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.
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.
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.
An Interview with
Jacqueline Hess, Director, Center on Technology and Disability, FHI 360
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.
An Interview with
Jodi Lis, Technology Expert, FHI 360
Carol DeShano da Silva, Literacy Expert, FHI 360
What is LitScan 360? How does it work?
LitScan 360 is a tool based on Literacy 360°, FHI 360’s comprehensive, child-centered approach to literacy improvement in primary schools. The LitScan 360 app can be used on a tablet or smartphone. It collects customized data on the factors that affect literacy, such as teachers, instruction, materials, school leadership, school curriculum, policy, community and family, as well as societal practices and beliefs related to inclusive education, gender, language and culture.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an opportunity to take action about a problem that, unfortunately, is becoming ever more pervasive and ever more lethal. Statistics tells us a child somewhere is bullied every seven minutes, 85 percent of the time there is no intervention of any kind, and an estimated 160,000 children miss school each day because of bullying. The recent cases of teens being driven to suicide because they were bullied online by classmates are chilling reminders that much more needs to be done.
Where does it all begin? Research we conducted found that teasing and bullying are part of the fabric of daily life for students as early as kindergarten through grade three. It is during these early years that we must start to address the problem before it takes root and grows into even more pernicious behavior.
As the use of cell phones, iPads, and other digital devices become part of the daily lives of young children, elementary school is the time for children to gain understanding of what it means to become a good Internet citizen. Even though young children may physically know how to move a mouse, manipulate an iPad, click on a game icon, or swiftly move though photos on a smart phone, this does not mean that they are prepared to use such devices.
It seems remarkable that 11 October 2013 marks only the second time that the global community has come together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Has it really taken us this long to recognise that adolescent girls hold the key to building a healthier, safer, more prosperous world?
The theme for Day of the Girl 2013 – ‘Innovating for girls’ education’ – highlights this link, and recognises that we are unlikely to address global poverty if we don’t enable girls to complete their education. The case is clear. Girls who complete secondary school earn significantly more as adults. They are more likely to know about and use reproductive health services. And the benefits spill over to the next generation as well: mortality rates of children whose mothers have at least seven years of education are up to 58% lower than those among children whose mothers have no education.
Despite all we know about the benefits of education for girls, millions of girls miss out. Indeed, only 30 per cent of girls around the world are enrolled in secondary school. That is why on Day of the Girl 2013, we cannot ignore the practices that keep girls out of the classroom.
Child marriage is a major barrier to progress on girls’ education. When girls marry as children, they usually drop out of school, forced to abandon schoolbooks for household chores. They are denied the opportunity to learn the skills that could help them earn a safe, dependable income as adults and which are necessary to build a sustainable and prosperous future for their communities. Every year approximately 14 million girls a year marry before they turn 18. While not all of them will drop out of school, most do. How can we get all girls in school, when child marriage keeps pulling them out?
Today’s celebration of International Literacy Day 2013 is an opportunity for the international development community to reflect upon and reinvigorate its approach to ensuring that all children are able to read and write. In recent years, a shift from focusing primarily on access to an increased focus on learning, particularly foundation skills such as reading and writing, has been an important step for children worldwide. At the same time, the desire for quick fixes to reduce childhood illiteracy may be contributing to the development of approaches that are too narrowly focused and do not consider all of the factors that shape a child’s ability to learn to read and write.
Currently, the global education team at FHI 360 is implementing seven educational projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or Hess Corporation that focus on improving reading for children in early grades, in countries as diverse as Kosovo, Ethiopia and Peru. Although these projects differ according to their contexts, they are all rooted in the understanding that systems, schools, environmental and individual factors all play a role in creating a reader. This understanding is reflected in FHI 360’s approach to literacy improvement in primary schools: Literacy 360°. (See figure.)
With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and under Project AIDE, FHI 360 has been improving the quality of education with a focus on early grade reading in Djibouti for the past four years. This video describes a component of the project which has transformed the national education information environment, initially at the Ministry and regional levels, and now at the school level.
As a result of this component, Djibouti now has a world caliber, internationally and locally responsive Education Management Information System that has been almost entirely operated by the local Ministry for the last two years. Although a small country, Djibouti has a fairly complex internal system of public and private schools that are now accommodated with 21st-century information systems.
As part of the ambitious Millennium Development Goals set in the year 2000, the international community pledged to achieve universal primary education. With the target year of 2015 fast approaching, this goal is still far from being reached, and much remains to be done to remove barriers to schooling, particularly for children who are out of school. As the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) suggests in its recent report, data availability and reliability on this issue have lagged, making estimates of out-of-school children difficult. The regular revisions of numbers issued by international agencies illustrate this challenge.
A review of available UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data shows a considerable amount of missing information, particularly for countries where the number of out-of-school children could potentially be quite high given their recent history (for instance, Haiti, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Sudan). For some countries, including Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the figures factored into the global estimate are not published, and the most recent figures available from UIS are more than a decade old (1990–1995). This situation could be amended with greater inclusion of household survey data, which are currently used sporadically, if at all. The Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children has already started a review of all available sources of information for several countries, as well as for the Latin America and the Caribbean region, although data have yet to be integrated into the UIS Data Centre or the UIS e-Atlas on Out-of-School Children.