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

higher_educationDuring the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China’s notoriously polluted capital, a controversial interview surfaced on the website of Tsinghua University. Alleged to have the support of university president Binglin Gu, the interview condemned the Chinese higher education system as teeming with “serious academic corruption dry and irrelevant to society curriculum, and rote memorization teaching methods.” It continued on to say, “The old-fashioned methods of teaching and teaching material caused our society to lose many Da Vinci’s and Bill Gates … up to now, China has no Nobel prize-winners, which has a lot to do with this kind of education pattern.”

While the interview was later revealed to be a fabrication by hackers, it still garnered enough attention to challenge the effectiveness of Chinese higher education, now the largest system of tertiary education in the world. The question remains though: Are the claims true?

As the report claims, China’s education style is, in a way, old fashioned. China has long favored memorization and exams for its education. This tradition dates all the way back to the 7th century, when China’s growing bureaucracy created the challenging keju exam system in order to select the best administrators. More than a millennium has passed, but the importance of the exam in Chinese education remains.

The college entrance exams, or the gaokao, a modern form of the ancient keju, serves as the single admission criteria for all Chinese universities. It has become a national obsession for college-bound students. In order to succeed on these intensely rigorous tests, the college hopeful have resorted to “cram-schools,” which fill the hours between school and bedtime with studying. On weekends, some 20,000 students will arrive at certain cram schools at 6:20 in the morning only to return home over 14 hours later.

The college admissions process has also received criticism for its bias and discrimination. Reports have suggested that more wealthy, urban students from influential cities like Shanghai and Beijing are 41 times more likely to be admitted to Peking University compared to more rural and poorer students from the province of Anhui.

Not surprisingly, more testing means Chinese students spend more time in classrooms than their Western peers. While more than one-third of Chinese college students experience 30 hours of class time a week, the average UK college student spends 14 hours equally working inside and outside of the classroom. In comparison, 40 percent of Chinese college students spend less than five hours working outside of class.

The Chinese obsession with tests corresponds to the increasing attendance and funding among the country’s colleges. In 1999, the Chinese government expanded its education system in order to jumpstart its stagnant economy. The number of graduating students has spiked since then. In 2003 there were 2.12 million university graduates in China, with almost 7 million a decade later, according to government estimates.

However, this investment in education has not entirely paid off. As more and more Chinese have enrolled in universities, China has found its economy actually decelerating, albeit in small amounts. Recent graduates have also struggled with employment, with only 35 percent having found employment. Post-graduate students fare even worse, with only 26 percent having found employment.

While China has invested greatly in its own higher education, its best universities still cannot hold a candle to those elsewhere, particularly in the West. This has led a large number of Chinese students to seek more valuable college educations abroad to get an edge in an increasingly difficult domestic job market. More than 3 million Chinese students have chosen to study abroad and they represent 20 percent of international students from OECD countries.

These international students often do not return home. In fact, according to a study, 85 percent of Chinese students who earned their doctorate in America in 2006 were still there five years later. With so many potential academics and intellectuals not returning to the country, many proclaim that China has a “brain-drain.” Only recently have Chinese citizens begun to win Nobel prizes for work done in their home country.

To entice its many expatriate academics back to their homeland, China has offered generous benefits. Those who return can expect free housing, a 1 million Yuan bonus and state-of-the-art facilities. The results were exceptional: From 2005 to 2012, published research articles from universities rose by 54 percent, with patents increasing eightfold. However, returning professors still have to work in an academic environment that restricts their research. Currently, the Chinese government plays a major role in directing research and rewards academics for the quantity of articles published rather than their quality.

Yet the sheer amount of money China has invested in its higher education system should guarantee results, a Harvard Business Review article stressed. It predicted that China will soon produce the most PhDs of any country in the world and lauded the increasing productivity of its professors.

The question still remains as to whether or not China can innovate and compete in both the realms of business and education. While perhaps less revered and creative, China’s universities are pioneering a controversial yet forward-looking path. To those guiding this burgeoning system, quantity has a quality of its own.

– Andrew Logan

Sources: The Economist, Harvard Business Review, New York Times 1, New York Times 2, Times Higher Education, TIME, University of Buffalo
Photo: New York Times

Education empowers individuals and gives them a chance to escape poverty. This idea is so accepted and powerful that one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls to “Achieve Universal Primary Education.”

However, what is next for those who have achieved primary education? If a person has a primary or even secondary education, are there resources to allow that individual to obtain a higher education?

Often, a young adult may desire a higher education but find that their financial situation will keep them from achieving a traditional higher education without substantial scholarships. Possibly, they are too geographically far from a traditional university or need to work to contribute to the household income.

Fortunately, a global revolution in higher education is taking shape through the work of the University of the People. They have created a business plan that provides free higher education for the world online. So far, they only have four programs, but they are all accredited: Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. The sequence of courses is comparable to any brick-and-mortar education, and are overseen by an advisory board of professionals from several large universities.

Anyone over the age of 18 with a secondary diploma and proficiency in English can apply to the University of the People. Tuition is completely free and course materials are all accessible on the Internet and available to download. There is a small application fee, and each course does require a $100 end-of-course examination. However, the fees have the possibility of being covered through scholarships.

How is all this achievable? Well, the University has partnered with several large names in this endeavor, such as Yale University for research, New York University for applications and Hewlett-Packard for internships. Furthermore, well-qualified instructors and professionals volunteer as course instructors and course developers. People dedicated to the cause of giving everyone access to higher education make this business plan succeed.

Even with such great strides in access to education, those in poverty are still at a disadvantage. A large group of potential students is left out of this revolution because they lack Internet access, working computers or English proficiency.

However, those areas are being addressed. For example, the University of the People pledged to accept 250 qualified Haitians into the program. The University hopes this group of students will help the rebuilding of Haiti by becoming leaders through this educational opportunity. To aid the students, the University of the People pledged to “locate places for students to go to study, furnish these places with computers, ensure electricity and back-up generators and provide satellite Internet.”

The United States can also help with the technological disadvantages that Africa faces through the Electrify Africa Act. This act would establish partnerships and devote financial help to Sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity is wildly inconsistent. By creating reliable electricity sources in Africa, the economy will likely improve, and people will have the ability to escape poverty. If Sub-Saharan Africa had reliable electricity and, in turn, access to the Internet, a large group of potential students would have the opportunity to achieve higher education through the University of the People.

Students lacking English proficiency are also being addressed. The United Nations is working to bring primary education to every child around the globe with the aforementioned MDGs. Once a child is literate in their own language and has passed primary education, educators can start to focus on teaching a foreign language with proficiency in secondary school, thus opening doors for higher education.

The University of the People has rolled out a solid business plan that is already showing results. So many people around the globe that thought they would never be able to achieve a higher education due to finances or distance now have an opportunity to succeed and move out of poverty.

– Megan Ivy

Sources:, University of the People, UN Millennium Goals
Photo: The Positive Approach

Cape Verde EducationIn the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, a country lies on a small archipelago. Cape Verde, though minuscule, is doing pretty well in terms of education. Since Cape Verde obtained its independence in 1975, its literacy rate has increased. In 1975, only 40 percent of the people were literate, while today, more than 80 percent of the people are literate.

The implementation of new education techniques in 1975 led to a new era of students. This new mentality allowed for learning to flourish. Today, there are programs available for primary education, secondary education, higher education and special teaching education. Pre-school education accounts for children under the age of 6.

Education in Cape Verde is organized into a six-six formal education structure, meaning that children enter primary school at the age of 6, and then are required to attend school for six years. The secondary education level requires students to attend for five more years, grades seven through 12 (in terms of how the U.S. educational system is structured). Higher education is offered for those who are interested.

The secondary education level has a curriculum that focuses on the acquisition of scientific, technological and cultural knowledge in order to prepare children for the workforce. Technical skills learned in schools will help them be qualified for the labor market. In addition, the acquisition of artistic knowledge is available for those who prefer a paintbrush rather than a wrench.

Higher education seeks to ensure strong scientific, cultural and technical foundations, which are necessary for professional and cultural activities. Innovation, design and critical analysis skills are often the specific goals for this level, and universities are offered.

Since its impressive growth in education, Cape Verde has been looking to the future in order to ensure that education remains a focus. To this day, improvements are still being made in its literacy rate.

Erik Nelson

Sources: Education Policy and Data Center, Instituto Marquês de Valle Flôr, Researching Virtual Initiatives in Education
Photo: Education for Social Justice

The number of people who are living in poverty in Italy has doubled since 2012. Over a million Italians are unable to afford to eat meat or pay for basic necessities such as heating for their houses. It is estimated that poverty in Italy is higher than it has ever been within the last 16 years.

Relative poverty is considered a family of two members living on a monthly salary of 991 euros or less. Approximately, 12.7 percent of families are living at relative poverty standards.

About eight percent of the Italian population is living in total poverty and unable to meet the minimum acceptable standard of living, according to the National Institute for Statistics (ISTAT).

“It is a reminder, if one were needed, of the severity and scale of Italy’s recession, the longest since the Second World War. Italy maybe the comeback kid of the global sovereign debt markets, but its economy does not look as though it will ever come back – and it was not even strong to start,” said Nicholas Spiro, head of Spiro Sovereign Strategy about ISTAT’s report.

The recession is taking a massive toll, currently plunging approximately 40 percent of Italian youth into unemployment.

Currently, Italy’s rate of unemployment and the amount of young people without education is the highest in Europe since the 1970s, totaling 23.9 percent. This means that one third of people ages 15-29 are either without education or without a job.

Only 58 percent of those who have graduated from college are able to find jobs out of school, which is below the average number of 77.2 percent in European countries.

The number of families living without adequate necessities, such as heating, has reached a staggering 8.6 million, or one family out of five. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those same families to not be able to afford a healthy meal consisting of meat once every 2 days, meaning 16.6 percent of families living in poverty in Italy are not receiving an appropriate amount of nutrients.

Poverty in Southern Italy has increased by a whopping 90% over the past five years, a clear indicator of the economic gap between Northern Italy and Southern.

The recession is also affecting the ability of Italian employees to take a holiday break. 50 percent of Italians are not able to enjoy a holiday week off and, in Southern Italy, approximately 69 percent of Italians are unable to enjoy a holiday off. Employee wages are being cut and full-time employment is at record lows.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: Reuters, UK Reuters, The Local, CNBC, Global Post

For decades, it was believed that funding should be siphoned into lower levels of education rather than university education, and throughout the 1980’s studies argued in favor of this mode of international aid. However, more recent studies show conclusive evidence that higher education has manifold benefits for developing nations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is perhaps the paragon of the potential that universities and development agencies have when they work together. USAID has chosen to forego any future partnership with Higher Education for Development, an intermediary that works with universities at home and abroad, opting to instead work directly with universities themselves.This signals a more hands-on approach that shows the growing importance of higher education in the eyes of USAID.One very important case of this approach is the Higher Education Solutions Network, which attempts to find solutions to global issues such as food security through development labs at seven different universities.Another example of the commitment of USAID to higher education is its appointment of a senior higher education coordinator that will serve to improve the agency’s transparency and accountability.In every way, USAID shows the desire to forge strong relationships with universities in the belief universities are integral to addressing global problems.One real world example of these burgeoning relationships involves Burma and USAID’s attempt to help the country in its transition to democracy through its universities.In addition to supporting the future leaders of Burma, USAID hopes to create a culture of democracy within the universities that will proliferate outward, focusing on expanding courses in business and politics.The fact that Burma is near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index shows the ambitious and optimistic nature of the endeavor, as well as the belief in the importance of higher education.The relationships formed through these partnerships have also gone a long way in mending what has been a problematic one between the U.S. and the countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden. USAID has sponsored and trained Afghan professors and hopes that this might curb the rampant Islamic extremism within the country.The U.S. also expanded the Fulbright program to Pakistan in 2011, providing 200 scholarships to bright Pakistani students to pursue an advanced degree. This makes it possible for intelligent but poor Pakistanis to transition to a higher economic strata.

USAID’s commitment to addressing global problems through its engagement with higher education is already being noticed and utilized by other agencies. As Peter McPherson, director of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, states, “There’s no question that USAID’s engagement with universities has increased…There’s more money and more relationships.” A good combination for helping those in need.

– Jordan Schunk

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, Insider Higher Ed Global, University World News, USAID
Photo: Flickr