Education in Ukraine

Due to the country’s poor economic stability and growth and frequent changes in power, education in Ukraine has been unsustainable and inadequate. In 2017, a new law on education was signed, aiming to improve the educational system in Ukraine. Below are 8 facts about education in Ukraine, and how the government is trying to improve its educational system.

  1. Ukraine has one of the highest rates of national spending on education in the world, with 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) being devoted to education funding. Despite this large quantity of funds, education financing decreased by 1.2 percent from 2013 to 2017. The 2017 Law of Ukraine on Education commits the country to devote at least 7 percent of GDP on education. This is in an effort to remedy the problems of inadequate facilities and insufficient teacher salaries.
  2. A section of the new Law of Ukraine on Education is sparking major international controversy. The law, which will gradually develop between 2018 and 2020, states that all secondary education will be taught in Ukrainian. The debate about the country’s accordance with the standards of the European Union is in relation to the treatment and accommodation of minorities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians, Moldavians, Hungarians, and Russians live in Ukraine. These citizens and the leaders of their countries of origin feel as though this language law marginalizes minority groups. Response to the law by foreign officials was swift and explicit. For example, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has been expressing that Hungary would not support Ukraine’s initiative of European Union integration. To date, it is unclear whether this portion of the law will be executed or not.
  3. Despite the language controversy, the new education law demonstrates positive forward motion and the Ukrainian government’s understanding of the existing inadequacies. The law put into effect by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on September 25, 2017, provides funding for better materials and technologies in classrooms. Education disparities were most prominent in rural schools still using older technology and teaching methods. As a whole, the movement sways away from the previous structures of education in Ukraine. Then, the focus was on uniformity and rote memorization of impractical facts. Now, the law calls for a greater focus on the student as an individual and their applicable skills.
  4. One of the focuses of this new education reform is on primary education. In fact, observation of 100 schools nationwide will serve as experiments of the new system. The new primary school system introduces children to courses that foster critical thinking and analysis. Classrooms will now have accommodations so that children may learn while sitting or lying on the floor. Additionally, new building toys such as Legos will be available, which help to develop fine motor skills. Finally, this type of education mandates a smaller class size and greater teacher salary.
  5. Ukraine has the smallest class sizes in the world, but this ratio is due to the number of students decreasing at a higher rate than the number of teachers. However, communities are hesitant to close schools. Additionally, as of 2016, funding for schools came from the regions, while the community was maintaining management and maintenance. Furthermore, schools with low enrollment are continually receiving funding because the surrounding community is providing support. Overall, the average class size is nine students despite these efforts.
  6. More Ukrainian students are choosing to attend universities abroad than ever before. In 2016, 176 percent more students studied abroad than in 2006, with over 60,000 Ukrainian students enrolled in abroad programs. Students who make the decision to leave Ukraine for their collegiate education are seeking to make themselves more marketable to employers internationally and to escape the poor economy of Ukraine.
  7. The Ukrainian education system is switching from an 11-year program to a 12-year program. This includes four years of elementary education, five years of basic education, and three years of branch education. The final three years will serve as either academic or vocational training. This will prepare students to study an area of interest at a higher level or to enter the workforce. This change is also in an effort for education in Ukraine to align itself with European standards.
  8. An important highlight of the country’s new education law is its focus on inclusive education, a facet of education never before adopted in Ukraine. The new law allows for teacher specialists to work with children with physical and mental disabilities. This further allows them to integrate into special programming in ordinary schools.

These 8 facts about education in Ukraine highlight the country’s hopes of improvement for its school system through the implementation of Law of Ukraine for Education. If the spirit of these goals is successful, Ukraine will continue to advance the inclusion and quality of its schools, overall improving the education of all students.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

Malawi is a country situated in northern Africa with a population of almost 18.9 million, as of 2017. Unfortunately, about five percent of youth aged 15 to 24 have no formal education and 57 percent of youth have not fully completed primary education. This means that there is a total of 62 percent of youth that have not finished primary education in Malawi.

For those that are in school, there is an immense lack of resources. The supply of notebooks, pencils and books greatly needs improvement. Perhaps most importantly, there are very few desks for children to sit comfortably at and write on.

To address this issue, UNICEF has partnered up with MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” in order to launch a campaign known as the Kids In Need of Desks, or K.I.N.D., Fund. Desks will motivate children to concentrate on schoolwork and make going to school all the more engaging.

The K.I.N.D. Fund aims to provide desks to all of the students and potential students in Malawi. The organization asks for donations on its website ranging from $27.50 up to $1,300. The initial donation amount pays for the purchase of one desk for a child in school to use. The latter is able to buy supplies for an entire classroom. Regardless of the amount, any donation is generous and meaningful for the good of the children in Malawi.

The nation of Malawi understands the importance of having children enrolled in school. In 1994, Malawi introduced free primary schooling for all children. This drastically increased the number of children that attended.

The only problem resulting from this is that secondary school and higher education costs money, which is why there is a decrease in enrolled students once they finish primary school. Thus, only the bare minimum levels of education are completed. On top of this, Malawi currently suffers from a lack of education infrastructure and resources to meet the demands of students.

This is where the K.I.N.D. Fund enters the picture. It works through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Even if one chooses not to donate, just sharing the program online and through word of mouth to garner attention to issues such as this one would drastically change the lives of thousands of children. Improving the quality of education in Malawi will not only directly impact the individual students, but will change the future of the entire community as well.

Education allows individuals to gain knowledge in multiple fields and allows for greater participation in a growing economy. Whether it is a desk or something else, these supplies help motivate kids to stay in school. Because of organizations like the K.I.N.D. Fund, schools are filled with an eagerness to learn that was not present before.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

Aid to EducationCelebrating Global Action Week for Education from April 24-30th, EFA Global Monitoring Report’s analysis showed a gradual increase in the world’s aid to education from 2002 to 2014. However, a closer look reveals a four percent drop between 2013 and 2014. Amid the atmosphere of optimism in the transition from the Millennium Development to the Sustainable Development Goals, this discovery provides a realistic reminder of what challenges lie ahead.

The fourth agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” This includes ensuring “that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education” by 2030.

According to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, this would require an annual total cost averaging $340 billion between 2015 and 2030 for low and lower income countries, more than double the amount previously estimated. The cost will more than triple in low income countries. This is mainly due to population growth and lower GDP per capita in developing countries.

In this context, the decline in aid to education seems alarming. Four of the main donors, France, Japan, Netherlands and Canada decreased their support due to domestic austerity measures while facing economic depression. The Netherlands, for one, cut their aid by over a third in 2011. As Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, said, “it is essential that donors maintain their funding, and make sure it is reaching the countries—and children—most in need.”

Furthermore, analysis shows the steepest drop in aid to education in Sub-Saharan Africa, where half of the world’s out of school children reside.  Of the “57 million out-of-school children of primary age, almost half (49 percent) will probably never enter school. A further 23 percent have attended school but dropped out, and the remaining 28 percent are expected to enter school in the future.”

Precedence in the region suggests that this drop is not a one-time occurrence but part of a continuing stagnation. The educational progress of this region has been closely related to economic growth. In periods of steady growth of an annual one to two percent per capita, more resources were allocated to education although the school age population had actually increased. This implies that a long-term solution must include investment in local businesses and infrastructure, in addition to education itself.

Haena Chu

A new report released last week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has detailed how an estimated 500,000 children with physical and mental disabilities are not enrolled within South Africa’s primary education system.

The monitoring group underscores within their report the growing trend worldwide of children with disabilities failing to become enrolled in primary education programs, specifically in developing countries and regions grappling with conflict.

The report was compiled based on individual interviews with 70 parents across South Africa; researchers traveled throughout KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Northern and Western Capes in late 2014.

In reference to South Africa, the report asserts, “Although the government claims it has achieved the MDG of enrolling all children in primary schools by 2015, HRW found that in reality, across South Africa many children with disabilities are not in school.”

The report also details the failure of many primary schools to accommodate disabled students and provide adequate educational services, as well as inherent discrimination against certain students through the application of additional fees.

Hannah Kuper, the co-director of the International Centre for Evidence in Disability at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, argued in a recent interview, “Many, if not most, of disabled children are not enrolled in schools in developing countries. We need to raise awareness that disabled children have the right to attend school, and that including them often involves only small changes in the school or teaching methods, or even just in attitudes.”

She offered potential solutions for this problem in detail — “The first thing that we need is more data in order to know how to enroll children with disabilities in school. We need to know which children are most excluded and why, in order to see how to overcome these barriers. And we need to know what works best to address the needs of disabled children when they are in school, so that they can have the best education possible.”

The Malawian Ministry of Education announced that they had successfully mainstreamed over 90,000 disabled children into their primary school systems as part of their Inclusive Education Program. The program has also offered funding for structural modifications to schools, including the installation of ramps and handicap restrooms compatible with disabled students.

The author of the HRW report, Elin Martínez, questioned the complacency of the South African government in discriminating against education opportunities for disabled children. “The South African government needs to admit that it is not providing quality education to all of its children – in fact, no schooling at all to many who have disabilities.”

Qinisela, a South African mother of an eight-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, told HRW researchers, “We tried to put him in a [mainstream] school but they said they couldn’t put him in that school because he has disabilities […] because of Down’s Syndrome he isn’t like other children so they [said they] can’t teach him. At the therapy, they promised to phone if there’s a space in a special school. I’ve been waiting since last year.”

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were designed by the United Nations to replace the near completed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), will be put into place next year and include several regulations intended to improve the lives of disabled children, specifically within primary education and employment.

South Africa has attempted to remain active in the push disability advocacy, as they adopted policies to prohibit the exclusion of disabled children from primary education in 2001 and were one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Disability Rights Convention in 2007. Despite these significant policy advancements, many officials have expressed concerns about disabled children’s access to primary education not just in South Africa, but across the developing world.

Jo Bourne, the Chief of Education for UNICEF, warned in a press statement, “Despite recent progress, there are still some 59 million primary-age children and 65 million adolescents out of school—often children living in poverty, girls, children with disabilities, children from ethnic minorities, children living in conflict or those engaged in child labour. These children and young people are among the most disadvantaged citizens from across the developing world and are not only excluded from the opportunity of education and learning for their own individual development, they are missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their communities and economies when they reach adulthood.”

James Thornton

Sources: Malawi Nyasa Times, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Historically, Brazil’s educational system has been lacking. Primary education was mandatory but extremely ineffective. Even tertiary education was offered with insufficient supplies and buildings. While Brazil is still behind many nations in its scope of educational initiatives, progress has been made especially in regards to Brazil’s primary education.

UNESCO’s 2015 data reports that among 15-24 year olds, 99% of females and 98% of males are literate, as compared to only 82% in 1980. The general population’s literacy rates are also improving as 72% of the total population aged 65 and older are literate whereas only 42% were literate in 1980.

Education in Brazil is compulsory between the ages of 4-14 with attendance and completion rates improving. Primary school completion is well over 100 percent – a number possible because of the inclusion of older students returning to school or the students who may have repeated a grade – which exceeds most developed countries.

This shows improvement because people who were previously uneducated are now going to school. However, it also shows that there has been a serious educational gap for Brazil to overcome. Smaller classrooms are also the average as the teacher/student ratio is currently around 20:1.

While those numbers are amazing, much work can still be done. When comparing Brazil’s literacy and math skills to other countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “ranked Brazil 53rd out of 65 countries, behind nations such as Bulgaria, Mexico, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and Romania” (HuffingtonPost).

One of their higher education institutions, the University of Sao Paulo, also falls far behind being ranked on a global university scale at 178 out of 200 institutions. This could pose a future problem for Brazil as their economy is becoming more vibrant; they will not have adequate educated workers coming through their educational system.

Another problem that can skew the astounding numbers presented is the disparity between those students in wealthier parts of the country and those students living in extreme poverty. The educational system is not maintained by the nation as a whole; each individual municipality is responsible for the maintenance of their schools. Much like what is seen in the United State’s educational districts, the schools maintained in wealthier municipalities are given more money while the poorer ones lack the same resources.

Children in poorer parts of the country are also subject to absenteeism due to malnutrition, child labor and high examination failure. So although education is free and compulsory, many children are still falling through the cracks especially those in poverty.

The UN has addressed this very issue as countries are progressing towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #2, Achieve Universal Primary Education.

In a UN article, a press report by Mr. Lake says, “In setting broad global goals the MDGs inadvertently encouraged nations to measure progress through national averages. In the rush to make that progress, many focused on the easiest-to reach children and communities, not those in greatest need. In doing so, national progress may actually have been slowed.”

This appears to be the case in Brazil. Many children are in school and the benefits are being seen through national literacy rates. But many children are still left behind and not in school like they ought to be.

Hopefully, the media attention surrounding Brazil’s sporting events over the next few years will help draw out this disparity and some permanent changes can be made for those children still not receiving an adequate education. Even with so much still to do though, the quality of education in Brazil is improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Brazil, Huffington Post, The Global Economy, UN 1, UN 2, UNESCO
Photo: The Rio Times

Primary Education in Somalia
Many years of civil war have led to unrest in all aspects of Somalian life. Among the areas most affected is primary education in Somalia. Though the United States is doing a great deal to help rebuild, significant differences in the infrastructures of both countries’ primary schools still remain.

Primary schooling is the earliest stage of education in a child’s life, aside from nursery, pre-schooling or kindergarten programs. It is an important phase in the learning process because it teaches children the basics of reading, writing and math that they need for later education and life in general.

Because primary schools are the foundation of an entire educational system’s organization, attention to their efficacy is critical. Comparing primary education in the U.S. to that of a developing country such as Somalia provides interesting insight into the reasons that higher education in both countries may differ so significantly.

From the beginning of formal schooling, fewer children are receiving an education in Somalia. While education at the primary level is mandatory for all children in the U.S., roughly 42 percent of primary school aged children are enrolled in school.

In the U.S., primary school lasts from first to fifth grade, resulting in five years of fundamental education. In Somalia, however, primary school ends in fourth grade. Though schooling continues beyond these four years, many children do not. Dropping out before the fifth grade level becomes almost a social norm, as only 8 percent of Somali children enroll in secondary school.

Accessibility to education in Somalia and the U.S. accounts for these staggering differences. Public education is available to all students in the U.S., making the compulsory nature of schooling possible. However, due to the number of schools destroyed by civil war in Somalia, easily accessible education is not a luxury available to all Somali children.

The children that do attend school in Somalia also face obstacles that U.S. students do not encounter regularly. For example, the teacher-to-student ratio in primary schools in Somalia is one to 33. The average number of pupils per teacher in the U.S. is less than half of that, giving each student greater opportunity for individual attention.

Gender inequality is also apparent in the Somali education system. The current social barriers in Somalia do not encourage women to receive an education, so it is not surprising that less than 36 percent of students are female. Because schooling is mandated by U.S. laws, gender disparity is not a noticeable issue in American primary schools.

Other issues U.S. pupils are less likely to face are disparity of textbooks and other learning materials, a lack of qualified teachers and unstandardized curricula.

In the U.S., curricula are standardized by state. Education at the primary level does not vary too much. Most students learn to read and write at the same age and acquire the same basic skill sets during first through fifth grade.

Consistency is lacking among primary schools in Somalia. What one child learns in second grade may be completely different from what another child learns in second grade at a different school. The lack of a standardized curriculum makes country-wide assessments difficult. Even though the Ministry of Education in Somalia would like to rebuild the educational system, the absence of standardization does not provide an adequate place to start making improvements.

A good place to start may be government funding. Public schools in the U.S. are government funded, but many of the primary schools in Somalia cannot function without receiving at least some financial support from students’ parents. A child raised in a poor family may not be able to afford primary education.

The quality of public education varies in the U.S. depending on the economic state of the school’s area, but public education is always available. In order to provide the most help to the Somali educational system, aid should be given to ensure that some sort of schooling is always available to children, especially at a young age.

The good news is that many U.S. aid programs are working to rebuild schools in Somalia.

SAFE, the Somali and American Fund for Education, works with schools in Somalia to ensure their credibility as learning institutions. The organization looks at the community’s involvement in their local schools and awards certain areas money to fund construction of new school buildings. The even better news is that these schools include all levels of learning through twelfth grade, including primary education.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: SAFE, Classbase 1, Classbase 2, MOE Somalia, NCES, UNICEF
Photo: Atlanta BlacK Star

This is the second in a series of posts reviewing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are a set of eight targets agreed upon by almost every country in the world, based on a shared commitment to the improvement of the social, economic, and political lives of all people. They are to be achieved by 2015 and, with two years to go, it’s time to see how far we’ve come and what is left to be done.

The second of these goals is to achieve universal primary education. All children, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, deserve the opportunity to receive a high quality education. Because of concerted efforts to meet this goal, more children are attending primary school today than ever before, with 570 million children enrolled in school. From 1999 to 2006, the number of out-of-school children fell from 103 million to 73 million, and primary school enrollment in developing countries increased from 83% to 88%. Primary school enrollment continued increasing, reaching 90% by 2010. However, progress is slowing with the number of primary school aged children out of school falling by only 3 million between 2008 and 2011.

Despite significant progress, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely not to attend primary school, with the net primary school enrollment ratio there increasing to only 71%. This leaves roughly 38 million children without a primary school education. On the other hand, 90% of Southern Asian children attend primary school. This represents excellent progress, although it still leaves 18 million children without the basic reading and math skills they would learn in school.

Inequities in access to primary education represent the main barrier to reaching the second MDG. The UN estimates that, without accelerated progress, 58 of the 86 countries that have yet to achieve universal primary education will not do so by the 2015 goal date. Despite progress in many areas, girls are still significantly more likely to drop out of school than boys are. Children from poorer households and from rural areas also have increased dropout rates.

It is important to note that enrollment numbers are not the only indicator of success or failure when it comes to MDG 2. There is no point in getting children to school if there are inadequate teachers or supplies, or if the learning environment is hostile. Therefore, it is vital to consider the quality of the education as well as the number of children attending school. We must ensure that teachers are trained and well equipped, and that children feel safe at school. Students that attend school on a regular basis should graduate with at least basic reading and math skills. They should also graduate on time, giving them a greater chance of attending secondary school.

Many countries have made significant progress using a variety of programs. Nine countries have increased primary school enrollment by eliminating school fees. These include Ghana, where public school enrollment in impoverished areas skyrocketed from 4.2 million to 5.4 million in 2004 alone, and Kenya, where primary school enrollment jumped by over a million students in just one year. However, abolishing school fees inevitably means less school funding, which presents challenges when it comes to providing adequate school buildings and well-trained teachers.

In Haiti, a $70,000 donation from famous soccer players Ronaldo and Zidene allowed for incredible improvements to schools in a severely impoverished area. UN agencies and NGOs partnered with the Haitian government to promote school attendance, conduct training for teachers, and provide 33 schools with necessary supplies. This positively changed the lives of 4,300 children by significantly improving the quality of their education.

Despite significant progress, 123 million youth, aged 15 to 24, still lack basic reading and writing skills. In a reflection of the persisting gender gap in primary education, 61% of these youth are female. Clearly, there is still work to be done. The UN provides several suggestions for continued efforts on this front. More funding, both from governments and from aid organizations, will be needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Annual aid dedicated to basic education in developing countries increased from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $5 billion in 2006, representing a step in the right direction. However, it is estimated that $11 billion will be needed annually to achieve universal primary education by 2015. These funds are needed to train teachers and to ensure that they have all the materials they need to do their job well.

In order to prevent unequal access to education based on socioeconomic status, school fees should be eliminated. At the very least, scholarships should be readily available for children from poorer families. Children should also be provided with free transportation to and from school if needed and with free meals and basic health services at school. Proper nutrition and health services will improve children’s overall well being, and these services would help reluctant children and families to see school as a worthwhile investment. An even more drastic step could be to entice low-income families with cash transfers conditional on their children’s school attendance. This could be especially useful in convincing families to educate their daughters, not just their sons.

A high quality primary school education can set children on the right track, giving them necessary skills to succeed in their personal lives and in the workplace. Primary school education has the power to break the cycle of poverty and to empower disenfranchised social groups. This makes the world’s progress towards universal primary education extremely exciting, and compels us to continue working towards this goal.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN Fact Sheet, UN
Photo: Pakistan Today

Slight Drop in World’s Children Without Primary Education
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the figure for the number of the world’s children with no access to schools has dropped from 61 million in 2010 to an estimated 57 million. Unfortunately, the improvement is unlikely to reach the millennium goal for primary education for all by 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture,” stated Irinia Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general. Every year UNESCO releases a report measuring the world’s progress towards the goal of universal primary education. Recent years have shown stagnation after early gains. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children at the primary age who were out of school fell by only 3 million.

The most recent numbers provide a more up-to-date picture, and also show that aid for primary education has fallen by 6% because most major donors have decreased their funding in the past year. UNESCO ranked the U.K. the largest direct donor to basic education. The US was previously the largest donor, but budget cuts in 2011 put the U.K. at the top. Germany, Australia, and Norway also increased their donations while budgets were cut in France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Canada.

The pledge for universal primary education made by UN-leaders in 2000 is looking likely to be missed, and there have already been discussions to push up the 2015 target. There was a previous target set in 1990 to achieve this goal by 2000. After this was missed the goal was moved forward to 2015.

The latest mid-year figures do reflect some progress, but partly due to previous estimates being revised. According to UNESCO, the most recent numbers show about 2 million fewer children missing school. Over half of the children missing school are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The last annual report showed that in some countries the problem is actually getting worse rather than better. In Nigeria, 40% of children ages 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite significant increases in enrollment in recent years, UNICEF estimates about 4.7 million Nigerian children of primary school age are still not in school.

But there is some good news: southern and western Asia has seen considerable gains, cutting their numbers of children not in school by two-thirds in two decades.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, UN