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Education in Singapore Good
Education in Singapore has been receiving a lot of praise. When Singapore gained independence from the British, it was a low skill labor-driven market. However, over a period of 50 years, the government managed to create an incredibly advanced education system, where graduates went on into highly skilled jobs. How did this happen?

A Success Story: Education in Singapore

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rated Singapore as having the best education system in the world. OECD director Andreas Schleicher says that students in Singapore are especially proficient in math and the sciences. In English, the average Singaporean 15-year-old student is 10 months ahead of students in western countries and is 20 months ahead in math. Singaporean students also score among the best in the world on international exams.

Education in Singapore is superior because the classes are focused on teaching the students specific problem solving skills and subjects. The classroom is highly scripted and the curriculum is focused on teaching students practical skills that will help them solve problems in the real world. Exams are extremely important and classes are tightly oriented around them.

Authorities in Singapore are also constantly trying to reevaluate and improve the education system. Recently, many students have reported rising levels of overstress and psychological problems brought on by academic rigor. In response, Singapore has stopped listing the top-scoring student on the national exam in order to ease some of the pressure students may feel. The country has also incorporated a strategy called Teach Less, Learn More, which encourages teachers to focus on the quality of education, not the quantity.

Another reason the education in Singapore is so excellent is simply the Singaporean culture. Parents play a crucial role in their child’s education. The “talent myth,” which states that some kids are naturally smarter than others, is non-existent in Singapore. A local newspaper, The Straits, reported that 70 percent of parents sign their children up for extra classes outside of their regular school hours. In local bookstores, over half of the store is dedicated to educational material.

The education system in Singapore is, in many ways, superior to the education system in the Western world. This is largely due to the country’s culture and first-rate educational leadership. Singapore has a lot to teach the rest of the world; if other countries would adopt some of Singapore’s strategies, there would surely be improvement in education around the globe.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Google

Tanzania-Child-Survival-GoalMillennium Development Goal 4: “Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.”

Tanzania is one of the only African countries that has achieved this goal. There is much to celebrate with the country’s accomplishment; however, we must not ignore other critical areas of work that need prioritization. A thorough analysis of the efforts in Tanzania is important to understand what strategies have been effective in the region.

Successes in Tanzania

  • Reduction in child deaths after first month of life
  • 12,500 lives saved thanks to vaccines
  • 9,300 lives saved from malaria programs
  • 5,800 lives saved from HIV/AIDS programs

Areas for Improvement

  • Maternal and newborn survival can be improved
  • Reduction of stillbirths needed
  • Low contraceptive use in Western and Lake Zones
  • Rural poor lack access to health services
  • Shortage of health workers

The achievement of MDG4 is significant in Tanzania. Child deaths after one month of life have decreased at a rate of 8 percent per year during the last decade. This is 50 percent faster than in the 1990s.

Most lives have been saved from programs that increase access to vaccines, address malaria and work to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. These types of programs have received the most funding, and therefore these results should be expected.

In Tanzania, 40 percent of national child deaths are newborns. This indicates a need to improve health services in the critical time surrounding childbirth.

Rural women are twice as likely to deliver their children in private homes versus health facilities. Estimates indicate that Tanzania needs 23 health workers per 10,000 people, but Tanzania currently only has five health workers per 10,000 people.

It is evident that portions of the population have not benefitted from some of the improvements Tanzania has experienced as a country. The identification of these categories of people is critical in order to further decrease mortality rates in the country.

High mortality rates slow the rate of development of entire communities and prevent poverty-stricken families from obtaining enough resources to support themselves.

The good news is that this case study of Tanzania estimates that “60,000 lives could be saved each year with intensified efforts to achieve universal access to essential health services.”

Iliana Lang

Sources: WHO, The Lancet, UNDP
Photo: Global Post

fish drying
A new fish drying method pioneered by a tiny U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization project in Burundi has had tremendous results. Instead of laying the sardine-like ngagala in the hot sand, raised racks were implemented to dry the fish. This simple strategy has cut fish waste by half, created employment for hundreds of Burundians and caused a boost in the economic prospects of fishing.

Ndagala have been a staple of the Burundian diet for centuries. With some 60 percent of Burundians currently lacking the essential amount of protein in their diets, the nutrients from ndagala are a precious commodity.

However, before the FAO project, the ndagala drying process was wasteful, inefficient and extremely physically taxing.

The old method of drying the fish took place on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi. Women laborers would lay the ndagala on the sand to dry in the sun, where they were easy targets for animals and ran the risk of being trampled and contaminated.

According to the FAO, around 15 percent of the fish catch was lost or spoiled during the drying process.

But 10 years ago, with the help of Burundi’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, FAO launched a project in a village called Mvugo. This project installed 48 cheap wire-mesh racks suspended a meter above the ground, offered training and distributed leaflets on how to build the racks.

The benefits of this tiny project were almost immediately apparent.

This new method reduced drying time from three days, to only eight hours. The racks protect the fish from animals, and can be covered from the rain to prevent spoilage. Workers need not bend over to spread and turn the fish, reducing the physical toll of the labor.

The overall quality of the fish improved. According to rack owner Domitien Ndabaneze, “Our fishes are of a good quality without small gravel or stones and they are dried in hygienic conditions. With our products, customers are no longer concerned with eating sandy fish.”

The price of fish has more than doubled, from 4,000 Burundian francs in 2004 ($2.5/kg), to 9000 ($6/kg) in 2013. The increasingly lucrative trade has attracted more men workers, and the total acreage dedicated to fishing on the shores of Lake Tanganyika has expanded dramatically.

Manufacturers of the racks have sprung up on the coastline, and thanks to the increased shelf life of the fish they can be transported inland to feed other Burundi villages.

This impactful project is an example of how small-scale solutions can have large-scale benefits. The FAO plans to continually promote and strengthen the use of drying racks in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, in hopes that more villagers will experience the life-improving benefits of this simple invention.

–Grace Flaherty

Sources: FAO, UN
Photo: UN

EcoZoom Provides Accessible Cookstoves
EcoZoom works to empower local work forces, economies, and women throughout the developing world. The company provides accessible cookstoves and has earned B corp status. “B corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair trade certification is to coffee.” This status reinforces EcoZoom’s commitment to social and environmental performance.

The company strives to create “financially sustainable markets.” EcoZoom is more than mere kitchen utensils. Their slew of cookstoves use different types of biomass fuels. From burning wood to corncobs and cow dung, these premium stoves use nearby resources to cook food. The stoves produce 70% less particulate matter and smoke than open-fire cooking. These revolutionary products improve respiratory health and food quality. Individuals in developing countries have reported using the stoves for over 6 hours a day.

The Z+ program is a “buy-one-invest-one program,” much like that made popular by TOMS shoes. For each stove sold, EcoZoom allots a stove for projects in developing countries.  These are the same models sold in the US and Europe.  The company partners with international aid organizations and ships packages to developing countries for every 1,200 stoves sold.

EcoZoom believes that “people of any economic status should have access to beautifully designed cooking products that will improve their health, income, and environment.” The team recommends that people check out the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The alliance educates people on the need for improved cookstoves. Cookstoves are often overlooked, but everyone has a right to prepare food safely.

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: EcoZoom Stoves

Imagine living in a slum. There is little food to split between you and your family and you are a minority in your age group because you have regularly attended school before. This was exactly the situation that teenager Phiona Mutesi found herself in when she started learning chess.

The slum where Phiona lives is called Katwe, and it is located right in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where veteran and refugee Robert Katende began a chess program for children, giving them food in return for completing a lesson. Of his program, Katende has said that he had started it hoping to teach analytic and problem-solving skills that the children could apply to succeed in their own lives.

This was the program that would come to change Phiona’s life and turn her into “The Queen of Katwe”.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat in the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge,” Mutesi told CNN.

Although she was unfamiliar with the game, as is most of Uganda, Phiona worked hard, practicing every day for a year. Eventually, she began to win against older children and compete for titles. Since those early days, Phiona has represented her country in several international chess competitions in countries such as Sudan, Siberia, and Istanbul.

Although life for her is still hard – she still lives in the Katwe slum with her family – winning competitions and working hard to one day become a Grandmaster keeps her hopeful. A grant that she has received through her competing has even allowed her to go back to school and develop her reading and writing skills.

While Phiona’s story of success has yet to win her the chess title of Grandmaster, she has gained another, unofficial reputation as the ultimate underdog. She is an underdog on the global chess stage both because she comes from Africa, a continent where chess is culturally absent in most countries, and because she is from Uganda specifically, a nation that is one of the poorest on the continent. The fact that she is from Katwe, a slum, is a strike against her even to other Ugandans. However, despite these odds, she has achieved enormous success given her circumstances.

Phiona Mutesi’s inspiring story was written into a book called “The Queen of Katwe,” by Tim Crothers, and was published in October of 2012. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to the story and has started making a movie to chronicle Phiona’s journey to the international chess stage. The Queen of Katwe remains steadfast in attaining her dream of becoming a Grandmaster and is an inspiration to us all.

– Nina Narang

Source: CNN