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Education in Vietnam
Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Kio KitHaving access to education is a fundamental aspect of being able to improve one’s life. Children who grow up in poverty are often deprived of an education and therefore have fewer opportunities as adults, which maintains the cycle of poverty. Education has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to break that cycle. Poor countries have the highest rates of children who are not in school, and according to an estimate from UNESCO, universal secondary education would lead to a 55 percent drop in the number of people living in poverty around the world. In other words, if everyone completed secondary education, more than 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Here is the story of the Kio Kit, a way of introducing technology for education in rural Africa.

Education Is A Human Right

The United Nations recognized education as a human right in the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, as of 2015, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that 37.1 percent of upper-secondary-school-aged children globally are not in school. Barriers to education come in many forms: some children begin working at a young age to help provide for their families, in some places girls are not allowed to go to school and many children live in regions undergoing conflicts or crises that prevent them from accessing education. Additionally, a lack of funding can mean untrained teachers, no school buildings and not enough educational materials.

A lack of access to technology is another barrier to education. Modern technology expands the horizons of what an instructor can teach — perhaps she will download ebooks, or show an educational video about biology, or teach students computer skills that are an asset in the workforce. In many regions, particularly in Africa, internet access is limited. For example, in Chad, Niger and Madagascar, less than 10 percent of the population was using the internet in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014 approximately 15 percent of the world population did not have access to electricity, with electricity being less accessible in urban areas. So how can we adapt educational technology to work in regions where there is limited access to electricity and the internet?

How To Adapt Technology

BRCK, an engineering and design company based in East Africa, has developed a solution. BRCK, founded in 2013, focuses on digital solutions that are specific to African infrastructure. The company was named one of TIME Magazine’s 50 Genius Companies in 2018. BRCK’s Kio Kit project was launched in 2015 and consists of a set of forty tablets and a Wi-Fi router that can connect to web content. Kio Kit tablets charge wirelessly, either by connection to a power source or by solar power, and can run for 8 hours on a charge, meaning they can still be used when electricity is unreliable.

The Kio Kit comes in a weather-proof case and is designed to be usable for untrained teachers. The entire kit, including the tablets, is turned on and off with one button. BRCK calls the Kio Kit a “classroom in a box” and promises to expose rural children to “the same information and learning tools available to kids in any city.” As of 2018, BRCK had sold more than 200 Kio Kits to communities in fourteen countries. BRCK does not list prices online, but a 2015 article from QuartzAfrica reports that one kit costs $5,000, to be paid over twelve months without interest. While this is a hefty price and is not possible for some communities, BRCK’s commitment to getting students online is admirable, and the Kio Kit is a valuable step toward accessible education.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pexels

7 facts about poverty in KabulKabul is the capital of Afghanistan with a population of 37 million people. Although there are efforts for improvements, Afghanistan still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are seven facts about poverty in Kabul.

