Education

  • Tapping the potential of literacy for conflict mitigation

    Development organizations are increasingly being asked to provide education in places that have been torn apart by wars and other conflicts. Reading and writing instruction is often pushed to the forefront of education-in-conflict interventions, because literacy is a foundational skill for future education and success in the workforce. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) goal of improving the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015 emphasizes the value of literacy.

    Importantly, literacy also offers the potential to mitigate conflict. Instructional materials to develop literacy can include stories that model peaceful problem solving, value diversity (through characters who identify with various ethnic groups, for example) and communicate important information about safety and emergency measures.

    Despite the possible benefits, building literacy in conflict situations is complex. Common challenges, such as limited materials and infrastructure, militarized populations and psychosocial trauma, require substantial creativity and innovation in literacy programming. FHI 360 is addressing these challenges in three key ways:

    First, we are gaining knowledge to inform practice. Education in conflict is an understudied field, and very little is known about best practices for literacy instruction in conflict contexts. In 2014, JBS International commissioned an important research report by Lesley Bartlett and Zeena Zakharia, which provided “the first steps in developing a framework for literacy education in conflict- and crisis-affected contexts.”

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  • Too young to wed: The high price of early marriage

    Today, we celebrate Malala Day, a commemoration of girls’ empowerment and gender equality across all areas of human development. Like Malala Yousafzai, thousands of girls around the globe are dedicated to pursuing their education and choosing their life path yet are prevented from realizing their full potential. For the vast majority of these girls, the greatest barrier to schooling is not the bullets of terrorists — it is the day-to-day economic pressures and the unequal social expectations they face as they enter adolescence and young adulthood. It is a sad reality that in the 21st century, many girls are forced into marriage and starting a family as early as age 14, which brings their educational aspirations to a halt.

    Teenage, Married, and Out of School, a new study by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center, highlights the heavy toll early marriage inflicts on school participation among adolescent girls in nine countries of east and southern Africa. While the universally ratified 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), as well as national legislation in all nine countries, protect children against marriage before age 18, early marriage is still visibly present across the region. Some countries, such as Rwanda, have managed to bring this disturbing phenomenon down to a minimum, while marriage at age 14 through age 17 appears to be fairly commonplace in others (Figure 1).

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  • Diverse functions of the INEE Minimum Standards in education in emergencies

    The 360° response by FHI 360 offers an integrated approach in addressing challenges to human development. Can you provide some examples of how this philosophy is implemented in your educational initiatives in post-conflict and fragile areas within Africa?

    FHI 360 works in multiple sectors, including education, health, civil society, peacebuilding, the environment, economic development and livelihoods. We believe in a context-sensitive and strengths-based approach. Education that is context specific really tries to address the challenges that exist by understanding linguistic, cultural, political, economic and historical factors that have affected the education system. Our 360° approach enables us to address these challenges by bringing together experts across sectors.

    In South Sudan, where sadly there has just been a major civil conflict, our education team will work very closely with our peacebuilding team to develop strategies for promoting reconciliation and building peace in the context of our education work. Another example is in northern Nigeria where a major challenge is to provide options to integrate modern education in Koranic schools, which many children attend, and to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in these schools.

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  • The future of workforce development

    goldmark-lara-2015-200x220How has the definition of workforce development changed?

    Workforce development used to be considered the “poor cousin of education.” It was defined as providing training to produce more and better-prepared workers. Thought leaders have since pushed for a more expansive view. Workforce development is now considered to be more than a single program or initiative. It is an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs: It prepares workers with needed skills, emphasizes the value of workplace learning and addresses the hiring demands of employers from the outset. The goal is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities.

    Why does workforce development matter globally?

    Unemployment is a major issue for countries at various stages of development. A rapid increase in the youth population combined with social and political challenges has exacerbated the unemployment crisis in some of these countries. Workforce development is a logical and important solution to these problems, but only if it is approached in an effective way.

    What are key elements of an effective approach to workforce development?

    At the national or regional level, there must be an alignment between skills development and public- and private-sector investments to ensure that job creation keeps pace with the preparation of the workforce. Also, program quality — especially demand responsiveness — should be emphasized over scale. Scale is important, but there have been too many large-scale supply-driven efforts in the past.

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  • Creating pathways to health careers through mentorship

    Mentors can make a huge difference in the lives of young people. I have learned that firsthand in the last five years as a volunteer mentor for students in the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program in Wilmington, Delaware.

    The BTE program, funded by Johnson & Johnson and managed by FHI 360, helps students from disadvantaged communities learn about health careers and what they need to do to enter these fields. Higher education, whether through a four-year college or a two-year technical degree, is often the outcome. A key element of the program is providing one-on-one mentoring to students to ensure college-bound students enroll and succeed.

    I usually meet my mentee, Kevin, once a week. We talk about school, homework, BTE activities and how he will achieve his goals. Kevin started out as an average student, doing only what he needed to do to get by in school. After more than two years in BTE, Kevin has learned public speaking skills, confidence and more about careers and the college education he will need to achieve his goals. Now, he is an honor roll student and president of his senior class. Lately, our conversations revolve around which college Kevin will attend and what financial supports he will need.

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  • Perspectives on global education: FHI 360 experts at the 2014 CIES conference

    This week, FHI 360’s experts on global education are joining other education researchers, practitioners, leaders and partners in Toronto, Canada, for the 2014 Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. The conference, which will take place March 11–15, will explore the theme, “Revisioning Education for All.” FHI 360’s education team will present on six panels on topics such as the value of integrated approaches to education systems strengthening, technology, literacy and providing access to quality education with sensitivity to gender and fragility. Follow our live coverage throughout the conference! Check here for our blogs, videos and photographs.


  • Preceding the opening of the CIES conference in Toronto, Patrick Fine, Chief Operating Officer of FHI 360, calls education “one of the great victories of development.” He offers his thoughts on future education trends and challenges.

  • Business-education partnerships: Johnson & Johnson helps to change the landscape

    Too many students, more than 1.2 million, drop out of school every year in the United States alone and increasing numbers of young people are unemployed globally. Sadly, of the 13 million children growing up in poverty today, only 1 in 10 will graduate from college. There is evidence that the private sector can to help with filling the academic and skill gaps that hinder our young people from succeeding in high school. Business volunteers in communities around the world inspire students to set career goals; they guide young people in building their confidence through mentorship and project-based learning. The business community and the education community need each other now more than ever but the collaboration between schools and businesses is not always happening at a necessary scale.

    I had the pleasure of participating in a regional business-education conference in Fresno, California, recently and walked away with renewed optimism and a few important learnings. First, business-education partnerships are two-way and, when successful, engage all stakeholders including parents and students. Second, to be successful, we have learned that business-education partnerships must have clearly articulated goals and a means of measuring progress including outputs and outcomes. In the end, we need to define the value that these collaborations bring to all of the stakeholders at all stages of the partnership.

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  • How many children enroll in school, stay in school and gain basic reading skills?

    The last decades have seen an impressive growth in school participation in developing countries. As countries have made remarkable progress toward universal primary school completion, the focus in the development community has shifted to reaching the most disadvantaged children and improving the quality of education. It has been recognized that even though universal primary completion is a major milestone for many countries, the quality of an education system cannot be assessed only by its ability to enroll and retain students. Most importantly, school should teach valuable skills that will help children achieve their full potential in life.

    FHI 360’s Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) has released a research brief, “Long Path to Achieving Education for All: School Access, Retention, and Learning in 20 countries,” which uses learning pyramids as a visual tool to show cumulative achievement of education systems and demonstrate how many children enroll in school, whether they remain enrolled until they reach a certain grade, and what percentage of them learn how to read. The report finds that although access to education is close to universal in most countries, not all of the students who enter school reach upper primary grades. Grade repetition is a common experience for many primary students, creating inefficiencies in education systems. Finally, a large number of those who reach the upper primary grades never gain basic literacy skills, defined as the lowest benchmark of a standardized learning assessment.

    Pyramids: starting from access, through retention, to learning

    The pyramids provide a snapshot of a country’s progress in providing universal school entry (access), keeping students in school (survival), and finally, teaching them at least minimum reading skills (learning). To measure school access, EPDC uses the percentage of 14-year-olds who have ever entered school. Retention is described by school survival rates — the percentage of enrolled students expected to reach a given grade. The level of learning is determined by using data from standardized learning assessments, including SACMEQ, PIRLS, SERCE, and PASEC.

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  • Center on Technology and Disability: Leveling the field for all learners

    What is the Center on Technology and Disability and how is it unique?

    FHI 360’s Center on Technology and Disability is a collaborative effort with American Institutes for Research, PACER Center and an experienced team of researchers and practitioners. Together, these partners strengthen the ability of individuals and institutions to understand and embrace evidence-based technology, tools and strategies that level the playing field for children and youth with disabilities in the United States.

    The scope of FHI 360’s collaboration is unique in terms of audience reach and the breadth and depth of professional and personal development activities. Individually, each organization has made major contributions to technology and education. Combined, the CTD team will make available to the field the most influential and knowledgeable thought leaders in assistive and instructional technology. CTD will provide accessible information resources and universal and targeted technical assistance to children and youth with disabilities, families and service providers, state and local education and health agencies, teachers, teacher preparation programs, researchers, parent training and information centers, and family advocacy organizations.

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