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Preschool Education Reduces PovertyEducation has always been a catalyst to development and growth in nations. Policymakers have focused on improving primary and secondary education to foster growth in all aspects of developing countries. Foreign superpowers have focused their aid efforts on helping to build the infrastructure for these schools to varying success. An aspect of the education system that is often overlooked by these domestic and international efforts is preschool or preprimary education.

How Preschool Education Reduces Poverty

A common stereotype has created a disparity of funding and attention between preprimary education and the levels above it. Firstly, many believe that preschool does not have an impact on future student outcomes. It is true that poverty has little effect on the cognitive abilities of a baby, but once children enter primary education, there are noticeable inequalities between wealthier students and poorer students such as trouble focusing in the classroom and behavioral issues. This inequality extends to foundational skills such as reading and writing.

Around the world, 130 million children in developing nations are enrolled in primary education but are illiterate. Providing access to preschool education in these developing nations will produce plentiful benefits for these children and continually increase literacy in students entering primary school. Preschool education reduces poverty by giving students the opportunity to develop rudimentary skills at younger ages, which allows these students to tackle more challenging concepts earlier than they would without a preschool background.

Aglaia Zafeirakou, a senior education specialist at the World Bank, found compelling evidence that students with preschool experience achieved more in each stage of their educational career. She observed that students who attended preschool, on average, scored higher on literacy, vocabulary and mathematics than non-attenders.

An additional 2009 PISA survey showed that in 58 of 65 countries, 15-year-old students who had attended at least a year of preprimary school outperformed students who had not, even after accounting for socioeconomic background. The impact of affordable preprimary education also extended into the primary schools themselves. Primary schools saw significant cost savings and increased efficiency in areas where an affordable preprimary school was available to families.

Improvements in Preschool Education in Developing Nations

The overwhelming evidence that shows that preschool education reduces poverty has empowered families of all socioeconomic backgrounds to demand preprimary opportunities for their children. NGOs and developing nations have valiantly responded to these demands and have improved the educational careers of millions of children.

Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania have all adopted policies that include preprimary education in the basic education cycle along with primary education. They have coupled this with significant investment and expansion in access to preprimary institutions.

Ghana, in particular, abolished preprimary school fees, which has drastically increased enrollment and attainment in its preschools. The efforts of these countries have inspired systematic change throughout the whole of Africa. The continent has seen an 84 percent increase in preschool enrollment between 1999 and 2015.

While this huge increase in enrollment will improve the educational careers of millions of students, there is still more work to be done. The impressive 84 percent increase was mainly due to significant institutional changes in seven African countries. Still, only two percent of children attend preschool in Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia and many of the poorest nations in Africa.

Bettering the Lives of Children Through Education

Some of the most impoverished developing nations are still struggling to provide the necessary access to preprimary education that others have. Fortunately, NGOs have contributed significant efforts to help supplement nationwide projects to increase access to preprimary education in developing countries.

For example, local NGOs in Bangladesh have helped build over 1,800 preschools across the nation. Bangladesh remains one of the poorest nations in the world, but with the help of NGOs, it can ensure better educational outcomes for its young children.

Preschool helps children develop the foundational skills to take on more challenging concepts in primary school. This effect reverberates at each stage of the educational journey, which makes students more successful in their careers as well. It is clear that preschool education reduces poverty, but the effects are best maximized by improving affordability and accessibility in developing countries.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Indonesia
Girls’ education in Indonesia is promising. In 2014, the World Bank noted that Indonesia’s education system is Asia’s third largest and the world’s fourth largest. Moreover, in 2016, the literacy rate for females between the ages of 15 and 24 was 99.65 percent. What makes Indonesia’s education system most noteworthy, however, is the response to Indonesia’s 2006 earthquake and the continuing developments in girls’ education.

Effects of the Yogyakarta Earthquake on Girls’ Education in Indonesia

After the magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2006, approximately 1,000 schools were destroyed and 6,234 people were killed in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. In response, organizations such as the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative expanded their efforts to improve girls’ education in Indonesia. In accordance with the Indonesia Earthquake 2006 Response Plan, school tents were provided by USAID, Save the Children, UNICEF and the Japanese government.

In cases of emergency, such as Indonesia’s Java earthquake, there are distinct benefits that education provides children. According to UNICEF, “Schools can protect children from the physical dangers around them…and also provide children with other lifesaving interventions, such as food, water, sanitation and health.”

In 2016, UNESCO recorded that 1.5 million Indonesia girls were not enrolled in school. Furthermore, according to UNICEF’s education fact sheet, only 40 percent of Indonesian girls aged 15 to 24 learn about HIV prevention measures and only 23 percent use condoms regularly. Also, 85 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 hold misconceptions or have no knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

Ongoing Efforts to Develop Girls’ Education

To improve these numbers, education and health services are targeted at the early childhood education level. The World Bank explained that “better-prepared children are less likely to repeat grades.” It has also been shown, according to the World Bank, that early childhood education is associated with healthier and better-educated children.

Since its formation in 2001, the Directorate for Early Childhood Education Program of the Ministry of Education and Culture seeks to provide education programs incorporated with health services. For example, the program implements day care centers and play groups for young children.

Programs such as this are made possible through a partnership with the World Bank. The initiative also addresses teacher training, as more than 60 percent of teachers have only a high school diploma or two years of college education. Teachers are recruited from Indonesian communities and are trained in early childhood development. As a result of efforts made by the Directorate for Early Childhood Education Program, Indonesia won the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education in 2016.

The project focused on instilling confidence and resilience within girls from birth to age eight. UNESCO reports that girls’ educational attainment levels can be strengthened through gender mainstreaming, which avoids gender stereotypes within the curriculum. More specifically, the project addressed children, parents, teachers and school administrators using specialized early childhood education training and workshops.

Education for girls is progressing. Timely responses were made after the 2006 earthquake when children’s schooling was disrupted. Educational aid and reform did not stop there, however, as the Early Childhood Education Program furthered recent improvements to communal learning and healthcare. These education programs demonstrate that increased opportunities for girls’ education in Indonesia are crucial for alleviating poverty. Girls with higher levels of education are more likely to have children later and their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS is lowered. Education is vital to their quality of life.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

Samoa is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. It is said to be the “Cradle of Polynesia” because it is believed that the island of Savai’i is Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland.

Samoa became independent from New Zealand in 1962, which brought over 100 years of foreign dominance to an end. Internationally, Samoa is thought of as a tropical paradise where the inhabitants are welcoming of tourists, but there are still problems on the small island nation, one of which is education.

The major challenges for education in Samoa include the quality of education and access to early childhood education, according to a 2015 report filed by the government of Samoa. Early childhood education helps get children ready for primary school, but most teachers do not have the skills to fully prepare them. Another concern for early childhood education in Samoa is children’s performance in basic education. A number of children do not gain basic literacy and numeracy skills, which are important for them to further their education.

The quality of teaching poses a problem for early childhood education in Samoa as well. There are some challenges when it comes to qualifications and certifications, but the main problem is the competence of teachers and principals. Many early childhood education teachers are untrained.

Primary and secondary education in Samoa also has problems. Various schools do not achieve the minimum standards for the quality of learning in the classroom. Many primary school teachers do not have the proper training and support, and teachers seldom have the skills to identify and teach special needs students. Teachers often have a lack of commitment to the profession as well. For many teachers in Samoa, teaching is not their career of choice, and they often leave when the opportunity comes up. This makes keeping good teachers a challenge in both the primary and secondary levels. To improve the quality education in Samoa, high quality teachers must be retained.

Despite this, the graduation rate among high school seniors continues to be above 90 percent, according to the Samoa Observer. Between 2011 and 2014, the graduation rate was 98 percent, but it fell to 96 percent in the 2014-2015 academic year. The CIA reported that the literacy rate among adults was 99 percent, but the country ranks 48th in education spending.

Although education in Samoa has made significant progress, it still faces problems with quality. In order to improve on this, they must they must prepare children for further schooling in their early life. Public awareness of the importance of early childhood education must be raised as well.

For primary and secondary education, marketing for teachers must be more aggressive in order to attract teachers and keep them committed to the profession. Teachers should be encouraged to find creative ways to deliver a lesson in order to keep students engaged.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the U.K.

Some advocates call for better access to high-quality, early childhood education to help keep children living in poverty in the U.K. from falling behind developmentally and educationally.

International charity Save the Children urges Parliament to deliver world-class early childcare in the U.K. through its “Giving All Children the Best Start in Life” campaign. The campaign focuses on young children who are currently falling behind before they start school, especially impoverished children.

In March 2016, Save the Children released a report called Lighting Up Young Brains, which shows how parents, caregivers and nurseries support a child’s brain development in the first five years of life. The paper includes a recommendation to the government to ensure an early childhood educator leads every nursery in England by 2020.

The report explains that the brain begins processing information in a more efficient and complex way between the ages of three and five.

However, poverty can get in the way of this essential development. According to Save the Children, the poorest children in England, on average, begin school 15 months behind their wealthier peers in developing key skills, such as language skills.

The Child Poverty Action Group, a U.K.-based nonprofit, reports one in four children in the U.K. is being raised in poverty.

According to UNICEF, investing in early childhood education is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing poverty because the estimated economic returns on investment in early childhood education are as high as a one to 17 ratio.

Numerous countries recently made early childhood education a priority. In 2010, the government of China increased early childhood education significantly. UNICEF reports the percentage of children between the ages of three and six in kindergartens in China increased from 45 percent in 2009 to 70.5 percent in 2014.

Efforts to enrich the development of young children living in poverty in the U.K. go beyond just the nursery school classroom. For instance, CPAG reports that a child’s home environment influences them the most, and poverty experienced in this environment should be taken into account.

“While good quality nursery care and education can supplement this (the home environment),” CPAG’s website states, “it cannot substitute for an impoverished home life.”

The Lighting Up Young Brains report explains how research shows that a strong home-learning environment provides the types of experiences and environment necessary for child brain and language development, such as opportunities to read and be read to.

CPAG’s website states social policies focusing on early years interventions for poorer children are “welcome,” but should not distract from the needs of impoverished children of school age, such as not having a place to study because of the cold or overcrowding.

You can learn more about the “Giving All Children the Best Start in Life” campaign by visiting Save the Children’s website. You can also visit the Child Poverty Action Group’s website to learn more about child poverty in the U.K. and see how the organization works for families affected by poverty.

Kate Miller

Photo: Flickr

 

Hunger in JamaicaHunger in Jamaica has improved tremendously among primary and early childhood students with the various programs and strategies implemented by The Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) and the School Feeding Program (SFP).

The Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) enabled by the Government of Jamaica (GOF) continues to play an integral role in providing free lunches for primary school students with the aim of improving the nutrition of vulnerable children and eradicating hunger in Jamaica with Early Childhood students being the target group.

The Hon. Rev Ronald Thwaites in his presentation of the 2015-2016 sectoral debate revealed the aim of the Ministry of Education to expand the breakfast programs in schools initiated to provide free breakfast for 138,000 students inclusive of PATH beneficiaries.

The Ministry assigned J$2.2 billion towards this program. The SFP in partnership with the Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) breakfast solutions ensures that all meals are made from local agricultural products.

Board Chairman of Nutrition Products Limited James E.D. Rawle gave a synopsis of the various products offered in the NPL Annual Report, “Segments of the Early Childhood Cohort, inclusive of hot solution (porridge), sandwiches, muffins, breads/cakes and an improved juice drink, made utilizing locally produced fruit puree”.

The NPL has provided breakfast solutions to 12,000 designated children located in Kingston & St Andrew, St Thomas, St Catherine and Clarendon each day. This initiative has helped to reduce hunger in Jamaica among students in Primary level institutions.

The SFP provides additional Nutribun snacks for these students in line with the strategy Ministry of Education to spend approximately 20 percent of the school feeding budget of J$4.6 billion on locally grown produces. The Ministry intends to achieve 50 percent in three years.

The Hon. Rev Ronald Thwaites revealed that 40 percent of children lack of proper nutrition and another 30 percent experience hunger on a daily basis.

“Providing nutrition in schools is adding value to the lives of our young children and the brightening of their prospects,” said Thwaites. This step towards improving the nutrition of Early Childhood students via proper victuals is a resourceful means by the GOF to improve hunger In Jamaica.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

mobile schools in Mongolia

Since 2010, Mongolia has experienced a substantial and significant increase in the enrollment of kindergarten aged children, largely due to mobile schools through which thousands of nomadic children are given access to an early education.

Large strides have been made in Mongolia over the past decades to make a successful shift from a planned economy to a market democracy. However, despite this progress, the World Bank reported in 2008 that 35 percent of the population still lived below the poverty line.

The Mongolian Government and various humanitarian organizations addressed this issue by developing a number of resolutions to improve the living situations of the population. Many of these initiatives have been focused on educational development.

One such program is the Early Childhood Education Project of 2012 which aims to provide all young children with access to education. The components of this project are confronted with a unique cultural challenge. Mongolia is the least densely populated country on earth with roughly 1.7 people per square kilometer. A large portion of this population is nomadic and during the summer months, they reside in an area for only 2-3 weeks. Under these dispersed and fluid conditions, the young children of these nomadic families would never be able to attend a typical kindergarten.

In order to accommodate this common nomadic lifestyle, “mobile ger kindergartens” were developed. UNICEF Mongolia and Save the Children UK piloted these mobile schools in Mongolia in 1994, but their development accelerated when the Mongolian government and other organizations stepped in to assist with funding.

Tsendsuren Tumee, UNICEF Mongolia’s Early Childhood Development Officer, has reported, “Since 2012 more than 2600 children have attended ger kindergartens in Khuvsgul province . . . this year we established 10 more ger-kindergartens in the area with the help of the Government of Monaco providing nearly 280 children aged 2-5 with early childhood education programs and services. Access to early childhood has helped many children to develop to their full potential and perform better at schools.”

In addition to their benefits to young students, these mobile schools in Mongolia are cheaper to operate than their stationary counterparts throughout the country. They also assist the parents of these children by allowing them to spend more time with their herds, thus elevating their productivity.

In the report by UNICEF Mongolia, a mother named Jargal expressed the beneficial influence that these schools have for her family personally: “Summer is busy time for herders. We need to work extra hard in preparation for the cold winter ahead. Knowing that our son is safe at the kindergarten, learning new things and making friends, we feel so happy and do our work without any concern.”

The World Bank has reported that the overall trajectory of this project is a positive one. With it, young children will be better prepared for higher levels of education and their parents will be enabled to produce more. In addition, there will be decreased pressure on the government and other humanitarian participants.

The World Bank opines that more mobile ger kindergartens are needed to service the nomadic community which accounts for 40 percent of the total population. However, many are optimistic about the progress that has been made. The Asian Development Bank commented, “Reforms, streamlining, and repairs – mixed with ample optimism and dedication – are propelling Mongolia’s education system toward achieving its goal of education for all.”

Preston Rust

Photo: UNICEF

early_childhood_development
Early childhood development (ECD), or the time from a child’s birth to turning 8 years old, is considered the most critical window of childhood development.

During this eight-year window, children undergo intensive physical and social growth, shaping their bodies and perceptions of society.

But many children in developing nations lack the nutrition, healthcare and social engagement necessary during ECD to have a strong foundation for future growth and development.

ECD initiatives, ranging from parental training to preschool, have been shown to dramatically improve children’s earning potential and help them to escape the poverty cycle.

In the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations specifically addressed the value of ECD in Goal 4, stating that by 2030 all children will “have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, echoed the importance of providing aid to ECD for the termination of global poverty, saying, “Children have been educated who otherwise would have missed out.”

Through aid efforts, programs are sprouting throughout some of the world’s poorest regions, showing promising results.

The World Bank reports that children in developing nations who have participated in ECD programs have higher levels of cognitive and academic performance than their peers.

Children who have benefitted from ECD initiatives are also more prepared to enter primary school and learn more efficiently while in class. This early success in schools has led to lower levels of dropouts and grade repetitions.

As educational levels rise, so does earning potential. Especially for girls. For every year of primary education a girl receives, her earning potential rises 10 percent to 20 percent, and for every additional year of secondary education, her earning potential rises another 15 percent to 25 percent, empowering her in the workforce.

As the workforces in developing nations expand with more educated and skilled laborers, the population at large benefits from an expanded consumer base.

With increased earning and buying power comes a more complex and stable economy that is less susceptible to shock and a higher gross domestic income.

According to UNICEF, this increase in school attendance shrinks the gap between the wealthiest and poorest families, hoisting children and their families out of the poverty cycle.

Claire Colby

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2 UNICEF, UN, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Sharp School

ceria

In the Indonesian district of Malaka, children are finally being provided with an opportunity to create a better future for themselves. Save the Children has partnered up with the H&M Conscious Foundation to improve educational conditions for children within this impoverished region of the world.

Malaka used to be part of the Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara province. It was so severely underdeveloped that the government decided to establish Malaka as its own district in 2012, hoping to finally spur development. Unfortunately, the district’s citizens are still fighting to break out of the poverty cycle.

Malaka contains 15 elementary schools filled with children seeking a quality education. Most children cannot afford to wear shoes to school. When they finally arrive on foot to their classrooms, they typically face deteriorating walls, lack of access to water and collapsing roofs.

Poor personal hygiene and health combined with the schools’ poor physical conditions often results in prolonged student sickness. To make matters worse, children are oftentimes juggling a language barrier as well.

Hailing from places like East Timor and belonging to ethnic groups that rely on different languages, many of the students do not speak Indonesian. The people of Malaka use five local languages representing the region’s indigenous tribes. Regardless of lack of comprehension, however, the material is taught primarily in Indonesian.

Primary school teachers often employ physical punishment as they deem necessary, causing many students to live in fear. In lower grades especially, it is not uncommon for students to fail their studies or have to repeat a grade due to some combination of the aforementioned factors.

In August 2014, Save the Children pledged to embark on a three-year project focused on improving education for around 2,850 children in the area. Since then, the charity has been working side by side with the H&M’s Conscious Foundation to build 15 new preschools and renovate the 15 existing Malakan schools.

Like Save the Children, the H&M Conscious Foundation seeks to improve children’s education. In addition, the independent organization works to empower women and provide access to clean water in developing countries.

The Conscious Foundation teamed up with STC to launch the Children in Early Grades Reach Incredible Achievements (CERIA) Project three years ago. CERIA also doubles as the Indonesian word for “cheerful.”

The CERIA project is targeting early education in order to achieve long-term effects. It aims to increase enrollment and attendance at quality preschools, improve teaching methods and school readiness for young students and reduce first grade repetition rates.

The program is targeted at a total of 30 poor rural communities scattered throughout Malaka. Within each early childhood education center, there will be two classrooms able to accommodate 20 to 30 students. Some students are already benefiting from the progress made on renovations last year.

CERIA also offers free teacher training programs to improve the quality of education. Since the majority of teachers in Malaka are volunteers lacking a background in education, this has been an especially effective tool of improvement.

By its conclusion in 2017, the CERIA project is expected to benefit Malaka’s 2,400 elementary school teachers, 450 preschoolers and 180 primary and preschool teachers. There is no telling what accomplishments these properly educated children and teachers will be able to achieve in the long run.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Jakarta Globe, H&M
Photo: Compassion International

education_lena_child_development
Nearly a quarter of American children are living in poverty, says the National Center for Children in Poverty, totaling about 14 million. This is 2.5 million greater than in 2000, with the number of children living in poverty increasing 21% between 2000 and 2008.

Thus, 14 million children are at an academic disadvantage from day one: they are on the losing side of an education achievement gap compared to children of more well-off parents.

Recent research reported in the New York Times suggests that “brain development is buoyed by continuous interaction with parents and caregivers from birth, and that even before age 2, the children of the wealthy know more words than do those of the poor.”

While there are several wide-reaching programs in place – subsidies for child-care, targeted education programs for toddlers – advocates for the poor argue that closing this gap begins in the home.

According to the McCormick Foundation, more than half of all children under 2 are cared for at home by a parent or relative on a daily basis. Thus, there has been a nationwide push to target in-home language acquisition and vocabulary expansion.

Several organizations employ a home visitation technique, with development experts training parents on how to stimulate conversation with their infants and toddlers. “We don’t want parents talking at babies,” Claire Lerner of the nonprofit development group Zero to Three said. “We want parents talking with babies.”

Linguistic development is just one of four aspects of critical early childhood development, says the World Bank, the others being physical, cognitive and socioemotional development.

While poverty places children at a developmental disadvantage, failing to enhance a child’s education and growth in the early years tightens the grip of poverty and perpetuates a cycle of impoverished existence.

To make tracking early childhood and linguistic development more accessible, philanthropists and researchers have developed LENA – the Language Environment Analysis System.

LENA is a small audio recorder that conveniently attaches to children’s clothing or slips in a small vest pocket.

The recorders “distinguish between words overheard from television or other electronics and live human conversations,” reports the New York Times. The audio recording is then analyzed by computer software and progress methodically tracked.

The LENA Research Foundation boasts the success of the “world’s first automatic language collection and analysis tool” and believes LENA can help both experts and parents improve language acquisition and development.

LENA provides an unprecedented level of dynamic analysis that more accurately accounts for the complications involved in closing the education gap.
“…It’s like fine, vocabulary is good,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley to the New York Times. “But there is a deeper commitment to literacy and conversation around the dinner table and talking to kids about ideas and political controversies that is the more colorful fabric of literacy and conversation.”

LENA can help determine the effectiveness of home visits and audio recording in the short run in improving parent-infant communication.

In the long run, researchers will be looking for advancements in “future academic performance,” reports the New York Times. “Children who receive assistance in their early years achieve more success at school,” says child rights group UNICEF. “As adults they have higher employment and earnings, better health and lower levels of welfare dependence and crime rates than those who don’t have these early opportunities.”

Thus, LENA and early childhood education is not only an investment in children, but in our global health and economy.

– Mallory Thayer

Sources: New York Times, NCCPThe World Bank, UNICEF
Photo: 

Israel's Early Childhood Development Education Program
Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) recently completed training forty Ghanaian teachers in an early childhood development course. Thanks to the Embassy of Israel, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ghana Education Service (GES), over a hundred teachers have now been trained to teach preschool and kindergarten in Ghana.

The extensive program lasted for two weeks and focused on early childhood education. Teachers left the program with a higher knowledge of children’s learning principles, the needs of young children, what curriculum to teach, and appropriate games. By giving special attention to young students, Ghana hopes to build a better foundation for its future workforce and overall societal well being.

This partnership between Israel and Ghana will likely produce hundreds more early education teachers, something for which Ghana is desperate. Not only will more teachers be trained in Israel, but those who completed the program will go on to spread their new knowledge to other teachers in Ghana, thus creating a web of well-educated preschool and kindergarten teachers throughout the country.

The Early Childhood Development Education program is now in its fourth year in Kumasi and its second year in Accra. Both countries expect to have a long relationship as they continue to see positive results in Ghana’s early education system.

– Mary Penn

Source: GBN
Photo: Flickr