Greek teachers are making a differenceIn Greece, the debt crisis and political breakdown have triggered inequalities throughout the education system. While education is free, public schools have suffered from budget cuts due to bailout agreements. The result has been a decline in the quality of education. The aftermath of the social crisis in Europe has also led to educational poverty and students failing to achieve minimum education standards. Many students with only basic education often face poverty or unemployment. This is exemplary of the strong correlation between educational attainment and social outcomes. Greek teachers are making a difference in the way their country approaches education to combat this issue.

The Current Situation in Greece

Currently, the level of teaching in Greek schools is being criticized due to the lack of teacher evaluation standards and teaching structures. As a result, more Greeks fear obtaining adequate education in public schools to prepare for higher education. The Panhellenic exams required for university admission in Greece have caused an increase in Greeks pursuing more expensive private education classes. However, with the rise in unemployment rates and a decrease in salaries, poor and middle-class families are unable to pursue private education. In 2015, according to the World Economic Forum Inclusive Growth Development Report, Greece was ranked last of 30 economies due to the relationship between student performance and parent income.

The Varkey Foundation

Greek educators are identifying ways to leverage education through creative curriculum approaches. The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Award recognizes Greek teachers making a difference through their work across the globe. These teachers work with students to promote inclusivity and integration of migrants in the classroom. Additionally, these educators advocate for child rights and focus on the well-being of the student.

One recipient, Andria Zafirakou, received the Varkey Foundation 1M Global Teacher Prize in 2018. Her commitment to education has led to new initiatives to encourage creativity in schools. Born to Greek-Cypriot parents, Zafirakou has dedicated her entire teaching career to educating students from ethnically diverse communities. She has a passion for education advocacy and changing the lives of young people from underprivileged communities through creativity and art. Following that creative drive has led to her great success as the best teacher in the world.

Artists in Residence

In an amazing act of charity, Andria Zafirakou used her 2018 prize winnings to found Artists in Residence (AIR). She recognized the decline in the number of students demonstrating an interest in art and students pursuing careers in art. As such, the charity focuses on individual student well-being and outcomes in school by providing a curriculum encompassing art education.

AIR strives to increase student aspirations, provide inspirational life opportunities, and prepare students for jobs in creative industries. The program develops a rounded curriculum that supports social and cognitive learning through engagement in art activities. Firstly, it establishes partnerships with schools in developing academic and holistic educational programs. Then, artists and professionals in the creative sector provide their expertise to students by inspiring learning in art.

This collaborative approach exposes students to new skills and opportunities in art, which are truly key to a well-rounded education. Moreover, AIR has been effective in enhancing public awareness and engagement in developing programs to support art education.

Lack of proper education in Greece has proven to be hazardous to societal functions. Nevertheless, through collaborative efforts in educational reform and the people of Greece’s commitment to education, Greece’s educational system is expected to see improvements. However, teachers are indispensable in addressing these issues. Greek teachers make a crucial difference by discovering innovative ways to implement change within the education system one school at a time.

Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Best Careers for Fighting Poverty
Many people are looking to make a difference these days through volunteer work, making donations and voting, but there are also many careers that can make a huge impact. The best careers for fighting poverty may be surprising to some, but each makes a difference in the lives of others.

Working in these fields makes the world a better place and improves the lives of the poor:

  1. Teachers
    Kids spend approximately 1,200 hours annually in the classroom. A teacher’s influence is vast and encompasses the education, mental health and safety of the children they teach. Education is vital in the fight against poverty and provides students with the tools necessary to make a living and gain the schooling needed to avoid poverty.
    It is important more than ever that female teachers gain employment in developing areas. This allows girls in culturally strict regions to be able to attend school, feel safe and receive gender equality in the classroom.
  2. Social Workers
    Those in vulnerable situations are able to receive support through their social workers, such as family counselors. Social workers work to improve the mental health of those seeking counsel, and help diagnose emotional issues, so that they can receive treatment and progress professionally.
  3. Doctors and Nurses
    Working in one of the best careers for fighting poverty, those in the medical field have the power to affect the health of people in poorer communities. They can even opt to go abroad with volunteer groups or Doctors Without Borders during seasons they choose.
    Doctors and nurses can also help vaccinate those in developing countries, provide health counsel and improve the health conditions of the community they work in. Citizens in good health are less likely to remain or fall into poverty in the first place. With good health, they are able to work full time, participate in the economy and attend school.
  4. Entrepreneurs
    People who start their own businesses are able to address issues that may not have already been addressed by their communities or nations yet. Entrepreneurs have the power to not only create jobs and positively impact their local economies, but are also able to create influential movements and businesses.
  5. Lawyers
    Lawyers are able to participate in pro-bono work, providing legal assistance to those who would not otherwise be able to afford the help. They are also able to prevent those wrongly accused from going to prison, which stimulates the economy and keeps people in the work force and out of crime.

There are many influential jobs that can reduce poverty in communities, but these are the best careers for fighting poverty that have the widest reach. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime and to be able to make those hours count is an impactful feat, accomplished by those who care enough to make a career out of making a difference.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

 GrenadaThe educational system in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada is much more advanced than many other developing countries. They provide free education, meal plans and financial assistance for materials to enable families to enroll their children.

With children under age 14 making up 25 percent of the country’s population, quality education in Grenada is highly valued. Primary education is mandatory for Grenadian children from five to 16 years old. By imparting education as a necessity in society, Grenada no longer has a gender divided educational system. Requiring primary education for all children ensures the country’s future success and diverts these future young adults away from poverty.

However, Grenada’s completion rate has severely decreased in recent years. In 2009, the total completion rate of primary school was at a high of 121.1 percent, whereas 2014’s completion rate was at a record low of 89.9 percent. Around 21 percent tend to drop out once they pass the mandatory enrollment age of 16.

Perhaps one underlying factor of Grenada‘s falling completion rate is that children are legally permitted to begin working at 14 years old and have the legal ability to drop out. Other factors may be related to the poor quality of education in Grenada. Data from 2016 showed that 50 percent of students scored below average in math and 40 percent underperformed in English.

Luckily, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) added Grenada and three other countries to its partnership in 2016. GPE provided these four countries with a shared grant of $2,000,000 to improve education through 2019. GPE acknowledges that the quality of education being provided to Grenadian children is an area requiring improvement; thus, their goal is to instill a greater teaching and learning standard. By providing teachers with more advanced teaching practices, GPE is enhancing education in Grenada, which will improve students’ overall scores and may boost completion rates.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

After years of fighting to reform education in Venezuela at the primary and secondary levels, teachers in Venezuela finally received the pay they deserved.

This month, the government gave Venezuelan teachers  a 15 percent increase to their salaries, totaling a 345 percent increase since the start of 2017.

Following several negotiations between the Venezuelan president and the Venezuelan Teachers’ Federation (FMV), public school teachers were given proper wages for their work. The FMV leader stated that the wage increases acted as a “call for the defense of the right to education, from those who want to sabotage it for political reasons.”

In addition to the wage increase, the government set aside funds that would go toward paying pension benefits for 15,000 teachers.

The wage increase was intended to not only be an investment in the teachers but the education system itself. With these improved wages, now 96 percent of the Venezuelan population can read and write, making Venezuela one of the most literate countries in the world.

However, education in Venezuela didn’t always prosper. The country was previously overextended and underfunded, with about 20 percent of children lacking a formal education. The Ministry of Education of Venezuela and Venezuelan government collaborated to adapt the curriculum, expand compulsory education and upgrade teacher qualifications in order to address the problem of low enrollment.

As a result, the government established the Bolivarian University system in 2003, whose design encompassed democratizing access to higher education and creating the Bolivarian Missions Social Outreach program. The program focuses on literacy programs and university preparation programs.

Later in 2008, five years after President Chavez launched his outreach program that enrolled nearly 2.5 million children, education in Venezuela came to be considered among the highest in the region. The literacy rate rested around 93.8 percent for males and 93.1 percent for females.

Although the total literacy rate increased only by three percent since the initial wage increases, those increases have helped reform curriculum, teacher training and increased enrollment. These changes helped to significantly improve education in Venezuela overall.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

empowering teachersOctober 5th marked an important day for educational discussions worldwide. World Teachers Day, or WTD, focuses on empowering teachers in order to build sustainable societies within developing countries.

When it comes to poverty reduction, education is one of the key target areas. When a child is educated, he or she is more likely to obtain better skills and jobs to build up the community and make healthier decisions.

This education is not possible without teachers, though, and our world is currently at a shortage of qualified individuals to take up this position.

Teachers for EFA, or the International Task Force on Teachers For Education For All, has calculated that “25.8 million school teachers need to be recruited to provide every child with a primary education, which includes 3.2 million new posts and the replacement of 22.6 million teachers expected to leave the profession.”

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals includes the target of ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning. Part of this goal includes drastically increasing the number of quality educators in developing countries.

As things stand now, UIS projects that 33 countries will not have enough teachers to achieve the 2030 goal.

Of these 33 countries, sub-Saharan Africa will face the greatest challenges in meeting the educational goal.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported, “For every 100 children of age to start school today, there will be 142 in 2030. As a result, countries across the region will need to create 2.2 million new teaching positions by 2030 while filling about 3.9 million vacant positions.”

However, with these statistics stacked up against poverty’s favor, several countries have been formulating plans to empower teachers.

Throughout World Teachers Day, countries and organizations met and developed various plans of attack.

The Incheon Declaration during WEF 2015, for instance, stated its recognition of the critical role of empowering teachers. “At the forum 1,600 participants from 160 countries committed to “ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.”

One of these countries is Israel. MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, has begun to address the challenge of finding, empowering and recruiting teachers by conducting pieces of training.

MASHAV conducts these pieces of training both in Israel and abroad in order to “present adaptable advanced pedagogical methods and new schooling techniques to enhance quality and flexible schooling.”

Other countries that have pledged to help empower teachers include France, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, the U.K. and others. Each has produced its own plan of action that will bring in more qualified teachers to achieve a 12-year education for all.

With 58 million children out of school and populations continuing to rise, it is clear that more teachers will be required. These children are the future and the key to reducing global poverty.

But none of this is possible without the dedication, encouragement and direction of qualified teachers.

On the site for WTD, it shares this encouragement: “Everyone can help by celebrating the profession, by generating awareness about teacher issues, by ensuring that teacher respect is part of the natural order of things. Take the opportunity of the day to discuss, compare, learn, argue, share and improve.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: Teachers for EFA, Mashav, UIS, UNESCO, World Teachers Day,
Photo: Flickr


Reading about the conditions people around the world live in and hearing about their hardships simply cannot compare to a full immersion in the culture of another country.

Corbin Dickson, who was born and raised in Colorado, is currently teaching in Myanmar at the Myanmar International School in Yangon, Myanmar. He offered some insight into his experiences abroad in Myanmar (known previously as Burma.)

When asked about the impact he thinks education has on poverty levels, he says that it’s hard to say. Often, the only families who can afford an education are already wealthy, he says.

But he does mention the correlation between rapid economic development and the introduction of new schools. He is confident that new institutions, such as the one he teaches at, will ultimately have a positive effect on individuals, “especially since they are far more equipped to prepare and inspire students towards higher education abroad.”

Although the school he teaches at is attended primarily by upper-middle class or wealthy students, conditions are different than in the United States.

He says only one-third of Myanmar residents have access to electricity, and that even though Yangon is an urban area, the power frequently goes out. (To him, the inconvenience of constantly interrupted lessons is something he’s grown used to, though the lack of air conditioning and fans, while it’s usually above 80° F with high humidity is admittedly not.)

And the poorer areas are never far away, he says. “You don’t have to travel far out of Yangon to get to a rural area. Once out in the rural areas, it feels as though you have gone back in time 100 years; farmers still plowing their fields with buffalo, people still living in homes made of woven palm leaves and bamboo.”

Perhaps these people prefer the simplicity of a life lived off the land, rather than the complications of bustling urban life. Dickson says the lack of basic framework can be frustrating, as can the Internet speed (“as slow as dial-up in the early 2000s”), and traffic.

Dickson noted that “Yangon simply doesn’t have the road capacity to handle the influx of cars” that people purchased when the country began opening up in 2011-2012.

One of the biggest cultural differences that Dickson discussed was an obsession with not standing out or making anyone else look bad, what he calls, “saving face.”

“For example,” he says, “if you ask a taxi to take you somewhere and the driver doesn’t know how to get there, they will try to take you anyway, driving around, guessing until they make it. When [me] or my friends try to direct them, they pretend not to hear or act as though their way is better (or worse, say we originally told them something else).”

Dickson says it can be difficult to teach when students are so reluctant to ask questions, and it’s strange to get used to adults who refuse to ask for clarification on something they don’t understand.

With modern life comes all of these little cultural quirks and frustrations, like the sound of honking cars, and worrying about looking bad in front of other people. But one of the things that stands out about Myanmar the most is simply the way that its residents view poverty.

Dickson says that because there is no financial or social support offered by the state, the highly empathetic population takes personal responsibility to help those who need it.

“Despite living close to poverty themselves, Myanmar people dedicate a lot of time and money to helping those in need when they can,” he says.

One of the teacher’s assistants at his school spends her weekends teaching for free at a poor rural school. When there was flooding occurring, students took part in huge fundraising efforts, and many went to offer firsthand aid in the crisis areas.

“The major difference here in Myanmar to the U.S. is that people in Myanmar don’t look down on the poor,” Dickson says. “People simply make no judgments towards the life conditions of others – no accusations of fault or blame for one’s situation.”

And what an inspiring outlook that is. These are people who live in the midst of poverty themselves. People who, by U.S. standards, are suffering from a lack of electricity and basic infrastructure. Yet they are willing to offer a helping hand to anyone who needs it.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: BBC, Myanmar International School, Weather Spark
Photo: Pixabay

According to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), by 2015 an additional 5.3 million teachers are needed to meet the needs of global education and children around the world. But teacher shortages present an ongoing challenge. Worldwide, 1.6 million new teachers are needed to meet the demand, and 3.7 million more are needed to replace those who are retiring or changing career professions, hence, there has been an increase in teaching jobs abroad.

In developing countries, the average student to teacher ratio is very high, which increases the difficulty of the educator’s role. The GPE reports an average of 43 students per teacher. In addition, in many countries, teachers themselves have a low level of education and poor pre-service training, which leads to low outcomes for students in basic literacy and math skills.

Through partnerships, the GPE has committed to improving the effectiveness of teaching at the primary and secondary levels, improving employment terms and conditions for teachers, and engaging teacher organizations in education sector planning.

The GPE is not alone in helping improve global education worldwide. In September, Sony Global Education, Inc. partnered with the world’s leading global education network Edmodo to make Sony’s Global Math Challenge, an online math competition, accessible to teachers and students in over 190 countries.

“The world of education is constantly evolving, and we are thrilled to be working with Edmodo, a company that has made huge strides in offering innovative solutions to help teachers connect to their students, parents and administrators,” said Masaaki Isozu, President of Sony Global Education.

With a continued focus on global education, more students in developing countries can have the opportunity to attend universities and gain professional skills to work in the global marketplace.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Global Partnership, Market Watch, Newsweek
Photo: Go Banking

There have been huge gains in global education recently. Schools have been built, enrollment numbers have soared and equality has risen. While much of the focus has been on these factors – schools and teachers – there is another that needs more attention.

Teachers. Love or hate them, they are key to education anywhere. But there is a problem associated with them in the developing world: there are not enough of them in many places. Ninety-three countries around the world do not have enough teachers. United Nations estimates suggested that the world needed four million teachers by this year in order to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of primary education for all. Of this four million, 2.6 million were needed to replace teachers either retiring from or quitting the profession.

Even more teachers will be needed for the next round of development targets set for 2030. Up to 27 million teachers are needed to meet the goal of universal primary education for all by 2030. India alone will require three million new teachers and Sub-Saharan Africa will need 6.2 million.

One issue that comes with the need for more teachers, is that for every teacher trained and put to work, more children are born. This is especially true in Africa, where many country’s populations are expected to explode if they are not already. For every 100 primary school-aged children in 2012, there will be 147 in 2030. This is why out of the 6.2 million new teachers needed, 2.3 million will be completely new positions at schools around Africa. This presents another problem: to pay for all these new teachers, $5.2 billion will be needed for their salaries.

Fueled by desperation for more teachers, many countries fail to train their teachers to the required standards. One in three countries with data available shows “less than 75 percent of primary school teachers were trained according to national standards; and less than 50 percent in Angola, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Sudan.” This means that for every one trained teacher in Chad, there are 101 students. In the Central African Republic, the ratio is even worse: 138 students for every trained teacher

It could be said that simply training teachers and putting them into school is not actually that daunting of a task. But the real issue at the root of the global teacher shortage is the rate that teachers are leaving the profession. Teaching in the developing world, where survival comes before everything, the pay is not enough. It is for this reason that 24 of the 28 million teachers needed by 2030 will serve to replace other teachers leaving the profession for.

To combat this, countries are trying a whole range of different tactics. In Indonesia and Benin, the governments have raised teachers to civil service status, and in Korea seasoned teachers are enticed to stay with salaries more than double what new teachers make.

Addressing the global teacher shortage is extremely important in the fight against poverty. Education is a gateway out of destitution, but more properly trained teachers are essential for this to be true. “An education system is only as good as its teachers.”

Greg Baker

Sources: Worldwide Learn, BBC, The Guardian, UNESCO
Photo: The Recruiting Times

Since 1985, the Metrobank Foundation has carried out an annual search for the best teachers in the Philippines. Every year, the foundation accepts applications from teachers around the country for its Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT) program. After multiple rounds in an extensive search process, the Metrobank Foundation selects 10 teachers to honor for their contributions to education in the Philippines.

The Metrobank Foundation states that the program is designed to promote a culture of excellence in the field of education in the Philippines. The award is meant to motivate educators to be the best possible teachers.  As a result, students receive a higher quality education and many teachers receive credible reviews.

Teachers of all grade levels from public and private schools can apply for the SOT program. The application comes out in January each year. After all applications are received, the Metrobank Foundation narrows the competition down to about 50 teachers. These 50 teachers undergo a thorough interview process so that by July, a selection committee can pick just 10 teachers to celebrate that year.

The award is quite prestigious, and comes with an enticing prize. Aside from winning a medal, a trophy and a plaque for the teachers to display at their schools, winners also receive 500,000 Philippine Pesos, which translates to just over $11,500. This is extremely enticing for teachers in the Philippines, where the average monthly salary for those in the teaching profession is 33,374 Philippine Pesos, or $767.60. Finalists that do not make it to the final 10 receive a smaller, but noteworthy, cash prize as well.

The 2014 search began in January, as it does every year. This year, however, was particularly special for the Metrobank Foundation because it marked the 30th anniversary of the SOT program. To celebrate 30 years of recognizing outstanding teachers, the theme of this year’s search was “Launching Dreams toward Nation Building.”

Any teacher selected for the prestigious honor of a 30th anniversary SOT winner will be not only an outstanding teacher, but also an educator dedicated to empowering Philippine youth for the betterment of the country’s future.

The Metrobank Foundation has created an honor society comprised of all previous SOT winners.  The society is called the Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators Inc., but is often shortened to “NOTED.” NOTED ensures that SOT winners continue proving their commitment to excellence in education after they have received their awards. NOTED fosters collaboration among the top educators in the Philippines to increase creativity and professionalism in their classrooms. Additionally, NOTED provides a group for these knowledgeable educators to discuss national concerns in the field of education.

The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education in the Philippines aid the Metrobank Foundation every year in the search for 10 well-deserving teachers. In the past, winners have included Mitchel Rodriguez, who single-handedly organized a reading program in her school to improve students’ reading habits; Rodel Sampang, a teacher that makes lessons relatable by comparing them to real-world situations; Emilyn Espiritu, an environmental scientist and educator that helped her students make environmentally conscious decisions based on her own discoveries.

The point of the SOT program is to generate a desire for all teachers to do something meaningful just like the previous winners of the competition. If every teacher in the Philippines strives to achieve the same level of excellence required to be recognized by the Metrobank Foundation, Philippine students can receive quality education.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: Inquirer, Metrobank Foundation, Phil Star, Salary Explorer, Sunday Punch
Photo: Inquirer

Anyone with Internet access knows there can be temptation to misuse its power. What has the potential to bring understanding across social and geographic divides and make accessible information from every discipline and denomination is often instead used to watch cats behaving quirkily or play video games. Lamentable as that misuse is, it is unlikely to change. Knowing this, Common Sense Media created Graphite.

Graphite is a website that rates games, apps, websites from the Internet, gaming consoles and more, on a tripartite rubric to help teachers and students sort the games with educational content from those which are purely time-wasters. Some games are small and virtually unknown; others are as universally recognized as SimCity.

The idea has earned support ranging from philanthropic dignitaries such as Bill Gates, teachers across the country, and students themselves, who can rate the games on a separate tier from the teachers’ ratings.

Graphite is not alone in this new take on learning. Khan Academy, which has been an unequivocal success, has incorporated game-like elements into its curriculum as well, such as awards and points, which can be used to buy avatars. The old doctrine of repetition and memorization from a black and white textbook is on the way out.

However, there are concerns that making education more about fun is fool’s gold. Numerous studies have linked playing video games and heavy computer usage to temporarily reduced cognitive ability, suggesting that there are benefits to learning by rote. Furthermore, there are social consequences to consider: public school systems are, in part, dedicated to instructing children on the way to be effective workers.

Children learn more than facts in school – they learn a new milieu which home life does not typically comprise. By buckling the complaints of children who find school boring or difficult, parents and teachers may be creating a lenient mentality that could cause issues in the future.

Of course, traditional schooling has its own achilles heel, which leads back to the anecdote that opened this article: the Internet. It is an all too common practice for children to escape from the stresses of school and immediately deluge themselves with cartoons, videos, and games, possibly negating the benefits from earlier in the day. Slumping test scores and the declining ability of Americans to compete globally for top-tier jobs in science, medicine, and technology can be seen as testament to this.

It is in this respect that Graphite and its ilk must be viewed not as the solution to a learning problem, but as a complementary tool which can, if not cultivate further learning, at least lend a hand in retaining what traditional methods are able to instill. Like public school, Graphite’s secondary, and possibly more important function, is social.

It has the power to teach children to recognize and acknowledge the difference between games with value, and those without. Hopefully, what Graphite will one day accomplish is to create a lifestyle among an entire generation in which free time is not spent watching strange cats.

– Alex Pusateri

Sources: Graphite, Forbes, Pulse 2, Pravad.Ru
Photo: Memphis Flyer