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

Water Crisis in Iraq
Historically, Iraq has been a particularly fertile region, containing both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. However, wars, economic sanctions, damming, pollution and decreased rainfall have together created a water crisis in Iraq.

Current Status

River levels in Iraq have dropped by 40 percent in the past two decades, according to the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq. The drop has been partially caused by dams and reservoirs built by Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor, and decreased rain levels.

Canals branching out of the Tigris which are used to water rice, wheat and barley fields have run dry, leaving the fields barren. In a country where an estimated fifth of the population participates in agriculture, this has been particularly devastating. Some farmers have been reduced from cultivating 60 hectares of land to just five.

Basra, a governorate of approximately 4 million people, has been hit especially hard by the water crisis in Iraq. The region has suffered from a lack of reliable clean drinking water for the past 30 years. Basra relies mostly on the Shatt al-Arab river and its smaller canals for water. However, upstream damming has diverted river water for use on sugar plantations and other agricultural projects. This combined with decades of decreasing rainfall levels, predicted to only get worse with climate change, has created a severe lack of clean water in Basra.

Not only have water levels decreased, but the water available is also often contaminated. Iraqi water management plants suffer from a shortage of chlorine to treat contaminated water due to government regulation aimed at preventing armed groups from acquiring chlorine for use in weapons. However, even sufficient levels of chlorine would be unable to get rid of certain contaminates. The water of the Shatt al-Arab has been affected by seawater due to reduced river flow and by fecally contaminated groundwater which seeps in through cracks in pipes.

Contaminated water carries the risk of waterborne illnesses. In the summer of last year, 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized to treat afflictions related to contaminated water. Additionally, highly salinized water damages soil and kills crops, a significant issue in Basra where agriculture is the primary method of sustenance. In the face of water shortages and contamination of the existing water sources, residents have been forced to purchase water at high prices. Those who cannot afford this are forced to rely on tap water which may carry diseases.

Efforts to Address the Water Crisis in Iraq

Although the water crisis in Iraq seems dire, steps are already being taken to rectify it. UNESCO is partnering with the Iraqi government to reform the water management sector and improve irrigation systems.

The agency is assisting the Ministry of Water Resources’ efforts to expand the capabilities of water management experts, strengthen the institutions which impact water resource management and create a national policy for water sustainability. Additionally, UNESCO works to facilitate agreements on water management between Iraq and its neighbors. Iraq depends on water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, water sources also shared by Turkey, Syria and Iran. Water security for all of these countries, therefore, depends on cooperation. UNESCO promotes dialogue between these countries in order to ensure the water is managed in a way that provides for all.

Additionally, UNESCO addressed the water crisis in Iraq through improvements to irrigation systems, often utilizing ancient methods that have existed in the region for millennia. In the northern Kurdish governorates, for instance, UNESCO has worked to restore the Kahrez system, an ancient method of providing drinking water and agricultural irrigation. Through this system, water is collected at the base of hills and transported to fields by a network of wells. Although the Kahrez systems have fallen into disrepair in past years, UNESCO is currently engaged in cleaning and restoring the wells in order to provide drinking water and irrigation for the surrounding communities.

The agency is also collaborating with officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government to train workers in the water management field and has provided hydrological testing equipment.

Through these efforts, the water crisis in Iraq may be alleviated. It’s yet another example of what can happen when nations work together and help each other out.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Girls' education in Vietnam

“Girls’ education…is a primary issue in terms of breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of the group Save the Children, and this is especially true of girls’ education in Vietnam. Save the Children works in more than 120 countries to improve the lives of children and young people.

In Lao Cai province, one of the poorest regions in Vietnam, a significant number of girls lack access to basic needs. These needs include clean drinking water, toilets and basic education. Moreover, many women in the province suffer heinous human rights violations and have the highest illiteracy rates in Vietnam. Data show at least half of children 10 years old and older in Vietnam are illiterate. In fact, the illiteracy rates for girls are higher when compared to boys.

