete their education by allowing them to work part-time while earning their degrees, an impactful solution in addressing Tunisan educational reforms.
  5. The government’s recent initiatives to improve the education system after independence can be seen in the discrepancies between the older and younger Tunisian generations. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate between 15-24-year-olds was 96.1 percent in comparison to 39.77 percent of those 65 and older as of 2014. To address this issue, the National Adult Education Programme was created in 2000. In the first three years of its existence, the program grew from 107,000 participants to 165,000.
  6. In 2016, the Tunisian government released the Strategic Plan for the Education Sector, detailing intended reforms spanning the next four years. The plan identifies its primary goal: reducing dropout rates to be addressed by “improving teacher training, upgrade curricula and infrastructure, as well as… enhance [the] framework for private sector partnerships.”
  7. According to UNESCO, the education rate between young men and women in Tunisia is almost equal: In 2007, 96.7 percent of girls and 95.5 percent of boys were recorded to be in school. That being said, however, traditional Tunisian cultural norms have heavily influenced the employability of educated women who have a harder time finding work than their lesser-educated counterparts. The World Bank reports that “the unemployment rate has remained around 15.5 percent and is particularly high among women (22.8 percent), graduates (29.4 percent) and in poor regions.”

The World Bank estimates that Tunisia’s economy is projected to grow 4 percent in the next year, which it states is “contingent on the completion of pressing reforms to improve the investment climate and ensure social stability.” These seven facts about education in Tunisia highlight these issues, and ensuring that they are addressed, Tunisia is sure to flourish for years to come.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr