As part of the charter, the United Nations was created to help world development among many other ideas.

In 2000, the UN released the Millennium Goals, a set of goals to eradicate poverty by 2015. For education, the goal was to achieve universal primary education. The same year, the UN also announced the Education for All goals, which includes objectives like creating gender and ethnic equality for accessing education, increasing adult literacy, and improving the quality of education offered.

When the 2015 year began, the UN reevaluated these measures and how they have been successful. Primary education has reached 90 percent of the youth; however, 58 million children still remain out of school with about half of them being young girls. These children are either working, forced to marry, are slaves or are child soldiers.

Set backs in education such as natural disasters, wars or extremist that threaten stability can keep young children out of school and make aid accessibility for the children difficult. Other issues arise as well. Teachers are not trained correctly. There are not enough textbooks. Student to teacher ratios can be 146 to one in some cases. With issues like these, it is a struggle to provide each child with a quality, basic education. It is estimated that about 250 million children fall into this category.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda was created to address the education goals not reached by 2015. The new set of goals focuses on girls, children of ethnic minorities and disabled children.

In addition, it addresses how to finance the new projects. One dollar invested equals a $15 economic gain, and if all children had basic reading skills, then 170 million people would be raised out of poverty. The plan is to increase public investment in education by 4 to 6 percent of the each country’s GDP in hopes of reaching that 170 million people.

The UN encourages governments to work together and create agendas that promote transparency and collaboration. It also hopes that the UN organization for education, UNESCO, will continue to be a leader in educating the world’s poor.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Education Envoy, Open Society Foundations, The Guardian, UNESCO
Photo: Flickr

mobile bus library
Last month, the Pakistan Reading Project launched its first mobile bus library program at a government secondary school to promote reading habits for young students.

The program is set to run over the next two years in Sindh and Islamabad Capital Territory with plans to bring reading materials directly to communities as part of a larger mission to improve the quality of education.

It’s all part of the USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project, a five-year initiative that supports the country’s provincial and regional Departments of Education to improve the reading skills of four million children.

The project does this by improving the quality of primary education, teacher education, policy reforms and community engagement. This includes making supplemental instructional materials more widely available to primary school teachers as well as providing a model that ensures sustainability of the initiatives even through permanent policy changes.

The result? At least 2.5 million children who can read at levels commensurate with their grade standards.

The mobile bus library program is an effort to see this vision come true by bringing age-appropriate reading materials directly to communities that don’t have established libraries.

In addition, trained librarians will be aboard each bus, conducting storytelling sessions in each community that they visit. They will also issue books for students to take home to read. It’s an initiative to help reintroduce and reestablish a national culture of reading that once existed in Pakistan.

At the program’s official inauguration, the Assistant to the Administrator of USAID, Donald “Larry” Sampler, and the President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), David Miliband, were present to speak on the occasion.

“The Mobile Library Programme is just one element of the USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project which will help Pakistani children to start their own journeys in the world of books,” said Sampler. “Through this partnership between USAID, our implementing partner – the IRC and the Government of Pakistan, we are taking a multi-pronged approach to help increase literacy.”

The Pakistan Reading Project is a $165 million project that has launched several campaigns as well as television and radio episodes with complimentary print material that highlight the importance of reading to all communities.

With the addition of the mobile library bus program, this project anticipates that they will fulfill their vision in seeing improvement in classroom learning and the reestablishment of a national reading culture.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Pakistan Reading Project, USAID, Pakistan Today, Zee News
Photo: PBS

increase youth literacyAccording to UNESCO, “Illiteracy and poverty constitute a mutually reinforcing vicious cycle that is difficult to break.” Illiteracy reinforces poverty by precluding access to information. When people do not have the ability to read labels or technical manuals, they cannot develop the skills necessary to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

For a developing nation, a low literacy rate can be a major impediment to economic progress. The lack of a skilled work force prevents the development of a thriving economy. A 2012 study by the World Literacy Foundation estimated the economic cost of illiteracy in developing countries at over five billion dollars.

As the world continues to wage war on poverty, global education initiatives are winning key battles on the youth literacy front. In 2000, the U.N. established universal primary education as a Millennium Development Goal. While this ambitious goal has not yet been achieved, primary education enrollment in developing countries rose from 82 percent to 90 percent between 1999 and 2010. The gender gap in youth literacy continues to narrow, and the world youth literacy rate has improved markedly since 1990.

While there is still a long way to go in improving youth literacy in developing countries, these five countries are making huge strides.

  1. Nepal: The youth literacy rate in Nepal — a scant 49.6 percent in 1990 — reached 83 percent in 2010 and is projected to reach 88 percent by 2015. Educational opportunities in Nepal have expanded considerably over the last two decades, and Nepal’s net enrollment rate, or NER, in primary education rose from 91.9 percent in the 2008-2009 school year to 95.1 percent in 2011. The NER at the lower secondary level is rising even faster, climbing from 57.3 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2013. As of 2012, Nepal ranked as the 11th largest source of international students in the U.S.
  2. Bangladesh: The youth literacy rate in Bangladesh has climbed at a similar rate to that in Nepal. Recognizing education as an important means of reducing poverty, the Government of Bangladesh passed the Primary Education Compulsory Act in 1990, making primary education free and compulsory for all children up to Grade Five. Since then, the youth literacy rate has risen from 44.7 percent to 77 percent.
  3. Senegal: The youth literacy surge in Senegal is a fairly recent phenomenon. Senegal saw little improvement in its youth literacy rate from 1990 to 2000. However, since its 2001 constitutional referendum, Senegal has recorded significant achievements in access to education. Primary school enrollment rates increased from 69.8 percent in 2000 to 92.5 percent in 2009. Increased primary school enrollment has facilitated literacy improvement. The youth literacy rate in Senegal rose from 49.1 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2010, and is projected to reach 73.4 by 2015.
  4. Ethiopia: Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest-growing non-energy-driven economy, has made significant strides in youth literacy since the devastating famine of 1984. Ethiopia’s youth literacy rate rose from a mere 33.6 percent in 1990 to 49.9 percent in 2000, and it is projected to reach 69.3 percent by 2015. USAID has played a key role not only in improving the managing and planning of Ethiopia’s primary education system but also in improving access to education in remote areas. USAID, in conjunction with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, also developed Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed. READ focuses on training teachers and improving reading comprehension and writing proficiency.
  5. Mozambique: In terms of primary education, Mozambique has made enormous progress since the 1992 resolution of its long and costly civil war. Educational opportunities have expanded rapidly in Mozambique since the mid-1990s, and enrollment in primary school has risen from 69 percent in 2003 to 100 percent. Mozambique’s youth literacy was just 61.9 percent in 2000, but that number has risen steadily and is expected to reach 77.8 in 2015. While Mozambique’s progress has been remarkable, continued progress is threatened by the recent resurgence of the RENAMO insurgency.

Parker Carroll

Sources: The Guardian, UNESCO 1, UNESCO 2, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, USAID
Photo: UNHCR