7 Facts About Poverty in Kabul

  1. Education: According to UNICEF, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are out of school, 60 percent of which are girls. A few reasons for the low enrollment rates include poor sanitation systems in schools. Another reason is the lack of female teachers, particularly in rural areas. Female teachers are required for some because it is not allowed for male teachers to teach young girls. In addition, inadequate transportation in certain areas of the country makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  2. Child Labor: About a quarter of children in Afghanistan between the ages of five and 14 work or help their families. Many children are employed in jobs that can lead to an illness, injury or death due to dangerous working conditions and improper enforcement of safety and health standards. Children hold jobs in metal industries, agriculture, shoe shiners, and in the streets as vendors. Unfortunately, some children are forced to take on the pressures of going to school and work while others must quit school completely. In addition, children work long hours with little pay to no pay. However, UNICEF is supporting the National Strategy for Children at Risk, a strategy designed by the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled and Social Affairs and partnered with UNICEF and other organizations that will help vulnerable families protect and care for their children. The main goal of this plan is for children to be protected from abuse, exploitation or violence in Afghanistan. In addition, the strategy will offer support to communities and vulnerable families. Another policy is the National Strategy for Street Working Children, which provides interventions such as family and community-based support systems for street children and their families to protect, prevent and decrease the number of children that work in the streets.
  3. Sex Trafficking: According to the USAID, Afghanistan happens to be a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking among men, women and children. However, efforts are being made to tackle this issue through the Combating Human Trafficking in Afghanistan project. This project is a collaboration of USAID and the International Organization for Migration that prepares the Afghanistan government institutions to contribute in the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers, victim protection and to enhance regional coordination in the fight against cross border trafficking.
  4. Literacy Rates: According to UNESCO, in Kabul, the highest female literacy rate is 34.7 percent and males at 68 percent. The difference in rates is due to a few factors such as women not being allowed to attend school, unsafe to travel to school and cultural norms. In addition, rates in urban and rural areas differ to due lack of schools in remote areas and extensive distances to travel for school. However, UNESCO has implemented a project called the which is a national program of the Ministry of Education that helps improve literacy and numeracy skills of the adult population in 34 provinces. The ELA Programme began in 2008 and since its launching, it has increased the literacy for over 600,000 adults and over 60 percent of them are women.
  5. Water: In Afghanistan, 79 percent of the population live in rural areas and only 27 percent have access to upgraded water sources. In Kabul, about 80 percent of people do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, 95 percent do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Due to lack of access to sanitation, about 20 percent of the population excretes in public.
  6. Health: According to the World Health Organization, Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Approximately half of children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and 10 percent have chronic malnutrition. Over 60 percent of all childhood deaths and disabilities in Afghanistan are due to respiratory infections, diarrhea and deaths that could’ve been prevented though vaccines such as measles.
    Despite these statistics, USAID has partnered with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to make healthcare services more accessible to all. During October 2017 and September 2018, USAID delivered more than 900,000 institutionalized deliveries at public health facilities. In addition, over 1.4 million children were given PENTA3 vaccinations. Furthermore, with the financial help of USAID and other international donors, the World Bank supported more than 2400 public health facilities and 94 percent of the facilities have at least 1 female health care provider.
  7. Child marriages: In Afghanistan, 35 percent of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9 percent are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriages occur due to various factors such as family practices, traditional customs and level of education. However, there are several organizations dedicated to ending child marriages such as Girls Not Brides. This organization is a global partnership of over 1000 civil organizations from more than 95 countries. It was founded in 2011 by a group of independent global leaders called The Elders that aims to raise awareness on child marriages, facilitate open conversations and provide support for victims. In addition, the organization works closely with girls to help build skills, empower them and developing support networks.

These seven facts about poverty in Kabul demonstrate major issues that could use improvement. Nonetheless, with the help and support of organizations little by little change will happen.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America
The poverty that affects so much of South America comes from a history of colonialism, which has left the region with extractive institutions including weak states, violence and poor public services. In order to combat these issues, it is vital to understand these top 10 facts about poverty in South America.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. Dependence Theory: According to the Council of the Americas, the South American economy is suffering from the U.S.-China trade war, a drop in crude oil prices and generally worsening economic conditions throughout the region. This poor economic performance has been present in the region for a long time. NYU Professor Pablo Querubín noted in a lecture that this is largely due to Dependence Theory. This theory argues that poorer countries and regions will have to specialize in raw materials and agriculture due to the comparative advantage other countries and regions have in producing industrialized products such as computers, advanced technology and services. Therefore, because Latin America has a comparative advantage in producing agricultural products and oil, it will have much greater difficulty moving into the industrial sector.
  2. The Reversal of Fortune Theory: The South American economy has also had such a difficult time growing because of the history of colonialism and extractive institutions. Professor Pablo Querubín also referenced the Reversal of Fortune Theory which explains how the pre-Columbian region of South America was so much more wealthy than pre-Columbian North America, yet those roles have reversed in the modern era. The reason is that South America put extractive institutions into place to send wealth back to Spain rather than “promote hard work or to incentivize investment, human capital, accumulation, etc.” Yet, in areas with low population levels, such as pre-Columbian North America, settlers had to establish inclusive institutions “designed to promote investment, effort, innovation, etc.”
  3. Political Instability: Political consistency has been rare in the history of South America. New leaders would often change the constitution when they entered office to better suit their political wishes. In fact, while the U.S. has only ever had one constitution with 27 amendments over the course of about 200 years, Ecuador had 11 separate constitutions within the first 70 years of its history. In Bolivia, there were 12 within the first 60 years. This instability and very quick political turnover have been detrimental to the steady growth of the economy and confidence in the government. Understanding the effects of this issue and the other top 10 facts about poverty in South America are integral to fighting poverty in the region.
  4. Inequality: Inequality is incredibly high in South America. As a result, the incredibly wealthy can afford to use private goods in place of public ones. For example, the rich use private schools, private health insurance, private hospitals and even private security forces instead of relying on the police. Therefore, there is very little incentive for the wealthy to advocate for higher taxes to improve public goods such as public education, police or public health initiatives. As a result, the public services available to the poor in Latin America are extremely lacking.
  5. Education: Education in South America is full of inequality both in terms of income and gender. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, an institution which evaluates teenagers on their educational performance in key subject areas, most countries in South America perform below average. In one evaluation it determined that the highest-scoring country in South America, Chile, was still 10 percent below average. Furthermore, poor educational performance highly correlates with income inequality.
  6. Indigenous Women and Education: In addition, indigenous women are far less likely than any other group to attend school in South America. According to UNESCO, in Guatemala, 70 percent of indigenous women ages 20 to 24 have no education. The issue of unequal education spreads further to affect women’s livelihoods and presence in the South American workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, about 50 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not work directly in the labor force. However, the International Monetary Fund also noted that “countries in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] have made momentous strides in increasing female LFP [labor force participation], especially in South America.”
  7. Teenage Pregnancy: One major driver of the cycle of poverty in South America is the persistence of teenage pregnancies which lead to impoverished young mothers dropping out of school and passing on a difficult life of poverty to their children. The World Bank reported that Latin America is the second highest region in terms of young women giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Furthermore, a study called Adolescent Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed several South American teen mothers including one who noted that sexual education was not the problem: “We knew everything about contraceptive methods,” she said, “but I was ashamed to go and buy.” Thus, the study advised that in addition to preventative methods for pregnancy such as education and the distribution of contraceptives, there needs to be action to “fight against sexual stereotypes.” Fortunately, there are activist campaigns such as Child Pregnancy is Torture which advocates for raising awareness about the issue of child pregnancy in South America and encourages the government to take steps such as increased sex education, access to contraception and the reduction of the sexualization of girls in the media.
  8. Food Insecurity: Hunger is a growing issue related to poverty in South America. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 39.3 million people in South America are undernourished, which represents an increase by 400,000 people since 2016. Food insecurity in the region as increased from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 9.8 percent in 2017. However, the issue is improving with malnutrition in children decreasing to 1.3 percent. Additionally, there are many NGOs such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Action Against Hunger and Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization (PAHO) that are implementing vital programs throughout the continent to fight hunger.
  9. Migration: The economic instability and rising poverty in South America have caused many people to migrate out of the region. Globally, 38 million people migrated out of their countries last year with 85 percent of that 38 million coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Manuel Orozco from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank stated that “The structural determinant is poor economic performance, while demand for labour in the United States and the presence of family there encourages movement.”
  10. Violence: The high level of violence in South America exacerbates the cycle of poverty in South America. Fourteen of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in South America and although the region only contains eight percent of the world’s population, it is where one-third of all murders take place. Dr. Orozco went on to say that “There’s a strong correlation between migration and homicide. With the potential exception of Costa Rica, states are unwilling or unable to protect citizens.”