In primary school, girls’ education in Vietnam sees a high enrollment rate. However, it also sees a low attendance rate. In addition, many girls ultimately drop out of school. In more rural areas of Vietnam, low attendance rates increase due to lack of transportation. Transportation faces challenges like distance and damaged roads from wars. Furthermore, costs prevent many girls from continuing education in Vietnam. These costs include tuition and fees, plus textbooks, which are not free at secondary and tertiary levels. Instead of sending girls to school, many families more them to work and help the family. As a result, the Vietnamese government has been prioritizing gender equality and strategizing to improve girls’ education in Vietnam.

Making Improvements

The government of Vietnam has shown commitment to prioritizing and promoting gender equality. Nevertheless, the improvement of girls’ education in Vietnam remains a work in progress. To improve this, the Vietnamese government partnered with UNESCO and other developmental organizations. In particular, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training worked with UNESCO to establish the Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam under the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education.

The Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam gives girls and women a platform in Vietnam to fight for their human rights. For instance, the initiative provides education, raises awareness and teaches leadership training.

As listed on the UNESCO page, the objectives of the initiative are:

  1. “Reinforce gender equality in the Education Sector planning and management to empower girls and women.”

  2. “Enhance the capacity of education officials, teachers and experts to mainstream gender equality in curriculum and teaching practices.”

  3. “Raise awareness of students, parents, community members and the media to support the enabling environment for girls’ and women’s education and gender mainstreaming.”

UNESCO and other development organizations contribute to fostering a supportive environment for girls and women in Vietnam, especially within the educational setting. In Vietnam, UNESCO aims to create a fair environment where males and females both have a future and benefit from an equal-gender system of education.

Fifita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

work that supports education in the PhilippinesThough the Philippines’ schooling system has significantly evolved in past years, many Filipinos still find challenges in receiving a quality education. The World Bank believes that increasing education opportunities could economically benefit the Philippines as well. Here is a list of work that supports education in the Philippines.

  1. PETC Workers Help Repair a Philippine School
    On July 1, 2016, the Lear Philippine Engineering and Technology Center (PETC) reported its work to support the Philippines’ “Brigade Eskwela” (Brigade for Education). Seventy engineers and associates painted a wall and classroom at Maguikay Elementary school. The volunteers also repaired some of the classroom’s amenities. The PETC put up a donation box at the school and received books, four sets of wall fans and $150 in contributions for incoming students’ school supplies.
  2. The Philippines’ Successful K-12 Reform
    In August 2016, the Philippines’ long-running K-12 education reform efforts helped 1.5 million students attend eleventh grade for the first time. The Philippines’ new K-12 law adds two years of senior high school, eleventh and twelfth grade, to the country’s required education system.
    Contrary to the number of students who completed the tenth grade in 2015, almost 50,000 more enrolled in the new eleventh grade for 2016. The change was especially significant since the Philippines was originally one of a few countries with a 10-year basic education system.
  3. UNESCO Helps the Philippines’ Department of Education
    In September 2016, UNESCO met with the Philippines’ Department of Education and thanked it for its continued cooperation in various activities. Dr. Leonor Magtolis, the department’s secretary, thanked UNESCO for its work that supports education in the Philippines. Magtolis also thanked UNESCO for its initiative to start an alternative learning system (ALS) for the Philippines. Magtolis believed that an ALS would be especially helpful for Filipino school children in rehabilitation centers.
  4. The Philippines’ Zero Dropout Education Scheme
    In December 2016, the Ernst and Young (EY) firm revealed its support for the Philippines’ Zero Dropout Education Scheme (ZeDrES). From 2011 to 2016, ZeDrES ensured that 250,000 Filipino children from low-income families could enroll in and complete primary education, providing them with microloans to afford their expenses. EY’s team audits ZeDrES’s financial statements and assesses its delivery and impact.
  5. The Success of USAID’s STRIDE Program
    In September 2013, USAID awarded RTI International a cooperative agreement called Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) that would enhance the Philippines’ economic and educational sector. In April 2017, STRIDE awarded $5 million in technology, collaborative science and research grants to more than 20 million Philippine universities. In addition to awarding 46 scholarships to help Filipinos study in U.S. universities, STRIDE is creating technology offices in 36 Philippine universities.
  6. Free Tuition for 100 Philippine Colleges
    In August 2017, President Rodrigo Duerte signed a bill that grants free tuition for 100 colleges and state universities in the Philippines. Though President Duerte knew that the new law would have heavy short-term costs, he was more focused on its long-term benefits to Philippine students. A senior official said that the new law will benefit the Philippines’ local tertiary schools as well. “Now I can finish my college education. It means hard work,” said Angela Rebato, a student from Quezon City.

Volunteer work, funding and free tuition can continue to help Philippine students break educational barriers. PETC, UNESCO, USAID and other entities continue to inspire more work that supports education in the Philippines as well.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Brunei Darussalam, better known as Brunei, is an absolute monarchy-based country located in Southeastern Asia, around the coast of Borneo and bordering Malaysia. The country is mostly known by its high economy levels, based on the exportation of oil and natural gas.

It is one of the nations with the most influence around the world, due to its economy and exportation materials, leading Brunei to be an extremely rich land. Brunei is led by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, which has brought an extreme version of government to the country. With the imposition of sharia law, the Sultan’s political views and ways to rule Brunei have been widely criticized across the world. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah marked 50 years of ruling Brunei this past Oct. 5, 2017.

Regardless, the Sultan’s criticized way of governing the country has not had any major negative impacts on the schooling system and education in Brunei. In fact, Brunei’s education has been positively affected within the past decade, when the country joined UNESCO in 2005.

Education in Brunei took a turning point when it was included as a part of a worldwide-known organization called Education For All (EFA). EFA is an initiative geared towards expanding early childhood education, increasing adult literacy and promoting learning skills for both young people and adults.

Based on the British education system, Brunei divides its education into three levels. The first one, the pre-primary level, is meant to teach children from age three to five. Pre-primary schooling follows the EFA initiative of introducing education as early as possible. The primary level follows the pre-primary level. This second education stage is six years long and introduces the national language of Malay as well as English. As a final level, secondary school is focused on preparing students for a college-like education. It can also be considered a pre-university level.

Brunei has a particular education system that seems to please the country’s citizens. The fact is that not only is schooling organized and something everyone can afford, but there are different options for students who might want to study not-so-traditional career paths.

Vocational education is a special schooling system which includes technical and craft colleges; agriculture, nursing, teaching and more are taught in this level of education.

Education in Brunei can also be classified within two categories: the first one being nongovernmental schools, or private schools and the second one being government-based school, or public schools.

Brunei has an exemplary education system. Different options, education levels, and a wide range of universities, technical colleges, institutes and more provide different choices for Brunei’s citizens. Organizations such as EFA are working tirelessly in order to have a positive impact on education in Brunei so that it may improve in the future.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

STEM Education

Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have been coming in a distant second to their male counterparts for the entirety of STEM’s history.

Since Marie Curie was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. This number is drastically lower than the 572 men who have won Nobel Prizes in that time.

Additionally, only 28 percent of researchers worldwide are women. This immense gender gap has motivated people across the world to alleviate the adversity women continue to face in the STEM world.

Among these is Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who has recognized that many countries hold girls back at a young age due to discrimination, biases and social norms and expectations.

Because girls are turned away from the quality STEM education that boys have access to, girls tend to lose interest in these subjects between early and late adolescence.

At the Cracking the Code: Girls’ Education in STEM conference in Bangkok from August 28-30, officials discussed this gender gap and the ways it can be improved.

Currently, only 35 percent of college students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female, which is undoubtedly low because of the lack of STEM opportunities for girls throughout primary and secondary school.

Progress has been made in some countries, known as “model countries”, that are fighting this gender gap. Malaysia has partnered with UNESCO to achieve gender parity, which has led to 57 percent of degrees in science-related fields being held by women.

Malaysia and UNESCO are working in the global south and several African countries to improve STEM education opportunities for girls. Schools across the globe are being encouraged to pay more attention to female students and provide curriculum and other learning materials that stray from the stereotypical masculinity of sciences.

Support for girls pursuing a STEM education starts at home. Family biases and gender norms are a big contributor to the low number of females in STEM-related fields.

Thus, it is increasingly important for families to encourage young girls to join science and math-related activities and clubs outside of the classroom. Science and math clubs, competitions and camps are a great source of empowerment for girls in STEM education.

While UNESCO and model countries are working to eliminate the gender gap in STEM, it takes the support of educators and role models globally to change the fate of female students.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr



Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.


Education in MoroccoSince Morocco’s independence in 1956, its education system has typically been described as frustrating and disappointing. In recent years, Morocco has made numerous improvements and committed to solidifying the quality of its education system. Here are five facts about education in Morocco.

  1. The academic year begins in September and ends in June. The school system is structured into three separate parts. Primary takes students starting at the age of 6 and educates them until the age of 12. Secondary and tertiary last another three years each. Morocco also offers educational options beyond public schooling with higher learning institutions.
  2. Learning and knowledge are typically measured through literacy, the ability to read and write. Reading and writing are essential to reaching higher levels of education and scoring well on national performance tests. Morocco’s youth have made tremendous strides in increasing their literacy rates. The World Bank reports 95 percent of youth ages 15-24 years old can effectively read and write. This is an increase from 81.5 percent in 2011.
  3. Men in Morocco currently dominate the gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary education systems. The UNESCO chart for secondary education shows that male enrollment exceeded female enrollment by 10.8 percent in 2012. However, tables for 2015 show a decreased gap in admission ratio for primary and tertiary education.
  4. Public spending on education has been significantly rising in Morocco. According to the OCP Policy Center, government spending on education in 2014 was about 5.9 percent of GDP and 21.3 percent of total government spending. Since 2002, payments have been increasing by more than 5 percent per year almost every year. One analysis from the International Monetary Fund confirms a more organized use of this money has the potential to lead standardized test scores to increase by 53 points.
  5. Morocco suffers from low-quality education as reflected in performance indicators. In a 2014 update completed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Morocco ranks in the thirtieth percentile for learning compared to other countries. The most recent PIRLS and TIMSS assessment results for 2011 showcase just how poor Morocco’s performance is. Test results reveal Morocco ranks second to last in math and last in reading compared to the 36 countries participating.

The good news is that experts and policymakers have fully recognized the remaining barriers for education in Morocco. A way forward has also been identified through their 2015-2030 Vision for Education in Morocco. The plan will address previous failures by targeting four specific areas including the priority for quality education. The country has already partnered with the USAID to make some of these goals a reality. So far 12,000 students have been reached with a new reading method and over 340 teachers have been trained on new reading instruction.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

What Does UNESCO Stand For?

The organization UNESCO is a crucial part of any discussion of peace and unity among foreign powers. However, few people know the mission of this global organization, let alone its role in decreasing global poverty. So, what does UNESCO stand for?

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. According to the organization’s official website, it is responsible for fostering transnational ties in the areas of scientific advancements, equality in education, cultural development and freedom of expression.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the organization, UNESCO is able to effect change through a variety of platforms and to reach many populations. UNESCO’s extensive reach allows it to have a considerable influence on global issues, namely global poverty.

UNESCO defines the effects of poverty not only in terms of the economic disadvantage but also in terms of social, political and cultural hardships. UNESCO not only advocates for individuals living in absolute poverty but also for those suffering social exclusion and isolation as a result of relative poverty.

What does UNESCO stand for in terms of forming global alliances? UNESCO addresses these indirect consequences of poverty in several of its recent campaigns and goals. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the most recent proposal by UNESCO to counteract the repercussions of poverty in the global community.

In this document, UNESCO identifies extreme poverty as the greatest global challenge to sustainable development and emphasizes several targets to focus on in the next 15 years, including peace, prosperity and partnership. This campaign contributed to an international alliance to end extreme poverty and set up time-bound goals that hold constituents of the U.N. accountable for their pieces of the partnership.

These goals prioritize the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, education reform, women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability and several economic growth initiatives. The U.N. hopes to fulfill them by 2030.

