Tagged: Education

  • Math identity is the key to girls’ math success

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.

    As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.

    There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math.

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  • Taking a student-based approach to youth development

    How do we best meet the needs of adolescents, recognizing that the world they are entering is rapidly changing?

    Youth programming should focus on the successful transition from adolescence to adulthood, rather than on the reduction of behavioral problems, a past trend. Such programming ensures adolescents’ mental and physical health, as well as provides opportunities to develop positive social values, human and social capital, a sense of well-being and an ability to make sound choices.

    Unfortunately, donor-funded discourse on secondary education reform is still dominated by a dialogue on expanding access and improving quality in education. Youth development and large-scale secondary school reform usually operate on parallel tracks, with youth development approached through afterschool, extracurricular or nonformal programming.

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  • 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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  • Naomi

    What prevents girls in Nigeria from receiving a quality education?

    Girls in Nigeria face many obstacles. These include high school fees, gender inequality and other social pressures that cause them to drop out. Security is a big risk for many girls, especially since the recent kidnappings. Some girls are just too afraid to go to class. The conditions at school can also be a challenge. My class has 50 students and no fan. Some classrooms have no ceiling, no fan and even more students. At certain times of the day, like when the sun is directly overhead, it is too hot for students to even sit in the classroom and impossible for them to concentrate and learn.

    Some policies also limit girls. If a girl is pregnant, she cannot return to school after she has her baby. One mistake should not be the end of a girl’s education.

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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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