Fighting poverty in South America is dependent upon an understanding of the history and realities of the region. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about poverty in South America can shed light upon the cycle of poverty in the region and how to best combat it in the future.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

literacy in bangladeshThe term “literacy” means far more today than in the past, incorporating not only the ability to read physical texts, but to also be able to comprehend and break down internet sources and articles as well. Bangladesh has been striving to make the country’s educational system develop these skills through the implementation of newer programs and the infusion of technology into schools. The government’s goal of creating an accomplished, educated population through digital education has helped to increase literacy in Bangladesh.

Education Overview

Bangladesh’s school system is broken down into four categories: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. The country currently has five years of compulsory education from age six to age ten. The country has been working to decrease the number of out of school children throughout the past ten years, with only 753 children not in school as of 2017. The number of out of school adolescents has also decreased, dropping from 2,776 children in 2010 to 995 children in 2017.

Impact of Digital Education

With these decreases in out-of-school children, Bangladesh has been working to increase the literacy levels throughout the country. Digital education is making access to reading materials and textbooks easier throughout all regions, which helps to improve literacy in Bangladesh. Using digital materials to increase the level of education in schools is helping children to understand the tools available through the internet and infuse a larger amount of knowledge into the current school systems in place. Many schools have adopted the use of technology to aid education throughout the country, incorporating digital white boards, tablet devices and learning apps to infuse more learning materials into classrooms.

JAAGO Foundation

One group working to improve literacy rates in Bangladesh is the JAAGO Foundation, which has helped through the creation of a digital school. This school helps to teach information and communications technology (ICT) to students, which was accredited by UNESCO in 2017 as an innovative, new method for ICT education. The school is set up into parts: a headquarters for teachers located in Dhaka, and classrooms in remote areas with video-streaming technology to broadcast lessons from the headquarters. JAAGO’s school also includes interactive calls between the students and the teachers in Dhaka so that these students have opportunities to ask questions and get individual learning time.

JAAGO has also partnered with Bangladesh’s government through the A2i project, which provides an e-learning platform for students looking for an online education. This platform, named Muktopaath, features both videos and educational lessons to supplement traditional education forms and help to increase the literacy rates throughout the country.

Literacy Rates on the Rise

Because of institutions like the digital school from the JAAGO Foundation, literacy in Bangladesh is currently at an all-time high, with 72.76 percent of the population being literate in 2016. This number has increased by 26.1 percent from 2007, where literacy rates were measured at 46.66 percent. The literacy rate for people between 15 to 24 has also increased drastically, from 61.87 percent in 2007 to 92.24 percent in 2016. These figures show how Bangladesh is working to break out of the Least Developed Country (LDC) designation and improve overall quality of education throughout the regions.

Bangladesh’s government has also been increasing funding to local schools to benefit the quality of literacy and education throughout the country. Government spending toward education was over $4.3 billion in 2016, which is more than double what the government spent in 2008. The National Education Policy of 2010 helped to make education accessible for everyone, and over 26,000 primary schools have been accredited by the government as national schools to ensure that a primary school is in every region of the country.

Literacy in Bangladesh has been steadily increasing by infusing technology into local schools. Through increasing government funding for schools and with the help of outside programs like the JAAGO Foundation, educational systems throughout the country are beginning to rise to meet international education standards. As more technology is added into school systems, Bangladesh will continue to improve in international standings and surpass LDC status within the next few years.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

Education in Tunisia

Tunisia is a small country in Northern Africa with a population of 11.5 million people. Both Arabic and French play a large role in Tunisian culture and both are considered primary languages of instruction in schools. Education in Tunisia is an important part of society and is compulsory until the age of 16. The following seven facts about education in Tunisia further illuminate the country’s challenges and initiatives to improve the current system and community.

Seven Facts about Education in Tunisia

  1. While Tunisia’s education is influenced by the French system, an emphasis on Arabic language and culture is prioritized within schools. After gaining independence from France in 1956, Tunisian education has seen significant Arabization since the 1970s. In recent years, however, there has been yet another cultural shift marked by the demand for English speakers within the workplace. As a result, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research partnered with the British council in 2016 to offer English speaking certificates within their Tunisian universities in order to increase employability for Tunisians at home and abroad.
  2. Schools in Tunisia are overseen by the Tunisian Ministry of Education and Training. There are three main levels of schooling: basic, secondary and higher education. In 1991, the Tunisian government passed the New Education Act which lengthened the duration of the basic and secondary levels to 13 years.
  3. The Tunisian government has also significantly invested in a pre-primary level of education intended for children from ages 3-5. These exist in two forms: traditional kindergartens and kouttabs, which are supervised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, respectively. In traditional kindergartens, children follow a standard curriculum. In contrast, kouttabs, the educational focus is on religion. From 1987 to 2007, the number of kouttabs has nearly tripled from 278 to 961. Though there is no data comparing the enrollment between kindergartens and kouttabs, this increase in the number of kouttabs does reveal higher levels of enrollment today.
  4. According to UNESCO, Tunisia spends about 6.2 percent of its GDP on education. Many modern technologies used in Tunisian classrooms today are funded by major organizations such as the World Bank, Microsoft and Apple. This has seen an especially significant impact at the University of Tunis: 20 percent of its courses have been offered online in the last 15 years. This has also increased the number of students able to complete their education by allowing them to work part-time while earning their degrees, an impactful solution in addressing Tunisan educational reforms.
  5. The government’s recent initiatives to improve the education system after independence can be seen in the discrepancies between the older and younger Tunisian generations. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate between 15-24-year-olds was 96.1 percent in comparison to 39.77 percent of those 65 and older as of 2014. To address this issue, the National Adult Education Programme was created in 2000. In the first three years of its existence, the program grew from 107,000 participants to 165,000.
  6. In 2016, the Tunisian government released the Strategic Plan for the Education Sector, detailing intended reforms spanning the next four years. The plan identifies its primary goal: reducing dropout rates to be addressed by “improving teacher training, upgrade curricula and infrastructure, as well as… enhance [the] framework for private sector partnerships.”
  7. According to UNESCO, the education rate between young men and women in Tunisia is almost equal: In 2007, 96.7 percent of girls and 95.5 percent of boys were recorded to be in school. That being said, however, traditional Tunisian cultural norms have heavily influenced the employability of educated women who have a harder time finding work than their lesser-educated counterparts. The World Bank reports that “the unemployment rate has remained around 15.5 percent and is particularly high among women (22.8 percent), graduates (29.4 percent) and in poor regions.”

The World Bank estimates that Tunisia’s economy is projected to grow 4 percent in the next year, which it states is “contingent on the completion of pressing reforms to improve the investment climate and ensure social stability.” These seven facts about education in Tunisia highlight these issues, and ensuring that they are addressed, Tunisia is sure to flourish for years to come.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Tokelau
Over the past half-century, the island of Tokelau has struggled with sustainable education due to its remote location. However, in recent years, its educational system has experienced tremendous growth and the government is overseeing its continued improvement. Listed below are 8 facts about education in Tokelau and their implications.

8 Facts About Education in Tokelau

  1. The island is divided into three atolls. According to the 2016 census, Tokelau has a total population of 1,499 people, which is fairly evenly distributed amongst the three atolls. There is one school in each atoll for a total of three schools on the island. Each encompasses primary, secondary and post-secondary levels of education from ECE to year 13. The total student population across the three schools is just over 400.
  2. The official language of study is Tokelaun but students must also learn English as a foreign language. From year three, schools introduce English into the curriculum for 20 percent of the school time; at year four, schools increase English to 30 percent of the time; year five to 40 percent; and year six to 50 percent. From year six to year 11, the curriculum consists of the preparation, teaching and assessment of students at 50 percent English and 50 percent Tokelauan. Around 45 percent of Tokelauns aged 15 years or over reported having good or very good English reading skills, whereas only nine percent of Tokelauans aged 75 or above reported this, indicating an increase in bilingualism among residents through the years.

  3. The village councils or the Taupalegas run the schools. In 2010, the average student-teacher ratio was about 17 to one. The Education Department oversees the development of schools, training of teachers and scheduling of the annual National Scholarship Examination. The examination decides which students are eligible for the Tokelau Scholarship Scheme. The government developed this program to grant scholarships to the top 10 performing students so they could pursue higher education abroad. The scholarships require the recipients to return to Tokelau upon completion of their studies abroad so that they may apply their skills toward the country’s development.

  4. Up until 2008, schools did not offer senior secondary education Tokelau. Students who wished to pursue education beyond year 11 had to study abroad. A primary goal of the Education Department was to implement year 12 and year 13 learning programs on the island. Tokelau achieved this in 2008 through the Senior Secondary Education Programme which established year 12 in each school and then year 13 in each school in 2009. This has resulted in an increasing number of students eligible and with the necessary prerequisites to access undergraduate tertiary studies.

  5. According to UNESCO, the educational system faces many challenges due to the island’s isolated nature, rendering transport and telecommunication services unreliable. Consequently, there has been poor school leadership and a shortage of qualified/certified teaching staff. A majority of the teaching staff are women with family responsibilities and the expense and inconvenience of travel make attending off-atoll training services difficult.

  6. From 2000 to 2010, the government of Tokelau has worked with the Volunteer Service Abroad Program (VSA) to combat challenges of the educational system. VSA sent 26 New Zealand volunteers undertaking 28 assignments. Volunteers on each atoll trained and recruited volunteer teachers for specifically requested subjects that local teachers lacked the teaching qualifications and experience to provide. There was strong evidence that suggested that the government built and strengthened the capacity of the schools. However, a number of factors including the structure and governance of the Tokelau Education system, uncertain leadership and unmotivated staff inhibited this.

  7. In 2011, the Department of Education implemented reforms to address the issue of poorly qualified personnel, implementing regular Principal Professional Development to improve school leadership and on-atoll pre-service teacher DFL training courses for the teaching staff. The Government currently funds up to four pre-service teacher trainees for each village enrolled through a DFL University of the South Pacific undergraduate program. Tokelau aims to have 80 percent of all primary school teachers with relevant qualifications. Effective school leadership through good management and governance structures and processes has also improved student achievement.

  8. In 2011, males were more likely to have completed secondary school than females, but in 2016, this gender gap had decreased from five percent down to less than two percent. One can attribute the decrease in gender disparity to the growing role of the women’s committee referred to in Tokelau as the Fatupaepae. The Fatupaepae is one of the three in community-based organizations (CBOs) that contribute to the well being of the community.

These 8 facts about education in Tokelau illustrate its tremendous progress in the past half-century. Education in Tokelau continues to progress, particularly as the Department of Education combats the island’s challenges of accessibility. These 8 facts about education in Tokelau show that the country is working to ensure that the educational needs of its residents are being fulfilled.

– Bradley Hu
Photo: Flickr

Keeping Girls in School ActFor hundreds of years, people have robbing women and young girls of their right to an education. Of the 774 million illiterate people around the globe, two-thirds are female. Without an education, women die at higher rates, have an increased number of child deaths, are more likely to marry young, are less likely to find work and are more likely to receive lower pay. The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to address the worldwide barriers that currently exclude 130 million school-aged girls from their right to an education. The legislation has the power to cut child deaths by 50 percent and will raise girls’ future wages by $15 to $30 trillion. Here are 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act.