In addition to providing resource-poor areas with necessities, UNESCO promotes a “culture of peace.” In order to establish this culture, the organization pushes for international cooperation through Water for Peace programs as well as geopark and biosphere reserve management. Another UNESCO priority is engaging community members by providing human rights education and sustainable development training.

One peace promotion and cultural inclusion strategy that UNESCO uses is funding and protecting World Heritage Sites. These sites are selected for their cultural, scientific or historical significance. The organization’s ultimate goals in protecting these sites are encouraging peacefulness in the present and contributing to these sites’ posterity. The Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House and Jerusalem, to name a few, meet World Heritage Site classification criteria.

What does UNESCO stand for? Over the years, UNESCO has contributed to a number of diverse campaigns, but its overarching mission remains the same. UNESCO stands for human rights advocacy, social inclusion and allowing every human being to fulfill his or her full potential with dignity and equality. These values will continue to be included in the organization’s agenda and initiatives.

Sarah Coiro

Photo: Flickr

Forty percent of Turkmenistan’s population is under the age of 15, which according to UNICEF provides the country with an opportunity for growth if this young population is able to receive a good education. However, they also recognize that this growing population could be a problem for the country if the quality of education in Turkmenistan begins to decline. It is important for the school systems to continue to grow over the coming years to prepare for this rising generation of students.

In order to ensure the continuation of this necessary growth, the country’s government has partnered with UNICEF to create an educational review program to monitor the progress of schools. They are working to analyze the needs of schools and make necessary improvements to their programs. These improvements appear to be making an impact in the nation since there is a 97 percent attendance rating in primary schools.

However, secondary schools have a lower attendance rate of 85 percent and for pre-primary schools, this number is even lower. This lack of attendance is due to the lack of school buildings and the deterioration of current ones. A UNICEF report states, that as more buildings become unusable, attendance rates will decrease.

According to UNESCO, the literary rate for ages 15 and up in Turkmenistan is almost 100 percent for both sexes. In addition, data from UNICEF indicates that education in Turkmenistan is in a state of equity, with no enrollment gaps between genders or across social classes. Education in Turkmenistan is now mandatory for students ages six to 17 and this is making a great impact, according to UNESCO.

This is because the rate of illiterate members in the population ages 15 and older have been steadily declining. There are half as many illiterate adults as there were in 1995, according to a UNESCO report on literacy and education in Turkmenistan. Despite many improvements in education over the last few decades, UNICEF warns that the government needs to work to assure that these improvements are not lost due to issues that the country is facing, particularly as it pertains to the lack of facilities that can be turned into schools.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

The education system in Trinidad and Tobago is one of the government’s highest priorities, and the country has an outstanding reputation in this regard. As of 2015, the country had a literacy rate of 96.9 percent according to UNESCO statistics and has steadily grown since the early nineties.

Education in Trinidad and Tobago is free and compulsory but accessible from the preschool age of three which is considered non-mandatory. After the completion of secondary school, students are given the option of staying on for an additional two years of high school which can lead to an advanced proficiency certificate and entry into a tertiary institution.

University in Trinidad and Tobago is free at the undergraduate degree and only approved at the University of the West Indies, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and the University of the Southern Caribbean. The government of Trinidad and Tobago also provides subsidies for some master’s programs making education in Trinidad and Tobago the best in the Caribbean.

In 2007, Trinidad and Tobago commenced a pilot study to focus on children with special needs outside of partnering with private preschools to develop four models that address childhood education.

Education in Trinidad and Tobago is considered one of the country’s greatest strengths and is very multi-faceted. Trinidad’s education sector stands out among emerging markets and ranks on the global competitiveness report. According to the OECD PISA score of Trinidad and Tobago, girls perform significantly better than boys statistically. A lot of students has also repeated a grade compared to other countries and economies also participating in PISA.

While education in Trinidad and Tobago has seen great improvement, particularly in curriculum design and strategic policy, the Ministry of Education and major stakeholders continue to be more innovative in their efforts to create a highly skilled, knowledgeable workforce.

Education is Trinidad and Tobago is considered one the most important development tools for the country.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr