Educators Around the WorldAmazon, a large internet-based retailer, recently launched Amazon Inspire. The website provides an online marketplace for educators around the world, but with one key difference: all of its products are free.

Marketed towards K-12 educators around the world, Amazon Inspire has tens of thousands of free online resources, such as lesson plans and apps available for download. Educators around the world can browse the site by subject matter or grade level, and teachers can download and edit lesson plans to better fit their own personalized courses.

Other features of Amazon Inspire that distinguish it from other educational resource databases include:

  • Collections, which allow educators to group resources on the Amazon Inspire site. These collections can then be shared with other teachers on the site, so everyone has easy access to similar information.
  • An intuitive upload system, wherein it’s easy to drag and drop files on the site, as well as add content to the site to share with fellow teachers.
  • Teachers can also rate and review resources on Amazon Inspire, helping their colleagues select the best resources for their needs.

Earlier in 2016, Amazon also signed a multi-million dollar deal with New York City public schools to help provide more digital books to the schools’ students. This agreement indicates how Amazon is no stranger to the power of funding education and programs that will contribute to making education more accessible to all students and teachers, regardless of location.

These free resources will help teachers in a multitude of ways. Not only will Amazon’s provisions help educators transition into an ever-more digital age of teaching, but they will do so without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money or spend ludicrous amounts of time searching Google for free scholarly resources.

However, since Amazon Inspire is an online resource, countries with limited or no Internet cannot benefit from its resources. While Amazon Inspire is a great site, it is important to remember that not all countries are as privileged to have nationwide Internet coverage as the United States. There is great potential in this field to not only connect more teachers to students but to connect and educate more people globally.

Bayley McComb
Photo: Flickr

EON_Educational_ProgramFor those in the developing world with scarce resources and limited access to computers and tablets, a number of innovations in education are creating exciting opportunities. One such innovation is the EON educational program — the next step in progressing developing countries.

EON Reality, which specializes in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), is opening the first interactive digital center (IDC) on the African continent in Tshwane, South Africa.

The project is a collaborative effort between the software developer and Tshwane’s city government. It is part of the latter’s Tshwane Vision 2055, a plan which seeks to “break the cycle of generational poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.”

According to Dave Lockwood, the director of the new IDC, VR and AR remove language and literacy barriers to education because they show rather than tell. VR creates an artificial environment that users can move in. (The Oculus Rift, for example, is a VR headset). AR, on the other hand, modifies the existing environment by adding artificial sensory input, such as images or sound.

Lockwood believes that students would learn better and retain more information with the help of the EON educational program, and more specifically, VR and AR. Furthermore, content and applications can be created for both science education and vocational training, which are crucial for economic growth and development.

VR and AR, it seems, are poised to make a real change in the way in which education is delivered in Africa. The Tshwane IDC is an example of how educational technology can assist with government efforts to promote the development and improve services.

Across the Indian Ocean, a team from Carnegie Mellon University recently completed an experiment in “compassionate engineering” at the Mathru School for the Blind in Bangalore, India. The idea is to use existing technology with a focus on the people, allowing it to evolve to suit their needs.

As part of the project, students received low-cost braille tutors. M. Bernardine Dias, the Carnegie Mellon professor who led the case study, argues that electronic reading and writing aids such as these can go a long way in reducing poverty, because poverty is often concentrated among the disabled population.

A World Trade Organization study that she cited, for example, found that 90 percent of visually impaired people live in low-income households.

By combining virtual and augmented reality, the EON educational program is changing the way the world looks at education, one student at a time. Whether using cutting-edge devices or only putting old tools to new use, educational technology is helping alleviate poverty by catering to the needs of different people and the way they learn best.

Philip Katz

Photo: Wikipedia

eudcation_in_MyanmarEducation in Myanmar is improving, though this progress has been slow. At the time of the British decolonization of Asia in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) was lauded for having one of the top educational systems in the continent.

Many experts projected that Myanmar would come to be one of the central powers of the region due to its superior education, however, this has not been the case.

The World Bank has attributed the country’s now weak education system to various warring ethnic groups, particularly the progressive power of military rule that took hold over a half-century ago.

Myanmar has only recently begun to give way to democratic rule–the system that was originally intended for the developing country in 1948.

From the beginning of military involvement in governance in the early 1960s, an increasing list of sanctions was placed upon the country.

With the combination of international economic restrictions and tightening limitations from the military government, education in Myanmar quickly began to decompose.

However, after decades of brutal military rule, the people began to fight against the stiff restrictions imposed upon them. Notably, in November 2015, Htin Kyaw was elected as president of Myanmar in the first openly contested parliamentary elections that the country has ever had.

Since then, many sanctions have been lifted to allow open international trade and commerce.

With these recent signs of progress, many are optimistic that the education system in Myanmar will also begin to improve. Dr. Mya Oo, the Secretary of Education Development Committee of Myanmar has said that the first step that is needed is to create a system of free and compulsory education.

The first five years of education in Myanmar are already compulsory, but they are not free. The imposed educational fees put a strain on impoverished families who are usually forced to opt out from lack of personal resources.

There is also a certain level of discrimination against girls and ethnic minorities, which further limits the proportion of students in school. Only one-third of students reach the five-year level of education and this number decreases exponentially as the students continue to progress toward higher schooling.

The current Myanmar government recognizes these as serious issues, and as such recently announced, it plans to help boost enrollment rates as well as the quality of education. These propositions address increases in funding, focusing on equal education for women and ethnic minorities, building schools in remote areas and establishing better training systems for teachers.

These goals are scheduled to be reached before the end of 2016.

The government is also placing a greater emphasis on higher education as well. Myanmar governmental and educational officials have begun to consult with a number bordering states and European entities for improvement ideas in their universities.

Many of suggestions include universal equality, the establishment of student unions and universities that are allowed to operate autonomously.

With the implementation of these targets, many are optimistic that Myanmar will be able to provide for the anticipated influx of students seeking higher education.

Government oppression and poverty made it nearly impossible to achieve more than basic literacy. However, as the country works toward social progress, it is hoped that education in Myanmar can be brought back to life in a timely and efficient manner.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

The_Global_Partnership_for_Education2015 has been an active year for global education. The fourth Global Goal in the new Global Goals for 2030 focuses on education. But according to Results, The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is the only international partnership exclusively dedicated to achieving education for all.

The Global Partnership for Education had five major accomplishments over the course of 2015.

1. GPE welcomed Bangladesh and the Republic of Congo as new partners.

Bangladesh became the 60th developing partner of the GPE. As a GPE member country, Bangladesh is now eligible for a Program Implementation Grant worth $100 million dollars over the course of three years. The Congo is the 61st developing country partner of GPE. The GPE is working with the Congo to give all children a basic ten-year education.

2. GPE calculated that it takes only $1.18 to pay for a day of primary to secondary education for a child in a developing country.

This calculation comes from The Education for All Global Monitoring Report and IMF figures for historical US inflation. According to GPE, 88 percent of $1.18 will be provided by developing countries themselves, making the international funding gap just 14 cents a day per child.

3. GPE received new funding from Canada.

Canada decided to double its contribution to the GPE. They agreed to donate $98 million dollars during the 2015-2018 replenishment period. More than half of GPE’s financing to countries in 2014 went to conflict-affected countries.

4. GPE allocated more than $245 million in grants and distributed more than $400 million.

GPE approved $245 million in grants fro Bangladesh, Mozambique, Nepal and Rwanda. It plans to use this money to provide imperative funding and momentum toward quality education for children.

5. GPE adopted a new strategy for the next five years.

The new strategic plan sets out contributions that GPE will make to focus on the Global Goal for education. The new results framework will be used to measure achievements and ensure accountability for results. GPE is invested in delivering the Global Goal of quality education for all.

GPE hopes to continue to make a positive impact in global education and to reach the global education goal. Their new strategy for 2016 identifies their biggest challenges to achieving quality education for children around the world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Global Partnership for Education, Results
Photo: Global Partnership for Education

TongaThe Global Partnership for Education reported that if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. That would amount to a 12 percent cut in global poverty.

In Tonga, the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning (PEARL) project is driven towards preparing children for school. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education, and implemented by the World Bank, PEARL has two main goals. The first goal is to support children in developing key skills that will be useful at school. The second goal is helping more children learn to read and write well in their first years of elementary school.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, 40 percent of children in the developing world live in extreme poverty. Around 10.5 million children under the age of five die from preventable diseases each year because of extreme poverty. They also said investments in quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) can improve an individual’s well-being and close the education and poverty gap.

Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to eight years of age. Quality ECCE guides children towards fulfilling their potential and promotes social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Young children who benefit from ECCE services are more likely to be healthy, prepared to learn, stay longer and perform better in school.

Nadia Fifita, Director at Ocean of Light International School in the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa, said, “We see a big difference in the children who have had some early childhood [education] experience, whether that is formally through a school-based program or informally through parents.”

Tonga is not the only nation benefiting from PEARL. The project is also helping other Pacific Island countries improve policy and programming around school readiness and early grade literacy in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In those countries, the World Bank and other partners are supporting each country’s Ministry of Education to make changes strengthening early education.

While early childhood education has increased globally, it is still limited and unequal in developing countries. The Global Partnership reported Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab states have shown the lowest gross enrollment ratios at 18 percent and 21 percent respectively in 2009. In some countries, children from privileged backgrounds are four times more likely to receive pre-primary education than poor children.

Tongan teacher Seini Napa’a said, “My dream is that the students in Tonga have the best future, the best readers and the best writers.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: Global Partnership 1, Global Partnership 2, World Bank
Photo: World Bank

According to UNICEF, the enrollment rate in Mali, Africa is 80 percent. However, the achievement rate stands at 54 percent for boys and 44.8 percent for girls due to a low supply of qualified teachers, high student-to-teacher ratios and poor learning materials. The poor and rural areas of Mali fare worst of all, experiencing a 70 percent dropout rate before sixth grade.

The most qualified teachers accept positions in well-off urban communities, which offer sufficient pay and lodging. Consequently, inner areas traditionally receive the superior education in Bamako.

According to Yahoo News, Youchaou Traore, a former translator for diplomats founded a school in one of the poorest neighborhoods on the edge of Mali’s capital—Bamako. Ten years later, École Privée Youchaou (EPY) is helping its students place first or second in national exams, surpassing the elite private schools.

Traore, who didn’t begin first grade until the age of 13, is very familiar with the struggles and shortcomings of the Malian education system. He designed EPY to confront and rectify the complications that prevent impoverished children from receiving a quality education in Bamako. Bamako.

A 2011 report by Education International revealed that over half of Mali’s 40,000 instructors are unqualified to teach primary levels. Students sit in class day after day and absorb less than a quarter of what they should be learning at their level. Furthermore, bribery for exam scores allows students to graduate without developing basic literacy and mathematical skills.

“It’s possible to reach 9th grade here and barely be able to read,” Traore told Yahoo News.

Instead of pulling competent instructors away from other schools, Traore chose members of his own community and put them through intensive training to learn teaching techniques and management skills.

The community-centered education system helped ease issues of money and trust that plague many Malian parents. The adults in Bamako feel comfortable approaching Traore and his staff to inquire about scholarships and other funding opportunities.

Traore does his best to accommodate families that can’t afford school fees, allowing them to sell snacks to students. There are times when he provides funding from his own personal finances.

For students like Traore who start late or transfer, EPY offers catch-up lessons to ensure that each child who comes through the doors learns to read, write and solve mathematical equations.

EPY incorporates all of the high-risk groups—orphans, girls, extremely poor families—yet its dropout rate is less than one percent because the students feel comfortable there. They realize they have the chance to receive the best education in Bamako.

“If I have a chance to talk to people in the world, I would like them to understand that here in Mali it’s not very easy, but students are serious,” said Bourama Fomba, a 13-year-old student in a Guardian article.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Education International 1, Yahoo, Education International 2, The Guardian, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr1, Flicker2