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Education in Vatican CityLocated in the heart of Rome, Italy, Vatican City is the smallest independent nation-state in the world. Its borders surround an area of just under 110 acres, and a majority of the nation’s citizens are members of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. There are roughly 800 people living in Vatican City, and because of the religious practices of the Roman Catholic clergy, there is no annual birth rate. There is no primary education in Vatican City; however, the governing body runs over 15 institutions of higher education. Most of these schools are located outside of the walls of the Vatican, the Ethiopian College being the only exception. Operating within Vatican City, the Ethiopian College guides young African men towards priesthood. One of the largest Vatican-run schools in Rome is Gregorian University, a school which boasts 16 popes and over 19 canonized saints as graduates. Gregorian University was founded in 1551, and the university offers religious educations in topics like canon law and theology.

One cannot discuss education in Vatican City without mentioning the library. The Vatican Library represents one of the largest existing sources of information on the development of the Western world. In 1548, Pope Paul III became the first Cardinal Librarian of the Vatican Library, and it has since served as a tool in the education of thousands of patrons. The American Friends of the Vatican Library was started in 1981, and since then they have raised money and awareness for the treasure trove of information that is the Vatican Library. The American Friends of the Vatican Library is based in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and funds projects like restorations and repairs of the Vatican Library.

Vatican City is by no means a conventional country; however, it is undeniable that education is and has always been something highly regarded by the Vatican City government. Poverty and poor education go hand and hand, and the Roman Catholic Church operating in Vatican City has provided the tools for the education of millions of people since its conception.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Education in TaiwanAlthough Taiwan produces some of the most accomplished students in the world, its educational system is not without shortcomings. Education in Taiwan continues to be a subject of discourse; these nine facts can help you better understand the situation.

  1. Tensions over statehood manifest at every level of education in Taiwan. Because Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, the central educational authority in Taiwan is the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China.
  2. The education system is run by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. It consists of basic elementary education, junior high school and senior secondary education.
  3. The official language of instruction is Mandarin Chinese.
  4. The literacy rate among Taiwanese people age 15 and above was 98.5 percent as of 2014.
  5. Compared to the rest of the world, students who graduate from the educational system in Taiwan achieve some of the highest scores on an international level. Comparatively, these students excel in mathematics and science. However, it has been proposed that there is too far great a focus on memorization in the educational system and a lack of creative instruction.
  6. Taiwan has a testing-oriented education system, which also poses several issues. Standardized test results have recently demonstrated the shortcomings of this system. In 2006, only 4.7 percent of Taiwan students were reading at the highest level, according to the Program for International Student Assessment. The studies suggest that students are without the ability to read or think critically.
  7. In 2014, the Ministry of Education implemented reforms that included adding three years of compulsory education in secondary schools. This was in response to the aforementioned criticisms of the previous system.
  8. The reforms included “exam-free” pathways to secondary schools, a less restrictive curriculum, subsidies for students from disadvantaged homes and making arts education available to all students, among others.
  9. Population decline poses a real threat to the Taiwan’s higher education sector. By 2023, the number of predicted student enrollments in higher education is projected to drop by a third. This will also have implications for the higher education sector of Taiwan in the globalized education market.

Education in Taiwan continues to progress, especially towards targeting areas that it is less proficient in. With the added focus on reading, arts and creativity, along with less pressure to score high on exams, Taiwan is working to ensure that its educational system meets the needs of all its students.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr


Education in St. Lucia, a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean, seeks to prepare students for exciting futures in higher education and the workforce. Educators at 75 primary schools and 24 secondary schools have worked for decades to mobilize their youth to succeed.

In response to poor performance by students in grades one to five on a Minimum Standards Test in 1998, the nation enacted the Education Act of 1999. Supported by parliament members, teachers, and students alike, the act clearly outlines students’ rights and actively contributes to curriculum development.

Furthermore, the Education Act of 1999 rests on the idea that citizens ought to pursue higher education in order to serve the community. As a result—and although students over 16 years old may opt out of attending school under the act—upper secondary institutions boast a 97.2 percent enrollment rate.

In addition to the cultural push for students to attend school as a civic responsibility, perhaps the numerous opportunities for tertiary education compel students to further their studies. The University of the West Indies, which offers online degree programs, frequently awards Rhodes scholarships to residents of St. Lucia and other members of the Commonwealth Caribbean. St. Joseph’s Convent, an all-female secondary school in St. Lucia, also offers scholarships to those with creative skills and potential as leaders.

Sixteen-year-old Kurmysha Harris perfectly exemplifies the standards of education in St. Lucia. A fifth-form student at the St. Joseph’s Convent, she became St. Lucia’s youngest published author when she published her first novel, The Lost Sister, in September 2016.

Harris, who has been writing for most of her life, cites her uncle and parents as major contributors to her book. Sister Rufina, the principal at St. Joseph’s Convent, also reached out upon the book’s release to show support on behalf of the school at large. With such an enthusiastic fan base, Harris has sold more than 600 copies of her novel and has started working on another.

Opportunities for teens like Harris continue to open up far and wide in the country. With governmental attention and widespread support from adults, education in St. Lucia has the nation’s youth bound for success.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

4 Facts about Higher Education in Russia You need to Know
Russia seems to constantly struggle with one political or economic issue after another. It is important not to forget education in the chaos. Here are a few salient facts about higher education in Russia and how it affects the growing number of people living in poverty.

  1. Entrance exams: As in many countries, students in Russia must take a unified state exam to enter university. This system has pros and cons. The exams are extremely competitive and force teachers in secondary school to “teach to the test” to ensure students can pass exams. However, doing so leads to problems later on when students must spend time in university relearning material they should have learned in high school.
  2. Changing demographics: Until the mid-1990s, universities were comprised mainly of well-to-do urban young adults. After reforms were made, enrollment expanded and, in the early 2000s, universities became more popular among the masses. Lately, however, Russia’s gap between the rich and poor has been growing. Nearly 20 million Russians currently live in poverty, and the poverty rate has increased 20 percent since last year. Consequently, history is beginning to repeat itself, with a more socioeconomically homogeneous student body developing in universities.
  3. Right to free education: According to the Russian Federation Constitution, all Russian citizens have a right to free education. Russia’s 2013 Law of Education ensures that state governments enforce this right. The right to free education is granted on a competitive basis based on grades from the Unified State Exam.
  4. Government spending is low: Only about 4 percent of Russia’s GDP goes toward education, according to the latest U.N. Human Development Report. Compared to other countries with consistently high-ranking education systems, Russia’s spending on education is low. Finland, for example, spends 6.8 percent of its GDP on education.

Increased government spending on education, as well as more well-rounded secondary education, could greatly benefit higher education in Russia and the nation as a whole.

Sabrina Yates

Photo: Flickr

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

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 by 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

higher_education
Between 2002 and 2013, developed nations invested an estimated $42.6 billion into the growth of higher education programs within developing countries. While this figure alone appears staggering in size, one must also consider the $1.6 trillion in total foreign aid these developed nations invested during the same time period. With investments in higher education responsible for only 2.7 percent of the international development budget, many are now questioning the causes of this disparity.

The United States itself invests approximately three percent of its total foreign aid budget into higher education, which is less than half of the other average contributions made by other donor countries. Many have questioned how a central developed nation has failed to deliver the necessary support for tertiary education programs in regions that would clearly benefit from such initiatives.

The roots of this problem may very well date back to the 1980’s when the World Bank conducted a series of studies regarding the efficacy of educational programs.

The studies argued that financial investments within primary education programs resulted in double the amount of social capital for youth populations as opposed to investments within tertiary education programs. The findings also included suggestions that the benefits of a youth pursuing further education after secondary school proved substantially higher for the individual as opposed to their nation as a whole.

As a result, the global community prioritized the development of primary education systems and even focused Millennium Development Goal 2 on achieving universal primary education.

Conflicting with many of the beliefs about education adopted in the 1980’s, numerous studies conducted in the past fifteen years have challenged many of the conclusions drawn by the World Bank studies.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report in 2008, which instead argued that tertiary education is a vital asset to the global community as it encourages social and economic developments through the strengthening of a populations knowledge bases the creation of human capital and the application and dissemination of such knowledge.

A disparaging and growing cycle of educational failures within developing regions has also been found to be in part caused by lack of growth within higher education. Researchers have argued that without access to strong higher education programs, the inability to train essential officials such as teachers, economic managers and political leaders, whom are responsible for ensuring certain standards for the quality of education are reached, will continue to persist.

In recent years, many of the most highly motivated and qualified academic individuals within developing regions such as sub-Saharan Africa have emigrated to higher education facilities in the Western hemisphere. This mass exodus of the most talented minds has caused a notable corrosion in the academic climates of universities in developing regions, facilities that are often overwrought with insufficient funding and corrupt governmental proceedings.

Government leaders of both developed and developing nations must cooperatively address the issue of increasing levels of funding for higher education programs within impoverished and underdeveloped regions. While the global community has demonstrated strong dedication in pursuing the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 2, attention must now be turned to the pursuit of universal higher education.

James Thornton

Sources: The Conversation, Vanderbilt
Photo: Flickr

How International Education Through the HCED Benefits Iraq-TBP
Higher education in Iraq has suffered greatly over the past two decades.

Iraq once had a secular, inclusive education system that was both open to women and globally connected. But the university system has effectively collapsed since the international sanctions regime of the 1990s and the US invasion of 2003. The war has left universities stripped of important resources, and the De-Baathification process removed many influential leaders from academia. Countless cultural artifacts and documents have been stolen from universities and often destroyed, and professors have been killed or abducted. Female students have been targeted by extremist groups, keeping them from accessing education. It is estimated that Iraq would need between 1.2 to two billion dollars to restore their higher education system.

To help Iraqi students continue their education in the face of conflict and remain competitive with the rest of the world, Prime Minister Noori Al Malki launched the Initiative in Iraq. The goal of this program was to send 10,000 Iraqi students to foreign universities over five years. To accomplish this, former secretary general of Iraq’s council of ministers Zuhair Humadi formed the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq. Since 2009, the program has sent 4,000 students abroad to study for their master’s and doctorates in the US, UK, and Australia. Funding has been secured for thousands more.

So far, the students admitted to the program have excelled. Forty-two were recognized for publishing work in UK science journals, and many have been offered tenure after completing their degrees. Furthermore, Iraq has not experienced a “brain drain” because of the HCED: only 10 of the 300 graduates did not return to Iraq upon graduation.

Some are concerned that the funding for HCED should be redistributed to other areas in which Iraq is struggling, such as the healthcare system. But, education is the key to progress and hope for future generations, and Humadi believes the program’s funding is entirely justified. Other flaws in the program include the fact that women only account for 25 percent of scholars, and students from rural areas are largely underrepresented. HCED can work on expanding their outreach so that young adults from marginalized groups have access to the same opportunities.

Currently, about $200 million in scholarships is available for Iraqi students studying abroad through various programs, from the Fulbright Scholar Program to Holland’s Middle East and North Africa Scholarship Program. With a strong effort towards reviving Iraq’s university system, Iraqi students can continue to better themselves and their country by accessing higher education.

Jane Harkness

Sources: Brown University, The Guardian, HCED, ICEF Monitor
Photo: UNCG

Education_in_Ethiopia
In 2015, enrollment for higher education in Ethiopia reached only 8%, compared to the 32% global average enrollment rate. While enrollment numbers fall short, Ethiopia’s education system has improved since the end of their civil war in 1991.

Recovering from the damages of civil war is a difficult task and Ethiopia has been successfully making education a top priority. In 1990, 7.5% of government expenditure went to education and in 2009, 23.6% of government expenditure started going to education.

Most of the challenges for the infrastructure of higher education in Ethiopia are due to funding cuts and lecturers being committed to political parties. Anonymous workers at many universities say the schools require students to join the party and that spies report what is being said in the classrooms.

Over the next two years, Ethiopia plans to expand the number of universities to 42, an increase of 40 universities since 2000. The University of Jimma, which opened in 2013, has become one of the top research schools in Africa for materials science and engineering. Materials science and engineering is seen as the one of the most important fields for development and alleviating poverty in Ethiopia.

For primary education, the World Bank helped provide more than 78 million textbooks to students and improved conditions for teaching and learning in 40,000 schools through the General Education Quality Improvement Project. Teachers are becoming more qualified and many more are earning a three-year level diploma level.

Enrollment in primary education rose 500% from 1994 to 2009 with 15.5 million students in school. Today, 67.9% of school-aged children are attending primary school, a dramatic increase since the end of the civil war. Their progress in education exceeds the numbers of other war-stricken countries, such as Liberia, where only 40.6% of children are enrolled in primary school.

USAID is impacting the lives of 15 million children in primary school by improving their reading levels. In 2010, reading performances were low, and one-third of second grade students were non-readers. With the help of USAID, Ethiopia is experiencing an increase in reading and writing skills and more involvement from parents.

As primary and secondary education in Ethiopia strengthens, it is hopeful students will enroll in higher education and take part in PhD programs, which few Ethiopians have a chance to achieve. University of Jimma’s engineering department graduated their first 18 PhD students without any funding from the government.

The university staff volunteered their time to help students with the opportunity of gaining a high degree that will help propel those living in poverty and improve development in Ethiopia.

“You only need a couple of weeks in Ethiopia to realize that materials science is a priority,” says Pablo Corrochano, associate professor at Jimma. “Even in the capital you’ll experience cuts in power and water; in rural areas it’s even worse.”

Donald Gering

Sources: The Guardian, ODI, Social Progress Imperative, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Pathfinder

General Electric Grant to Pay University of Ghana Students' Tuition
A mere three percent of Ghanaians ages 18 to 21 are enrolled in some form of higher education. Nearly 80 percent of Ghana’s population survives on less than $2 per day, and university tuition is far from affordable for most.

However, thanks to a $100,000 General Electric grant, tertiary education will become a little more accessible for impoverished students in Ghana.

The University of Ghana, one of the country’s top-ranking institutions of higher learning, is the recipient of this grant. With 29,754 current students, the University of Ghana is both the largest and oldest public university in the country. It is one of six public tertiary educational institutions in Ghana, which, along with the 11 private post-secondary schools, make up Ghana’s university offerings.

According to the University of Sussex in Ghana, “46.6 percent of the nation’s income/expenditure is enjoyed by the richest 20 percent of the population, whereas the poorest 20 percent have access to only 5.6 percent of national income/expenditure.”

Access to education, especially secondary and post-secondary schooling can often become a luxury of the wealthy, entrenching patterns of poverty. Herein lies the importance of scholarships designated for financially disadvantaged students.

A well-instructed population benefits developing countries on a variety of levels. Education gives individuals a tool for socioeconomic mobility while also developing a knowledgeable and skilled workforce resource. This “human capital” is exactly the sort of resource Mr. Leslie Nelson, CEO of General Electric, Ghana, hopes to foster through ongoing partnerships with Ghanaian universities.

Education is an important part of development for impoverished countries. In Ghana, primary school enrollment is on the rise and literacy remains comparatively high for the region with youth literacy rising above that of adults. Although poverty still remains prevalent, these statistics offer a heartening glimpse of future developments.

Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: UG, AllAfrica, Sussex
Photo: How Africa