10 Facts About the Keeping Girls in School Act

  1. The bill has bi-partisan Congressional support. On April 9, 2019, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act into the Senate. On that same date, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-PA) and Rep.Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced the bill into the House. More recently, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have also decided to cosponsor the bill, totaling a number of 25 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate. With advocates in both the House and the Senate, the Keeping Girls in School Act has garnered the support of not only both legislative bodies but both political parties.

  2. The bill will cut child deaths by 50 percent. Education is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to saving children’s lives. Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death for children under five largely due to many mothers’ lack of education on proper hygiene, health and nutrition. According to UNESCO, if all women received secondary education, it would cut in half the number of child deaths and save three million lives. When provided with an education, mothers are able to raise their children in a healthier way because they have the knowledge necessary to provide them with a higher quality of life.

  3. The bill focuses on secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on education at the secondary level rather than the primary because girls are at higher risk of dropping out as adolescents. Between the ages of 14 to 18, girls are at the greatest risk of pregnancy, child marriage and genital mutilation. By focusing on girls in this age range, the Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to not only educate young women but to prevent inhumane practices from infiltrating their lives.

  4. The bill will reduce child marriage by 66 percent. Without proper education, people force many young girls into marriage because the girls do not understand that they have the right to refuse it. Education informs young women about their rights and provides them with the tools necessary to challenge the cultural expectations. According to UNESCO, one in seven sub-Saharan African women are married under the age of 18 due to their lack of education. Education is one of the leading factors when it comes to reducing child marriage. If the Keeping Girls in School Act passes, it will play a vital role in eradicating child marriage because it will grant young women the awareness that they have autonomy over their own lives.

  5. The bill is divided into 14 barriers. The Keeping Girls in School Act is divided into 14 sections in an attempt to address all the barriers that prevent women from receiving an education. These include: harmful social norms, lack of safety at or traveling to school, child and forced marriages, distance from and cost of school, the priority of education given to young men, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, HIV, disabilities and racial or religious discrimination. The Keeping Girls in School Act not only outlines these 14 barriers but sets out to challenge them. By individually working to overcome these educational confines, the Keeping Girls in School Act will not only make education more accessible for young women but it will also improve the quality of their lives.

  6. The bill will decrease violent conflict by 37 percent. Lack of education is one of the biggest contributors to violent conflict. Likewise, conflict-affected areas inhibit girls’ access to education greatly. Girls in conflict-affected areas are 90 percent more likely to be uneducated due to the violent reality of their communities. By providing young women with access to education, the violence that keeps thousands of girls from being educated will decrease and the fear that leads their lives will consequently lessen.

  7. The bill will save worldwide governments 5 percent or more on education budgets. With more girls attending school, there will be fewer child marriages, so more women will be able to enter the workforce later on. As a result, they will earn more money and will be able to contribute to their country’s economy in a way they were formerly unable to. An investment in female education is more than a social rights investment because it also houses an economic return. With more economically stable women, more people will be able to purchase products and their countries’ economies will rise as a result. By prioritizing girls’ education, U.S. foreign assistance is not only investing in young women but also investing in themselves.

  8. The bill will promote gender equality. By advancing girls’ education, the U.S. is taking a global stand against inequality. Worldwide, four million more boys receive education than girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to bridge the gap. Providing education for young women is not only the acknowledgment that they are equally valuable but it is the recognition that they are undeniably capable. In Pakistan, women with secondary education earn 70 percent of the country’s average male income while their primary school counterparts earn only 51 percent. By advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. is challenging social norms that have oppressed young women for decades. As a result, the Act also possesses the power to change the way people value women around the globe.

  9. Fifty international nonprofit organizations endorse the bill. The largest global poverty organizations around the world support the Keeping Girls in School Act. Organizations such as UNICEF U.S.A, CARE U.S.A and ADRA International are currently backing the legislation. By supporting this bill, these organizations are not only spreading awareness for the global issue but they are exemplifying the mass of its importance.

