Updates on SDG 4 in Mexico
In 2015, the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to achieve a more sustainable future for the world. SDG 4 calls for countries to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Poverty is an issue with many roots, a lack of education standing as one of them. A good education offers opportunities that can address social and economic disparity associated with poverty. For this reason, the inclusion of educational considerations in poverty relief policy is crucial. Updates on SDG 4 in Mexico provide insight into the nation’s educational arena amid COVID-19.

Updates on SDG 4 in Mexico

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, updates on SDG 4 in Mexico showed positive gains in education through programs aimed at developing the skills of teachers, enhancing the quality of education and investing in physical school infrastructure. Now, as education systems are opening up more from pandemic shutdowns, it is apparent that the health crisis threatens to roll back years of gains.

Survey data has revealed that, of the 738,394 Mexican students who dropped out in the 2019-2020 academic year, more than 58% attributed their decision to the pandemic. Another 41% dropped out because of a need for employment and a lack of finances. Many students who remained enrolled reported receiving limited feedback on academic tasks and a general “lack of support from teachers” due to the constraining circumstances.

Presently, updates on SDG 4 in Mexico are less than optimistic given these developments. It is clear that Mexico must deal with these challenges otherwise a large number of students could fall behind academically and miss out on the increasing number of economic opportunities becoming available. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has stressed the importance of education in achieving all of the SDGs and particularly notes that education is the ultimate pathway to ending global poverty. According to the GPE, 171 million global citizens could rise out of extreme poverty if all students had “basic reading skills,” showing the importance of literacy and education in the fight against poverty.

4  Policy Options to Improve Education

In maintaining their commitment toward SDG 4, Mexican policymakers are currently assessing four possible policy options to improve education in the post-COVID-19 recovery period.

  1. Improve Data Collection. The amount of information on rates of enrollment and dropouts as well as the effect of the pandemic on education is inadequate. The need for accurate and up-to-date data is essential in understanding how communities, teachers, parents and students are supporting each other coming out of the national shutdown to produce policy that will best complement these strategies. Otherwise, leaders could misspend or waste resources on ineffective measures.
  2. Implement Learning Recovery Initiatives. Data suggests the academic performance of a significant portion of students dropped as a result of COVID-19 disruptions. This has revealed the need to bridge performance gaps between students lest they fall behind. In crafting learning recovery policies, policymakers are considering interventions such as extended school times, “diversification of instructional materials” and calls for greater parental involvement to address educational gaps.
  3. Emphasize Lifelong Learning. Lifelong learning is a major component of SDG 4 and a possible solution to address backslides in education. This can involve the promotion of learning in multiple contexts, such as schools, museums and workplaces, that motivate people of all ages to improve their knowledge and skills. Additionally, encouraging flexible learning pathways for drop-out students to reengage with formal education can improve their outcomes. Investments in lifelong learning will certainly positively influence any updates on SDG 4 in the future.
  4. Increase Education Funding. In Mexico, salaries make up close to 98% of educational spending. This makes it difficult to allocate additional resources toward new education recovery programs. Without new funding, Mexico risks experiencing further backslides in academic outcomes, therefore, increased funding is more crucial than ever.

Looking Ahead

The aforementioned policies incorporate the efforts of many stakeholders in all levels of society to address education shortfalls. While Mexico may have lost some progress toward SDG 4, the nation is now facing a significant policy window through which it can reaffirm its commitment to education. This is in the utmost interest of the future generation who carry expectations to further address economic disparity and poverty in the developing nation. With a strong commitment to improving education, the nation can expect to see positive updates on SDG 4 in Mexico in the future.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Importance of Primary EducationOf all the resources that may cause enrichment of a nation, none are as valuable as the cognitive attainments of its population. The issue of access to primary education remains a critical one for many nations, particularly those in the developing world. Access to primary education and the impediments to its universalization may determine a nation’s trajectory for many years. Below are 10 facts about the importance of primary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Primary Education

  1. Primary Education Consequences: Major life-long consequences accrue from access to primary education. The cumulative nature of the learning process, whether in literacy or numeracy, requires the early internalization of basic abstractions. Without this process at a young age, children fall behind in the trajectory of cognitive development and fail to reach their potential. Moreover, primary educational access facilitates the identification of, and assistance to, both gifted and struggling young minds.
  2. Nations’ Development: A nation’s development relies considerably on the access of its population to educational institutions. Access to primary education, regardless of class or caste or income, levels the social playing field. Gender equality, another significant marker of national development, improves alongside the universalization of access to educational institutions, including primary schools.
  3. Refugee Children: According to the United Nations, roughly 39 percent of refugee children across the globe do not receive a primary school education. This enrollment statistic contrasts sharply with that of non-refugee children, with 92 percent receiving primary school education. From 2017 to 2018, the number of unenrolled primary-school-age refugee children rose to a total of four million.
  4. Teachers: UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics calculates that ensuring primary education access for all requires roughly 24.4 million more primary school teachers. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers a scarcity of primary school teachers in more than 70 percent of its constituent nation-states. South Asia falls directly behind Sub-Saharan Africa in its primary school teacher scarcity crisis, requiring approximately four million more teachers by 2030 to attain the goal of universal primary education.
  5. Disabled Children: A UNESCO study of 37 countries determined that children with disabilities face a greater likelihood than their non-disabled peers of total exclusion from primary school and are more likely to experience fewer years enrolled in school and suffer major literacy deficits. These disadvantages are more likely to afflict disabled girls, thus sharpening gender asymmetries. Of the studied countries, Cambodia exhibited the most dramatic gap between disabled students and their peers, with 57 percent of the former unenrolled compared to 7 percent of the latter.
  6. Gender Parity Improvements: Data suggests improvements in gender parity in access to primary education. Sub-Saharan Africa features a 2 percent gap between the genders in non-delayed access to primary education, with 29 percent of girls unenrolled compared to 27 percent of boys. However, of children two or more years above the standard enrollment age, girls remain at a disadvantage compared to boys, attesting to the persistent influence of gender expectations on access to primary education.
  7. Violence and Exploitation: Children deprived of access to primary education risk a greater likelihood of suffering violence and exploitation. Where educational deprivation results from conflict or natural catastrophe, the danger of child trafficking intensifies. Conflict and natural disasters impeded educational access for approximately 39 million girls in 2015. As girls face a greater likelihood of impeded educational access than boys in conflict-ridden or disaster-affected regions, girls likewise face an increased risk of child trafficking out of proportion with their population percentage.
  8. Education Cannot Wait (ECW): On December 11, 2019, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced a $64 million educational funding initiative in the conflict-ridden countries of Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. Though targeting affected youth of all backgrounds, this project places particular focus on girls, disabled children and refugees. This initiative will facilitate teacher training and student enrollment in vulnerable regions. Ultimately, this project anticipates the mobilization of governments, NGOs and civilians for the growth and maintenance of secure and effective educational sectors.
  9. The LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation announced a grant of $100 million on December 10, 2019, for an early learning solutions initiative targeting crisis-affected groups in Ethiopia and Uganda. Play-oriented learning programs will improve the skill sets of both primary-school-aged and pre-school children. These play-oriented learning strategies assist children in surmounting trauma that may otherwise impede their scholastic potential. Roughly 800,000 children will benefit from this project.
  10. The Global Partnership for Education: December 10, 2019, witnessed the grant of $100 million by The Global Partnership for Education for educational initiatives across Asia and Africa. Burkina Faso, for instance, plans investment of its four-year GPE grant of $21 million toward improving primary school enrollment and developing pedagogical infrastructure. The investment of $21 million in Somalia’s Somaliland region seeks to rectify gender imparity in access to primary education.

Access to primary education provides the foundation upon which the talents of a nation’s youth may grow. Moreover, there exists a strong relationship between primary education and the promotion of such values as gender equality and social mobility. Although an indispensable institution in the contemporary age, crises both man-made and natural threaten primary education across continents. Fortunately, initiatives involving NGOs and governments promise to overcome these impediments, the importance of primary education weighs more as a right rather than a mere privilege.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Education in Bhutan
Nestled underneath the economic powerhouse of China, the Himalayan nation of Bhutan boasts a diverse population that works across the agricultural, industrial and service industries. The service industries command 22 percent of the labor force. Because of this multifaceted workforce, Bhutan’s unemployment rate mulled around 3.2 percent in both 2016 and 2017, while approximately one-eighth of the population lives below the global poverty line. Despite these impressive numbers, education in Bhutan is the one arena where the country suffers. The predominant issue is whether the nation can provide an adequate, consistent education.

The creation of school systems, both public and private, has a tremendous effect on poverty reduction. According to the Global Partnership for Education, approximately 420 million people would be out of poverty if sufficient secondary education were available to them.

Governmental Infrastructure and Plans

That said, the Bhutanese government has made substantial progress in increasing access to and improving education in Bhutan. Education starts with teachers and professors, and over the past year, Bhutan has seen a 4 percent drop in the number of teachers. In an effort to combat this stark drop and in an attempt to decrease unemployment among the young adult population, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and his government decided to double the salaries of teachers who remain in the profession for 10 or more years, thus making teaching the highest-paid civil service profession in Bhutan. In addition to this pay-raise, Prime Minister Tshering stated that his government hopes to provide career advancement for teachers, which would, in turn, lead to vast educational improvements.

The increased salary occurs at the midway point of the country’s 10-year educational reform, which aims to improve quality of and access to education in Bhutan. The Bhutan Educational Blueprint is comprised of eight different shifts, all with this central goal in mind. A few of the core tenants of these shifts (and the blueprint in total) include:

  • Improving overall access to education in Bhutan (including secondary and tertiary education)
  • Establishing a more modern, well-rounded curriculum
  • Elevating student performance to international standards
  • Making teaching a more desirable vocation
  • Maintaining the standards of high-performing schools and teachers once met

The Implementation of the Plans

Furthermore, the Bhutan government plans to dole these eight shifts out slowly over the course of three distinct waves, lasting years. The first wave, which ended in 2017, focused primarily on laying the groundwork and preparing the nation for extensive educational overhauls. The second wave, which will end in 2020, is concerned with building upon what Bhutan has established – improving access to tertiary education, rolling out new curricula and implementing new educational pathways. The third and final wave will turn to fortifying the newly established systems, guaranteeing quality education in Bhutan.

Combining this educational blueprint with increased teacher salaries is an incredible first step in improving education in Bhutan. Furthermore, these raises should help guarantee an all-important component of education: trained professionals prepared to teach the next generation of professionals, innovators and leaders in order to hopefully reduce poverty and unemployment rates even further.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Tanzania
After gaining independence in 1961, Tanzania’s government sought an advanced society for its population. The government’s attempt to grow a stable economy overlooked the estimated 85 percent illiteracy among its people. As a country with one of the largest young populations, these eight facts about education in Tanzania demonstrate how improvements to education have become a primary interest in public policy.

8 Facts About Education in Tanzania

  1. It is estimated that 5.1 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 are not in school. Primary school enrollment reached its peak of 86 percent in 2016, and in that same year, lower-secondary level school enrollment plummeted to a low of 33.4 percent. Many Tanzanian children do not experience a secondary education or vocational training. This leads to many children accepting jobs in hazardous conditions against the Tanzanian Law of the Child Act, which strictly defines and regulates prohibited tasks for children. Due to lack of enforcement of this act, 29.3 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 work in unsafe conditions in fields such as mining, quarrying and domestic work.
  2. The average yearly cost of an education in Tanzania totals 100,000 Tanzanian Shillings (TZS). This cost is equal to $50. However, with a national average salary of $22,662, many families cannot afford the fees that accompany their children’s education. These eight facts about education in Tanzania vividly depict poverty’s crucial role in receiving access to education. As of 2016, the poverty rate decreased to 26.8 percent, but an estimated 29 percent of students still live in households below the poverty line. In addition to school fees, parents must pay for uniforms, books and possibly transportation. Public secondary schools offer cheaper tuition as opposed to private schools, but additional schools fees can total up to $300 a year.
  3. Transportation to secondary school persists as an ongoing issue for millions of Tanzanian adolescents. Most of Tanzania’s population remains condensed in rural areas far away from secondary schools. Six people riding on one motorcycle to school lingers as a common image in some of these communities. Some students are able to receive housing at a boarding facility or private hostel by a school, while poorer families simply cannot make such sacrifice. This forces some students to walk or bicycle 20-25 kilometers, which usually takes more than an hour. Organizations such as The Tanzanian Education Fund (TEF), work with a board of organizational officers to manage the financial income for schools, review each school’s progress and fundraise for each school’s ongoing success. The TEF ensures that more than 465 students attending the Nianjema secondary schools in Bagamoyo, Tanzania have school buses through countless fundraising events.
  4. Adolescent girls in Tanzania are least likely to receive a secondary education. Research estimates that two out of every five girls in Tanzania marry before the age of 18. Within the population of married, secondary-school age girls, 97 percent are not in school due to marriage or pregnancy. Government policies also discriminate against pregnant and married girls by authorizing schools to expel them. Tanzania’s education regulations permit the expulsion of students when a student has committed what it considers an offense against morality. Many girls in Tanzania yearn to go back to school but encounter discriminating barriers like repeatedly contacting the school headmaster with no response. In addition, they must pay an $18-23 re-entry fee after pregnancy which ultimately deters them from returning.
  5. In 2010, Tanzania issued the Persons with Disabilities Act which guarantees the right to education and training services to children with disabilities. Today, disabled children still encounter barriers to attending primary school, and even fewer attend secondary school. Enrollment rates for disabled children dropped from 5,495 students to 5,328 students in 2013. Out of the 3,601 public secondary schools in Tanzania, only 75 schools accommodate children that require special needs education. Most of the students with disabilities do not have access to assistive devices like a wheelchair, cane or hearing aid. In other cases, few teachers receive training to teach children with learning disabilities. ADD International operates to fight global discrimination by influencing governments for change so every disabled person gets the best quality of life. Since partnering with Tanzanian activists in 2012, ADD International helped 1,404 children with disabilities enroll in primary school.
  6. The Primary School Learning Examination (PSLE) prevents 1.6 million students from entering secondary school each year. The average completion rate for primary students is 58.4 percent whereas fewer than 52 percent complete secondary school. Many of the schools in Tanzania do not prepare their students adequately for the national exam due to a lack of resources and poor student to teacher ratios. The average student to teacher ratio remains 59:1. Students in Tanzania receive only one opportunity to pass the exam as well.
  7. In 2015, the Tanzanian government eliminated the school fees required for all lower-secondary schools. The implementation of this practice emerged from Tanzania’s 2014 Education and Training policy which aims to improve the overall quality of education in Tanzania. As a result of the policy, secondary school enrollment in Tanzania has increased to 31.6 percent. The Tanzanian government’s goal to become a middle-income country by 2025 began with this significant change. The Tanzanian government made a commitment to provide free, compulsory basic education. This commitment coincided with a 12-year plan and a grant from The Global Partnership for Education (GPE)to strengthen its education system. By continuing to provide free education, skills in literacy and numeracy in Tanzania have improved exceptionally.
  8. By collaborating with the Tanzanian government, Project Concern International (PCI) makes strides in improving the infrastructure of countless schools in Tanzania. The organization, PCI, aids in lifting communities around the world out of poverty by enhancing health and ending world hunger. Studies show that only 62 percent of schools in Tanzania provide an improved water source. Eighty-four percent of the 2,697 primary schools in Tanzania goes without handwashing facilities. These conditions create an unsanitary environment for children and make them more susceptible to diseases like dysentery, diarrhea or an acute respiratory infection. Since 2011, PCI installed 191 water systems in primary schools, giving an estimated 103,456 students improved latrines.

In the end, these eight facts about education in Tanzania are improving with support from global organizations. Bringing attention to the government policies that restrict marginalized groups of students from receiving an education can commence change. Tanzania will experience sustained development as long as the government invests in its education system.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

 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

United States' Role in Global EducationIn late July 2017, a resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives supporting the United States’ role in global education. The resolution aims to ensure the U.S.’s assistance in the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which grants children access to quality education in the world’s most impoverished countries.

In April 2017, the GPE called for a 3-year plan to support a large number of developing countries in their effort to improve the quality of education and provide proper access for approximately 870 million children.

The resolution, which was referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, was introduced by Republican Representative David Reichert of Washington. It voices the ongoing concerns about disenfranchised children in other parts of the world who have limited or no access to quality education.

It was resolved that the House of Representatives considers it the United States’ role and duty to improve access to quality education to marginalized children worldwide. Additionally, it was resolved that the House encourages commitment and investments by the U.S. government, international donors, private foundations and private sector donors through the GPE to fund the ongoing global effort to promote education for children and youth worldwide.

The resolution addresses the issues of lack of basic literacy and numerical skills in approximately 250 million children worldwide. It also outlined the benefits of improving the quality of education. It stated, for example, that, “access to quality education reduces poverty, advances economic prosperity, improves peace and security and strengthens public health.” The investment in global education could positively affect these situations.

The incentives to invest in global education via the GPE were made clear as well. The World Bank has found that every year of school decreases the chance of male youth in violence by around 20 percent. The Global Education Monitoring Report found that the majority of the world’s children who do not attend school live in areas wrought with violence and conflict. Education also impacts health: the Global Education Monitoring Report found that an educated mother is more likely to have her children vaccinated. The report also found that girls who attend school are less likely to be infected with HIV.

In 2014, support for the Global Partnership for Education led to approximately 64 million more children attending primary school than 2002, as well a 10 percent increase in primary school completion over the same period.

To ensure the access of education to children worldwide and increase the United States’ role in global education, you can ask your representative to cosponsor House Resolution 466.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr