Greek teachers are making a differenceIn Greece, the debt crisis and political breakdown have triggered inequalities throughout the education system. While education is free, public schools have suffered from budget cuts due to bailout agreements. The result has been a decline in the quality of education. The aftermath of the social crisis in Europe has also led to educational poverty and students failing to achieve minimum education standards. Many students with only basic education often face poverty or unemployment. This is exemplary of the strong correlation between educational attainment and social outcomes. Greek teachers are making a difference in the way their country approaches education to combat this issue.

The Current Situation in Greece

Currently, the level of teaching in Greek schools is being criticized due to the lack of teacher evaluation standards and teaching structures. As a result, more Greeks fear obtaining adequate education in public schools to prepare for higher education. The Panhellenic exams required for university admission in Greece have caused an increase in Greeks pursuing more expensive private education classes. However, with the rise in unemployment rates and a decrease in salaries, poor and middle-class families are unable to pursue private education. In 2015, according to the World Economic Forum Inclusive Growth Development Report, Greece was ranked last of 30 economies due to the relationship between student performance and parent income.

The Varkey Foundation

Greek educators are identifying ways to leverage education through creative curriculum approaches. The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Award recognizes Greek teachers making a difference through their work across the globe. These teachers work with students to promote inclusivity and integration of migrants in the classroom. Additionally, these educators advocate for child rights and focus on the well-being of the student.

One recipient, Andria Zafirakou, received the Varkey Foundation 1M Global Teacher Prize in 2018. Her commitment to education has led to new initiatives to encourage creativity in schools. Born to Greek-Cypriot parents, Zafirakou has dedicated her entire teaching career to educating students from ethnically diverse communities. She has a passion for education advocacy and changing the lives of young people from underprivileged communities through creativity and art. Following that creative drive has led to her great success as the best teacher in the world.

Artists in Residence

In an amazing act of charity, Andria Zafirakou used her 2018 prize winnings to found Artists in Residence (AIR). She recognized the decline in the number of students demonstrating an interest in art and students pursuing careers in art. As such, the charity focuses on individual student well-being and outcomes in school by providing a curriculum encompassing art education.

AIR strives to increase student aspirations, provide inspirational life opportunities, and prepare students for jobs in creative industries. The program develops a rounded curriculum that supports social and cognitive learning through engagement in art activities. Firstly, it establishes partnerships with schools in developing academic and holistic educational programs. Then, artists and professionals in the creative sector provide their expertise to students by inspiring learning in art.

This collaborative approach exposes students to new skills and opportunities in art, which are truly key to a well-rounded education. Moreover, AIR has been effective in enhancing public awareness and engagement in developing programs to support art education.

Lack of proper education in Greece has proven to be hazardous to societal functions. Nevertheless, through collaborative efforts in educational reform and the people of Greece’s commitment to education, Greece’s educational system is expected to see improvements. However, teachers are indispensable in addressing these issues. Greek teachers make a crucial difference by discovering innovative ways to implement change within the education system one school at a time.

Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

Education in Eritrea
Eritrea is a very poor country, downtrodden by their struggle for independence, regional instability and environmental challenges. However, within the first decade of independence, the government of Eritrea made education a priority, and the new focus was almost immediately accepted as a valuable tool for lifting the country out of poverty. The government views education as a cornerstone for the nation’s development; for this reason, the nation focused on growing the amount of its schools and rural areas gained access to education. Yet, education in Eritrea still faces several challenges.

Education in Eritrea

In 2013, education in Eritrea was supported by a grant from the Global Partnership to implement an education program through UNICEF. The program, “Enhancing Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education for Social Justice,” sought to help children from disadvantaged communities receive a quality education. This program consists of three key performance markers, which are:

  1. To increase pre-primary, elementary and middle school to at least 44,576 out of disadvantaged students in rural areas.
  2. To progress the quality of teaching and learning through aiding teachers with better skills, textbooks, science, ICT and health kits; to create and allocate education resources to all levels.
  3. To strengthen the capability of MOE staff to regulate education in Eritrea.

Although the government has provided a free basic education policy and non-formal education programs, great numbers of children are still out of school. In 2015, UNICEF reported the net enrollment rate at the primary level was only at 81 percent — at least 19 percent of children are not enrolled in school.

The government of Eritrea provides primary education, but where they fall short is in the pre-primary level and retention rates. UNICEF stated that 79 percent of 5 year olds were not ready for school, and the organization’s report concluded that 70 percent of children between 11 and 13 did not attend secondary school. Furthermore, every year 5 percent of children drop out; and, an outstanding 13 percent of children repeat grades.

Educational Hurdles

A great challenge for education in Eritrea is the quality of education. Complementary Elementary Education (CEE), a program supported by UNICEF, has done it’s best to educate the most disadvantaged students in Eritrea; yet,  there are still not enough desks nor textbooks for every student.

The literacy rate is at an overall 74 percent; for females specifically, the literacy rate sits at just 61 percent. In 2015, the Primary Gross Enrollment rate in Eritrea for men was 58 percent, while girls were left at only a 50 percent enrollment rate. During the same year, it was reported that Primary Completion Rate was at a 42.5 percent completion rate; boys were at a 45.4 percent rate, yet girls only amounted for 39.5 percent.

Increasing Access to Education

UNICEF has tried to aid in the elimination of the gender gap in education for Eritrea. CEE tries to educate children and young adults who initially missed the ability to go to school, and this program places a significant focus on girls between the ages of 10 to 14. Girls at this age are expected to marry soon, while boys are expected to do more serious jobs to provide an income for the household.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has prioritized the expansion of educational opportunities for females. However, the MOE does not anticipate the gender gap in secondary education to be eliminated as quickly as it will in the primary level.

Eritrea’s education challenges will take time to overcome; yet, the nation is well on its way towards success. The government has implemented the Ministry of Education to create solutions and support in the development of education in Eritrea. With the help of aid groups, such as UNICEF and the Global Partnership, the nation is utilizing its foreign aid to help in its educational improvements.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr

ndia's Education
India’s education pipeline is clogged all the way through. International care and attention needs to occur to ramp up this dismal state and increase developmental efforts. Thankfully, USAID is already on this track and created the life-changing program of Let Girls Learn.

Let Girls Learn

USAID’s recent Let Girls Learn initiative claimed that “if India enrolled one percent more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.” While this may be true, observers of U.S. development assistance note that only $3.5 million was allocated to Indian primary and secondary schools in 2015.

Researcher Jandhyala Tilak, from the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), cites government neglect of the secondary and higher education sectors as one of India’s major problems. She explains that while primary education is indeed crucial for moving citizens above the poverty line, “the danger of their falling below poverty line at any time could be high.”

Private vs Public Sector

Moreover, gains in India’s education pipeline come with a tainted reputation. As more and more private firms invest in this sector, questions arise concerning the quality and payoff of programs. Geetha Nambissan, from the Max Weber Foundation, reveals that the rise of “budget private schools” (BPS) offering scalable, pay-as-you-go learning has negatively affected teacher training.

In particular, she outlines the advent of para-skilling, which standardizes and streamlines lesson planning so that instructors are less costly to firms (earning lower wages) while still providing rudimentary support.

Nambissan believes this practice will hurt Indian education in the long term, since teaching is degraded from a profession to semi- or unskilled labor. “In some low-cost schools, teachers are so underqualified that they cannot speak English, let alone teach in English,” she says.

Nambissan’s views are echoed by those of Pramath Raj Sinha, Dean of the Indian School of Business, the very first Indian institution to earn a spot among The Financial Times’ top 20 MBA programs. He observes that too many investments have been made by business people with a product delivery approach.

“They saw themselves as providing a service,” Sinha says, “and the service was providing somebody a degree that could get them a job.” The result was “a mushrooming of many mediocre private universities” with “little incentive . . . to improve. That will have to change.”

And for that to change, the public and private sectors will have to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. In order to funnel students through to quality universities, India’s education pipeline must maintain teaching quality and support.

The Importance of Open-mindedness

In return, the Indian government might need to cede some ground: it currently imposes a $5 million guarantee from foreign educational firms, as well as a prohibition on the extraction of surplus profits.

Therefore, there is a definite possibility of a system with in-kind benefits between public entities such as USAID and private firms who would invest in the education sector.

Surplus profits could be used to invest in new infrastructure or housing projects, thereby keeping the benefits of human capital with the Indian people. Such a development would serve a dual purpose: boosting the Indian economy and bettering India’s education pipeline.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr

Popularity of Private Schools Growing in Developing World
Many see education as a path out of poverty, and it definitely can be. But for this idea to be true, real quality education must be administered for children to have any hope of crawling out of destitution. Quality education can sometimes be a rarity in the developing world, but a new trend is changing that.

That trend is private schools. Private schools are quickly rising in popularity in the developing world. In fact, private schools enroll more students in developing countries than they do in richer areas of the globe. About 20 to 25 percent of students in developing countries attend private schools. This number is most likely higher due to the number of unregistered schools. A study conducted in the Nigerian city of Lagos found that there were four times as many private schools as previously thought – around 18,000.

The Nairobi slum of Mathare has 120 private schools but only four public schools. That’s right, four public schools for 500,000 children. This rush of private schools across South Asia, the Middle East and Africa have been caused by the inability of governments in countries like Kenya and Nigeria to provide basic, decent education. Parents are increasingly looking for alternatives to shockingly low standards of quality seen in many public schools in developing countries.

An example of the lack of quality education can be found in some Asian countries, where half of children who have completed four years of school cannot read to the minimum standard expected. The same issue is present in Africa, where the percentage is a third.

Based on parents wanting a solution where their children learn something has sprouted the trend of small, low-cost private schools started by entrepreneurs targeting the poorest families. The tuition bill for schools in Lagos can range anywhere from 7,000 naira (or $35), to as low as 3,000 naira per term.

There are a few benefits to private schools in the developing world. First is performance – students who enroll in private schools often perform better in subjects like English and math than their public-school counterparts. This success translates to a better value for their money, achieved for a third of the cost of public schools.

Besides better value for money, private schools are innovative. More access to technology might pose useful in the classroom, a welcome change from many public schools that are so severely under-resourced. More technology-based education will also prove necessary as the jobs climate moves from farming to more skills-based work in developing countries.

Finally, private schools also bring investment to their countries. Lots of schools are single entities that only charge a couple of dollars a month, but chains are beginning to form. Bridge International Academies has built 400 schools in Kenya and Uganda with plans to expand to Nigeria and India. Some of its backers? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the International Finance Corporation.

Private schools in the developing world are a promising second option for children who do not receive sufficient education in public schools. With cheap schools comes more potential opportunities for better-educated children who can then go on to change the world.

Greg Baker

Sources: The Economist 1, The Economist 2, Marginal Revolution, Education World
Photo: The Guardian

More Aid Needed to Support Universities in Developing Countries
From 2002 to 2013, approximately one point six trillion dollars was spent on foreign aid by the world’s richest countries. Only two point seven percent of that total was spent to support higher education, such as universities in developing countries.

The second Millennium Development Goal was prioritized to reach free universal primary education because studies showed that primary education increased the level of social capital. However, tertiary education builds human capital and contributes to economic development.

The World Bank and IMF’s structural adjustment policies helped expand the challenges to increase access to tertiary education by pressuring developing countries to decrease their investments in education to reduce public spending. In return, universities lack the resources necessary to address the rising number of students.

Many private institutions find markets in developing countries, and many are creating more problems. In Ghana, 43 private institutions are banned because they did not meet the requirements of the National Accreditation Board to operate.

Private institutions admit students who fail to achieve university-level grades, their admission standards are relaxed to turn tertiary education into a business, and over 1,000 students have been withdrawn due to the university procedures.

In order to create a successful tertiary education structure, it must be aligned with primary and secondary education structures. By aligning these programs, students are more prepared to transfer their skills to universities in developing countries. Also, an effective tertiary education program provides trained teachers for primary and secondary schools.

Sustainable Development Goal targets for education include increasing access to tertiary education. Many donors are already preparing to make higher education a larger part of their aid programs. The UK Department for International Development is expected to make its biggest push ever for higher education funds in 2016.

In June 2015, USAID launched a statement for their Higher Education for Development Partnership Program that will make investments for tertiary education in developing countries a bigger priority moving forward. Higher education increases national output and helps meet the demand for skilled workers.

USAID goals include increasing access to higher education, improving its quality and research, and improving the relevance of development programs for the workforce in developing countries. Global partnerships will be the key to increasing the quality of education for students and to meet the growing demands for more universities in developing countries.

Donald Gering

Sources: The Conversation, UN, University World News, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post

The Population Council has a history of important and influential research in Egypt. In 1997, the council implemented the Adolescence and Social Change in Egypt survey. In 2009, the Survey of Young People in Egypt reached 15,000 young people from 11,000 households. Most recently, in 2014, 10,000 of the young people from the 2009 survey were interviewed for a second time.

Data from these surveys is critical to evaluate the challenges that Egyptian youth are facing in the transition of life before and after the revolution in Egypt. Additionally, Egypt’s population currently has a high percentage of youth that will determine the future of the country.

Data was gender-disaggregated in order to more clearly understand what kinds of programs can best empower women and girls. Data collected included information on health, education and employment.

The progress and improvements needed in the education sector deserve particular attention and demonstrate the complexity of changes in Egypt.

One of the most exciting advancements in the region is the nearly universal primary school enrollment. In 2014, more than 95% of youth aged 13 to 18 had attended school.

However, further analysis reveals that many youths still do not complete their basic education even if they had attended school for at least some period of time. In addition, there is clear gender inequality related to education. Twenty-one percent of women aged 25 to 34 were illiterate in sharp contrast to eight percent of men in this same age range.

Education quality is a critical factor in addition to education enrollment and regular attendance. Education through route memorization is not likely to provide students with the skills they will need to succeed in life. However, “40 percent of students report teachers ‘always’ only want students to memorize” while only “9 percent report that teachers encourage students to express their opinion.”

Furthermore, quality of basic education is lacking. Among youth who had attended five years of school, 50% cannot read, 50% cannot write and 40% cannot perform basic math.

While Egypt may be headed in the right direction with increased school enrollment, there is an unmet need for high quality education. The youth of Egypt represent the future of the country, and it is possible for the country to prosper if this unmet need is recognized and addressed.

Iliana Lang

Sources: Population Council 1, Population Council 2
Photo: Japan Times

Education in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980 and immediately began an educational transformation that resulted in unprecedented coverage for the nation’s young minds.

A residual disenfranchisement of black students remained after nearly a century of colonial rule defined by “white supremacy, racial segregation, institutionalized violence and oppression” of the African majority. A redistribution of social inequality (as manifested in a corrupt education system) was of paramount importance in the first decade of independence.

System at a Glance

Exposure to education in Zimbabwe begins at age 6 in grade one of primary school. By grade three, reading and writing in English accompanies coursework in the mother tongue. Primary education continues through grade seven, when completion is marked with examinations in mathematics, English, science and social studies.

Secondary education is comprised of four “forms,” numbered I through IV. Forms I and II, equivalent to grades eight and nine, develop more involved skills in mathematics, English, history and other practical subjects. Marks earned in Forms I and II determine placement for Forms III and IV (grades 10 and 11,) advanced study years that culminate in subject-specific tests, gatekeepers for university acceptance.

Post-secondary education may be completed at one of Zimbabwe’s seven public universities or four religiously-affiliate universities. Alternatively, the pursuit of a university degree abroad is a viable option for some.

The 1980s: Dramatic Transformation

The face of education in Zimbabwe changed dramatically between 1980 and 1990. Primary schools and secondary schools sprouted up across the nation, increasing in numbers by 42.5 percent and an unfathomable 662 percent, respectively, during that time. On an aggregate level, student enrollment rose by over 200 percent.
Naturally, the demand for teachers rose with the increasing numbers of young minds. By 1990, 15 teaching colleges (10 for primary school teachers and five for secondary school teachers) were established. The Zimbabwe Integrated Teacher Education Course employed innovative approaches to teacher training, which in turn resulted in an overall improvement in the quality of education in Zimbabwe.

Residual Effects of Radical Change

Strides made prior to 1995 established Zimbabwe as a model for participation in public education. To this day, primary school participation hovers around 88% for both males and females. Retention is relatively stable as well; just over 82 percent of students complete their primary school education (this figure drops dramatically as the secondary education arrives; only 48 percent of males and females participate.)

Zimbabwe’s literacy rate, approximately 90.9 percent for youth and 83.6 percent for adults, is highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The nation also sends the fifth-largest number of students to the United States for continued study.

Areas Needing Improvement

Unfortunately, the apartheid era’s widespread inequality resulted in disparities in education quality. “Group A” schools (formerly white) have access to greater resources and better teachers than their “Group B” counterparts, which are typically government-sponsored. Lack of funding, poorer outcomes and lower pay result in perpetual staff shortages and turnover in B-level schools.

Education access in rural and urban areas is similarly unequal. For the approximately 60 percent of Zimbabweans in rural areas, government-funded schools are the only alternative. Higher-fee private schools are out of reach for agricultural families whose livelihoods allow no room for educational spending.

A post-colonial Zimbabwe embraced education as a human right, a premise that is worthy of emulation by developing nations. That said, education in Zimbabwe has room for growth in terms of quality and equity.

– Casey Ernstes

Sources: OSSREA, U.S. Embassy, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Education Forum
Photo: Flickr