education development center
In the fight against global poverty, it is important to acknowledge some of the more successful combatants. The Education Development Center (EDC) is one of these. As a global nonprofit, it recognizes the correlation between the lack of education and increased global poverty and helps give those marginalized in the world — either due to poverty or war — the chance of leading a better life by means of education. As their website states, over 100 million children do not attend school, and it is this statistic that the EDC is fighting to combat and reduce.

With offices based in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Waltham, Mass., the Education Development Center commands a global staff of 1,350 members. It has over a $190 million budget and over 250 programs spread throughout 30 different countries and across all 50 U.S. states.

Through grants from both private foundations and federal agencies, the EDC creates and implements projects to improve educational and economic prospects of those worldwide. According to the EDC, these projects have ranged from “seed projects to large-scale national and international initiatives.”

Notable donors to the EDC include: the Ford Motor Company, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Education, UNESCO and the World Health Organization. Recently, the EDC has received three grants from the U.S. Department of Education, one for $3.5 million and two for almost $400,000 each, all meant for education development projects within the U.S.

Founded in 1958, the EDC’s first project was to design a new physics curriculum for American high school classrooms. This was partially a reaction to the Soviet Union’s new space program as well as a response to a perceived discrepancy between Soviet Union and American science educations.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project became highly successful, and the new curriculum was incorporated into roughly half of American high schools by the early 1960s.

Following the implementation of this first project in the United States, EDC soon began to establish a more global reach. In 1961 and 1966 it began work on advancing mathematics and science programs in Africa. These projects would eventually end up creating, as stated on EDC’s website, “the continent’s first indigenous education research and development organization, Science Education Programme for Africa.”

However, one of its most effective and interesting international projects is the Radio Education or Interactive Radio Instruction.

This radio program that began in 1985 (and still exists today) was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It uses radios to educate large swaths of people, including adults and children from over 30 developing countries, that would otherwise be unable to receive a basic education, either because of war or poverty.

This dedication to improving the world and combating poverty through education has been sustained throughout the organization’s entire existence. As a result of projects from 1997-2007, for instance, student enrollment in Guinea has doubled.

More recently, the international work of the EDC has focused on reducing youth unemployment in both Rwanda and Macedonia. More vocational training centers, concentrated on teaching technical and interpersonal skills, are being created for these youths.

As 2015 draws near, so does the end of the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals signed in 2000 by 191 countries designed to drastically reduce global poverty. As the international community debates and draws up the next set of goals to target poverty, the EDC will be remembered and depended on for the continued positive change it has enacted since 1958.

– Albert Cavallaro 

Sources: EDC 1, EDC 2, EDC 3, EDC 4, EDC 5, IRIN
Photo: Sasaki