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8 Facts About Education in the Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands, born out of colonization and slavery, consists of many different cultures today. This cultural diversity represents the torn history that the Virgin Islands experienced centuries ago with the arrival of European explorers such as Christopher Columbus. The peoples of the U.S. Virgin Islands reflect the many cultures of the West African, Danish, Spanish, Irish and German people. Here are 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands.

8 Facts About Education in The Virgin Islands

  1. The Virgin Islands education system provides public and private education to all residents from preschool to college. The U.S. Virgin Islands Public University has over 43 degree programs for students to excel in. Additionally, the education system focuses on preparing citizens for employment.
  2. The territory spends 7.5 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP) on education. The Virgin Islands care strongly about supplying their citizens with the education necessary to make an impact on the world.
  3. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States. Because of this, it receives federal entitlements as well as beneficial educational programs, including Head Start, nutrition programs and Upward Bound.
  4. The program Upward Bound provides fundamental support for students to succeed in high school and prepare for college. This program serves lower-income and first-generation students, whose families may have a difficult time helping them prepare for college, as they never attended and/or completed college themselves.
  5. A project known as From Farm to School communicates with local farmers to bring students in public schools locally grown, fresh produce. From Farm to School has supported school gardens to enrich students’ learning and promote healthy eating habits. At this time, From Farm to School has constructed school gardens in 50 percent of public schools across the Virgin Islands.
  6. The Virgin Islands must comply with the education law which states equal learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. A court case in 2007 – Nadine Jones v. the Government of the Virgin Islands – changed the way the Department of Education operated forever. Nadine Jones, a student with a disability was not receiving free and required services to aid in her learning. As a result of this case, the Department of Education was required to conform more closely to the educational law of the U.S. They have to provide free public schools to all students and be inclusive to students like Nadine Jones.
  7. Schools in the Virgin Islands such as Charlotte Amalie High School are still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes from over a year and a half ago. Students and teachers are still struggling after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged their school facilities. Consequently, this makes daily school life difficult to thrive in. Students are often forced to eat in crowded hallways due to overpopulated schools and destroyed cafeterias.
  8. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided over $1.4 billion for reparations after the two hurricanes struck. Approximately $874 million went to emergy work, including debris removal, while the rest is designated for combating the damage to the education system. FEMA’s support has allowed for the reconstruction of many school facilities that were destroyed by storms.

These 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands help illuminate the successes of education initiatives as well as some recent struggles caused by natural disasters.  The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory that cares deeply about its education system, however, and strong efforts in the aftermath of the hurricanes are helping get students back on track to a high-quality education.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Sitting on the eastern African coast, Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Though Comoros is experiencing steady economic growth, government debt could cause a decline in the growth rate as time goes on. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Comoros

  1. Poverty: One household-conducted survey from 2014 found that approximately 18 percent of Comoros’ population lives below the international poverty line. The government is continuously funding infrastructure projects with non-concessional loans aimed to improve the island’s living conditions.
  2. Unemployment: Rates of unemployment in Comoros currently rest at 14.3 percent. With about 38.4 percent of people working in agricultural zones, employment is one of the country’s top priorities. 
  3. Education System: One aspect of living conditions in Comoros is that students are required to attend Quranic schools for two to three years from the age of 5. Then, students will advance to primary and secondary school, which is modeled on the French system. Subsequently, students receive six years of primary education and seven years of secondary education. Comoros does not have any post-secondary education in place, like universities, therefore students will either pursue higher education abroad or partake in business, teaching, or agricultural training.
  4. Political Unrest: Much of the living conditions in Comoros, specifically the education system, are negatively affected by political unrest and instability. This often results in teacher and student strikes across the island, which has affected student performance and completion rates. In 2004, education indicators showed that while 85 percent of children were enrolled in primary education and only 35 percent continued to enroll through secondary school.
  5. Life Expectancy: Comoros has a life expectancy of nearly 64 years, a significant improvement from 41 years in 1960. The country currently spends approximately $57 per capita on health care which falls below the average of sub-Saharan Africa ($98) but is significantly higher than that for lower-income countries overall ($37). According to the World Bank, public financing for health makes up 8.7 percent of total government spending.
  6. Clean Water Access: Over 90 percent of Comoros’ population has readily accessible potable drinking water. Clean water supply and access have been improving tremendously because of programs like UNICEF, which has received funding of almost $1.3 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid’s office. This funding supports endeavors such as cleaning and protecting roughly 1,500 reservoirs across the nation.
  7. Human Development: In 2016, Comoros ranked 158 out of 188 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. This low number indicates a dire need for focusing on initiatives that combat hunger and malnutrition. Further, a report by the World Bank found that nearly 30 percent of children face chronic malnutrition and stunted growth.
  8. Malaria: The government has developed a goal to fight malaria, where the aim is to reach zero cases on the island. A surge of malaria cases has hit Comoros over the past two years, primarily due to the weak health system. In 2018, nearly 16,000 indigenous malaria cases were reported.
  9. Child Labor: In an effort to improve living conditions in Comoros, the government has recently launched an initiative to reduce child labor rates. Children often perform domestic and agricultural work in order to provide support to the family. Often, these children are sent to wealthier families if the parent is unable to properly care for the child. It has been found that 20.8 percent of children between the ages of seven and fourteen work while in school.
  10. Working Women: Over a third of women in Comoros are in the labor force, providing financial support for a majority of the home bills and school fees for the family. There are strong matrilineal traditions present across the island. Women represent approximately 20 percent of key positions in the government, like the minister of telecommunications and labor minister.

As one of the world’s poorest countries, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros are essential in understanding the importance of economic growth and reduction of poverty on the island.

– Brittany Adames
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

Education in Morocco
Since 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% of youth ages 15-24 years old can effectively read and write. This is an increase from 81.5% 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% 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% of GDP and 21.3% of total government spending. Since 2002, payments have been increasing by more than 5% 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

Education System in South Africa
The City Press has reported a possible new tier education system in South Africa where students will be divided into three tiers based on their strengths and weaknesses.

According to Business Tech, students will be placed into one of three categories based on their assessed aptitude for each. The tiers are academic, technical occupational and technical vocational.

The academic tier will mirror the current matriculation program.

On the other hand, the technical occupational tier aims to produce students who can leave the education system in South Africa and enter the workplace immediately with skills such as spray painting, hairdressing and woodwork.

According to Mathanzima Mweli, Director General of DBE, “We will introduce these (technical occupational) subjects at grade four and will increase the number of schools offering the new subjects to hundreds or thousands.”

The technical vocational tier will include subjects such as engineering and technical drawing and focus on students who want to study trades. The technical vocational stream will offer 12 subjects.

The department of basic education hopes the new school system will result in 60 percent of students completing technical qualifications.

Moira de Roche, MD of Aligned4Learning, said, “There is no point in forcing a new learner who is good with their hands to do academic subjects. They end up failing and feeling useless, whereas they are good at many things. Hopefully, it will also result in less kids (and their parents) thinking the only option for them is a university.”

Education activist and founder of Partners4Possibility, Louise van Rhyn noted that the new tier system will enable young people to find fruitful careers by providing opportunities that are not solely focused on academic success.

Van Rhyn also said, “In addition to implementing this change, we also need to ensure that we still create opportunities for learners to participate in the knowledge economy, as this is a sure way out of poverty and these skills are critical for our future. We need a much higher percentage of learners with a solid foundation in maths and science.”

According to Business Tech, the new school system is being developed this year and will be tested in 58 schools in 2017.

Jordan Connell

Sources: All Africa, Business Tech, It Web
Photo: The Guardian

Conflict_Disrupts_Education_Central_African_Republic
Access to the most basic level of education in the Central African Republic has been limited since the beginning of the rebel uprising.  Despite the efforts of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the country needs at least $7 million to resume regular schooling.  Thousands of children have fled for their lives to neighboring countries where as refugees they may receive some amount of education.  However, in rural refugee camps, older students have no access to education at their higher level.  The mass exodus and ever growing number of internally displaced persons has rendered consistent education nearly impossible.

While religion certainly has played its role in the conflict, preexisting instability created a context in which violence could flourish.  Many of the young soldiers fighting on either side joined solely with the hope of finding work.  The Sahel remains one of the poorest places in the world, filled with endless violence and hunger.

The education system in the CAR was weak long before the most recent interruptions.  Literacy rates stagnated at little over 50 percent for the overall population, and significantly lower for women.  The majority of teachers were unqualified and underpaid.  Still, having joined the Global Partnership for Education, the CAR received a $37.8 million loan to improve national education.  Before the conflict broke out, the CAR saw a 13 percent increase in children attending primary school – a tremendous sign of progress in a few short years.

In the months that have passed since the most recent conflict began, schools in the most war-torn provinces have been looted and destroyed while teachers have fled out of fear.  Students are at risk of losing an entire school year now that over half of all schools across the CAR are closed.  Parents throughout the CAR fear sending their children to the schools that are still open.

UNICEF has responded to the crisis by working with the Ministry of Education in the CAR and NGOs throughout the region.  Together they have seen the following success:

  • 65,000 students have returned to school
  • 120 temporary learning centers have opened in areas where violence is minimal
  • More than 1000 teachers have returned to their schools

The following months will require the financial support found only in the larger international community.  This support is crucial to the eventual eradication of poverty and prevention of future violence.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Livewire, Central Intelligence Agency, Global Partnership, UNICEF, United Nations, Time, United Nations, UNHCR