  10. The bill will receive updates every five years. Keeping in line with global progression, if enacted into law, the Keeping Girls in School Act promises to keep up. If passed, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the Senior Coordinator for International Basic Education Assistance will oversee the bill. This makes sure that the diversity of issues addressed are in line with the reality of the world’s social climate, ensuring that women’s education progresses at the fastest possible rate.

These 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act can spread awareness of a bill that has the power to change the lives of young women around the world. Programs such as CARE’s Keeping Girls at School and funds like UNESCO’s Malala Fund For Girls’ Right to Education are making great progress towards improving the issue. However, with 76 million illiterate female youths worldwide, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help to increase education for women even further.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Unsplash

Impacts of Cell Phones
Since its invention in 1973, the presence of the cell phone has become practically unavoidable worldwide. As of 2019, there were approximately 4.68 billion mobile phone users globally. Although many worry about the adverse effects of the overuse of the device, one cannot overstate the positive impacts of cell phones, especially in the developing world. From mobile banking to health care, the cell phone has left an incredible footprint on the world despite its relatively short existence. Here are the top five impacts of cell phones in the developing world.

Top 5 Impacts of Cell Phones in the Developing World

  1. Mobile Banking: For many people living in the remote regions of third world countries, traditional brick and mortar banks are often out of reach. Mobile banking, however, is helping initiate financial inclusion. By connecting major banks to online banking networks, individuals can now easily transfer money with even just a flip phone. For instance, M-Pesa, a Kenyan mobile phone-based financial service, operates through the usage of banking SIM cards that allow the user to transfer monetary assets via SMS. This way, a flip phone would be all one would need to start with this service. As of 2016, an average of 19 million Kenyans sent the equivalent of $15 million on a daily basis. Through such services the number of people with financial accounts in Kenya has jumped from 21 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014.
  2. Education: One can increasingly find the cell phone utilized for education in the schools of many developing countries. The utilization of mobile apps has transformed teaching in such places. For example, in parts of Africa, the EDC (Education Development Center) is currently experimenting with sending podcasts of interactive instructional materials to students. Furthermore, cell phones have increased literacy rates. The landmark 2014 UNESCO study, “Reading in the mobile era,” surveyed over 4,000 individuals in regions with low literacy rates and where people are unlikely to text. The study showed that many people have resorted to reading stories and books on their mobile devices. Additionally, a third of the study participants read stories to their children via their devices.
  3. Disaster Relief: Today mobile devices are a unique communication tool for disaster relief in developing countries. For example, in August 2017, Ncell, a Nepalese-based mobile operator, was able to provide warnings to vulnerable populations prior to the deadly floods and landslides. On the other hand, after the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Maria incidence in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). These Flying COWs were cell sites connected to wings that provided cell service to disaster-stricken areas temporarily and allowed residents to gain contact with loved ones and relief organizations.
  4. Governance: In countries and regions with low population densities, it has traditionally been exceedingly difficult for governments to reach out to the individuals residing there. However, mobile technology has simplified seemingly impossible tasks such as long-distance polling and voter registration. In 2018, the local government of Quezon City, Philippines even initiated a mobile app that serves as an online database of the city’s ordinances.
  5. Health Care: The impact of cell phones in the developing world has also stretched to the area of health care. Currently, mPedigree, a Ghanian nonprofit, is using cell phones to authenticate drugs to safeguard consumers against counterfeit and substandard products. The World Health Organization estimates that over 10 percent of global medications are fake so this new technology should be able to save countless lives on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are popular in remote areas to cheaply or freely offer daily texts and voicemails about common medical conditions. For example, in Mozambique, Absolute Return for Kids, a British nonprofit, is fighting HIV/AIDS by using mobile messaging to remind enrolled patients to take their medications as well as about appointment dates.

Conclusively, the range of the various impacts of cell phones globally in developing countries has been both deep and wide. The device has proven itself to be both an efficient yet inexpensive solution to many day-to-day problems. It is not too optimistic to say that in the near future even more creative uses for cell phones will surface.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr