Sweden enjoys a great reputation in the world not only in the category of education, but also for its economy and successful implementation and execution of the duties of a welfare state. Sweden is known to be regulated very clearly and successfully. It is applauded for being one of the countries with the best regulatory mechanisms for the refugee crisis and immigration and to be one of the pioneers in handling the climate crisis. But is Sweden truly as imperceptible in terms of education as is assumed? Which educational challenges is Sweden facing?
Swedish student are attending school compulsorily for 10 years. School is government funded, e.g. through taxes. Therefore, every child has the possibility to attend school. Access to education is high. Students attend the following school stages: ”förskoleklass (‘preschool year’ or year 0), lågstadiet (years 1-3), mellanstadiet (years 4-6) and högstadiet (years 7-9).”  These are the compulsory years. A highschool education, gymnasium, which is attended from years 10-12 is possible, but not compulsory. The higher education system is divided into universities and högskola. Högskola can be compared to university college.
Considering the International school awards, the international school Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket won an environmental award in 2021. This was announced by ISC Research. Both Sweden’s investment in education in financial terms and the study outcome in terms of reading performance are above the OECD average, a benchmark created by PISA. This means that the Swedish government puts sufficient focus on education and that the financial input and educational output align. According to the HMRI Rights Tracker, “on the right to education, Sweden is doing 86.0% of what should be possible at its level of income (measured against the income adjusted benchmark).”  With this, Sweden finds itself in the top 10 countries with the highest score in the category “right to education”. The leading country is Singapore with 96.5 percent. Finland, Sweden’s neighboring country, is ranked in 7th place.
Quality of university education
In total, Sweden established 50 institutions of higher education on its land. According to the QS World University Ranking 2022, six Swedish universities are among the top 200 universities worldwide, the best ranked being Lund University coming in place 89, scoring 60.1 overall. Lund University is followed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology. Two other universities are ranked by the QS Ranking within the top 200 universities worldwide, the remaining 45 universities are not mentioned. The worst ranked university on the QS World University Ranking 2002 is Umeå University, scoring 30.5.
Migrated students and the issues they face
Sweden is a country with large numbers of immigration. 14.4% of Swedish citizens are, as of 2009, born in other countries, and therefore immigrated to Sweden. The PISA report recommends Sweden to have a closer focus on the needs of those with an immigration background, who make up more than 5 percent of their attending students. As immigrant students have it much harder to obtain high study results, there should be extra support for this demographic of students. The gap in study performance between those born in Sweden and those whose families immigrated to Sweden is significant: 27% less students from immigration backgrounds are able to achieve high levels in the PISA testing. Furthermore, anxiety is also much higher amongst those students who are not born in Sweden. Furthermore, almost one in two immigrant students in Sweden finds themselves at a disadvantage. The gaps in performance and dedication to study remain big between those who were born in Sweden and those who immigrated. Even though Sweden has taken significant steps towards creating equal opportunities for those who seek refuge and more opportunities in the Swedish country and making relatively open immigration policies, there still is a lot of work that needs to be done. Seen on a global scale, the chances of those with low study performance due to socio-economic background attending the same school as those with high study performance is relatively high. It is stated that “disadvantaged students have at least a one-in-five chance of having high-achieving schoolmates”.  When asked if they believe that their intelligence cannot be affected, which is a question asked by PISA to find out if students have a will to improve their learning capacities and knowledge, more than 60 percent of students disagreed with this statement in 2018. This means that they believed that their own actions could affect their intelligence. Yet, there was a negative difference between immigrant and non-immigrant students.
However, there are serious efforts to include those students from other countries into the Swedish educational system. They receive the right to study at the same schools as Swedish students and there is more focus being set on integration. Students who are originally from other countries also have the right to tutoring in their mother tongue if enough students with the same mother tongue are in their vicinity. This indicates that the Swedish government also takes steps to accommodate those who are not native in the Swedish culture and language.
On the PISA report 2018 , Sweden’s general educational performance ranks at place 11. It is the 5th best country according to study performance in Europe. The PISA test examines students’ academic abilities in three disciplines: reading, mathematics and science. Students performace is measured in points and divided into 6 levels, level 1 being level 1a and 1b. In all three categories, Sweden scored in level 5, together with many other European states, such as Germany, Ireland and Switzerland. Sweden’s study performance has been increasing in between the tests from 2015 to 2018. Even though the trend was negative, now the curve is flattening, which means that the negative developments in reading performance are slowly coming to an end. It also shows that the investment in education, which is over OECD average, also leads to reading results higher than average. Students in Sweden scored 505 points on the reading test, the OECD average being 487 points and the maximum 555 points.
New trends- Prepping being taught at schools
As a result of new developments, preppin is now being taught at Swedish highschools. Out of fear of a Russian military attack, not only private courses, but also public schools teach how to prepare for an emergency of this nature. There remains a possibility that Russia might settle its military on the Swedish island Gotland to be in a better position to attack and possibly annex the Baltics. Risk managers are giving classes at Swedish schools to inform the students about possible dangers and how to prepare for them. In these classes, students are taught how to prepare not only for the Russian invasion, but also for other catastrophes that could be a result of climate change or other global influences.  Sweden has already been focusing energy on teaching prepping since 2017, which had been intensified by the Covid 19 pandemic.
To conclude, Sweden enjoys a good reputation for its education for a reason. The financial input is high, and the study performance has been increasing as well. Sweden has been successful at fixing its issues with decreasing performance and is slowly bringing this trend to an end. However, Sweden faces multiple immigration gap related issues. There should be a stronger focus at aligning the needs of immigrated and native-born students.
Bergmark, & Hansson, K. 2021. “How Teachers and Principals Enact the Policy of Building Education in Sweden on a Scientific Foundation and Proven Experience: Challenges and Opportunities.” Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 65(3), 448–467. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2020.1713883.
Forsberg, E., Hallsén, S., Karlsson, M., Bowden, H. M., Mikhaylova, T., & Svahn, J. (2021). “Läxhjälp as Shadow Education in Sweden: The Logic of Equality in “A School for All.’” ECNU Review of Education, 4(3), 494–519. https://doi.org/10.1177/2096531120966334.
Olsson, Emelie, 2021. Understanding swedish prepping : a mixed-method study on resilience, trust, and incentives to prepare for crises. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development.
Persson, Magnus. 2022. “Crossing a Social Demarcation Line: Students Experience Friction in the Transformed Swedish Higher Education System.” International Studies in Sociology of Education 0 (0): 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/09620214.2022.2125039.
 Olsson, Emelie, 2021. Understanding swedish prepping : a mixed-method study on resilience, trust, and incentives to prepare for crises. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development.
This January 24th, Broken Chalk invites you to join us in celebrating International Day of Education.
On this day, we recognize this year’s achievements in education policy while simultaneously considering the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global rise in armed conflict, increased limitations on freedom of expression, and global economic downturn, which has contributed to limited educational funding, falling education standards, and lower enrollment rates. More than anything, we at Broken Chalk hope to lead the global NGO community to redouble our collective commitment to education.
Let’s first focus on how Broken Chalk has positively contributed to realizing education as a human right in 2022. This year, Broken Chalk conducted significant research into the educational challenges facing over 25 countries, including funding dimensions, enrollment, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic distribution, gender equality, accessibility for disabled students, graduate employment rates, and access to vocational training for young adults. These educational challenges reports, published on our website and social media platforms, raised awareness about certain countries’ most pressing academic problems or most positive educational initiatives.
In addition, Broken Chalk began a new report series summarizing and analyzing the European Union’s 2021 enlargement package for the Western Balkans and Turkey. Specifically, this series produced seven reports, one for each country being considered for accession, noting the areas in which the EU recommended fundamental reforms. Each report examined the subject country’s educational policy, respect for children’s rights, socioeconomic equality, and access to public services according to the EU enlargement package’s metrics and evaluations. As a result, the reports generated critical contemplation about how the EU’s proposed reforms would impact education.
Finally, Broken Chalk participated in the annual United Nations Universal Periodic Review, as we have since our establishment in 2020. The UPR is a unique process by which states consider other states’ human rights policies and records in a peer-to-peer review and reform dialogue. To facilitate this dialogue, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions, and civil society organizations are invited to submit statements and reports about the subject country’s human rights policies and records. This year, Broken Chalk completed submissions to the UPR for 30 countries. These submissions are vital to the UPR exercise because certain selected comments and recommendations for improvement are sent directly to the discussion floor. This round, many of Broken Chalk’s recommendations have been accepted by the UPR, signifying that Broken Chalk is generating meaningful discussion within the human rights community and tangibly contributing to significant material reforms within countries where human rights violations routinely occur.
Now, consider how Broken Chalk plans to expand its ongoing work with research, reports, and awareness-raising. We will continue our educational challenges reports, hopefully extending to new areas of the world. Scheduled are the reports for 35 more countries, again considering the challenges that the state, its educational bureaucracy, schools, and students face. We will again participate in the 2023 UPR, with plans to submit reports for another 39 countries. Beyond this, we have also planned new initiatives to further education as a human right in 2023. We hope to begin new projects, including new report series and proactive projects with local and global partners on the ground.
On this International Education Day, with the new year still fresh, Broken Chalk remains focused on the most severe issues facing educational institutions and students today. Collectively, global civil society and NGOs must cooperate to transform the future of education. We hope to instigate dialogue about strengthening the quality of education available equally to all, navigating the digital transformation of educational resources, supporting teachers, and guaranteeing a safe and sustainable platform for student voices. This International Education Day, please consider how you can contribute to these goals as an individual and a member of a global human rights community. Education is both a human right and a key to sustainable development, political harmony, and social cohesion. Happy International Day of Education!
Over 20 years, Israel has seen some significant developments connected to its education system. These advancements, by 2019, led to Israel becoming one of the highest spenders on primary, secondary, and post-secondary non-tertiary education as a share of GDP amongst OECD countries (Israel: 6.7%, OECD average: 4.9%),[i] with more than half of the population holding tertiary attainment between age 25 and 64.[ii] Furthermore, Israel’s fast technological developments put the country on the list of the top 20 most innovative countries in the world.[iii]
Despite all successes, Israel is still behind in ensuring some basic human rights regarding access to education for all its citizens and residents. Following brief overview of Israel’s ethnic composition and education system, this article highlights some of the most urgent issues in the country’s education sector by looking at educational differences along ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes, analysing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as investigating what is going on in Area C of the occupied territories of the West Bank.
The Composition and Historical context of Ethnic Groups in Israel
Israel is a multi-ethnic, multinational, and multicultural state; 74% of the population is Jewish, 21% is Arab, 1.5% is Ethiopian, and the remaining 3.5% are identified as “others”. The composition of the Arabic-speaking population can be further categorised according to religious beliefs: 85% of them are Muslim, 7.5% are Christian, and the remaining 7.5% are Druze.
The ethnic composition of the Israeli population is crucial to discussing issues in the country since many problems stem from discrimination and clashes among ethnic groups, and the Israeli education system reflects these issues too. Conflict among these ethnic (and religious) groups frequently have deep historical roots, particularly in the case of clashes between the Jewish and the Arabic groups. Their conflict dates back to the very creation of Israel as a state, and the several wars throughout the 20th century, such as the 1948 Arab-Israel War, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, further complicated the relationship of the two sides.
The Arabic-speaking minorities’ national identity rarely associate with Israel, whose political leadership stresses the state’s Jewish character, while refusing to recognise Arab or Palestinian national identities. Moreover, Israel frequently applies discriminatory practices towards these ethnic groups (also in the education sector) because state authorities frequently perceive them as a security threat due to the historical Arab-Israel conflicts.[iv]
The Younger the Better – The Israeli Education System
From its very foundation in 1948, the State of Israel has been closely monitoring and regulating its education system because they have been considering education as a way to ensure social mobility. The 1949 Compulsory Education Act was the first official legal action taken in Israel to enforce compulsory education which ensured free school attendance for children for 9 years from age 5.[v] Later amendments further expanded the Act, and, by 2009, compulsory education was extended until grade 12, while, by 2016, compulsory school entrance age was lowered to age 3.[vi] The successes of the Israeli education system are further reflected in the fact that despite compulsory education starting at age 3, 47% of children are already enrolled in an educational institution before age 2.[vii] Furthermore, 99% of the child population between age 3 and 5 was enrolled in an educational institution in 2019.[viii]
State-funded Israeli general education works along a four-stream system to satisfy all cultural, religious, and ethnic demands of its population. Consequently, the state provides secular, religious, and ultra-orthodox (Haredi) educational institutions for Jewish Israelis, while Arab schools serve the needs of Arab, Bedouin, Christian Arab, and Druze Israeli minorities.[ix] Along these ethnic and cultural lines, Hebrew-speaking schools are managed by Jewish principals while schools teaching in Arabic are coordinated by Arab principals. However, all principals are subjugated to centralised Israeli administration, funding, and curriculum which ensure similar requirements and control teacher-salaries.[x]
‘Some are More Equal Than Others’[xi] – Ethnic Discrimination in Education
Although the four-stream school system seemingly satisfies different types of cultural and religious demands, the curricula of Arab schools are largely organized by a Zionist narrative which omit Arab historical, geographical, and cultural perspectives.[xii] Arabs are underrepresented in governmental educational decision-making bodies, as well as in educational planning and supervision positions, which prevents the interest of the Arabic-speaking community from being asserted both on national and on local levels.[xiii] Thus, despite the wide-range of official responsibilities of the Arab schools’ leaders, they have little influence on decisions concerning their institutions as most educational policies are top-down determined.[xiv]
Inequality is also prominent between Jewish and Arab schools when it comes to budget allocation for advance learning programmes, and to provide programmes supporting students who have fallen behind or children with disabilities.[xv] Moreover, an approximately 30% smaller budget is allocated to the Arab school system in population ratio. Differences in school budgets are tightly connected to inequality of opportunity and quality issues, as Arab schools often have ‘fewer classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and qualified teachers’.[xvi] These factors also result larger classes which hinder the learning of students because they have less individual attention from their teachers. In addition, Arabic-speaking students are required to learn Hebrew too, which is an additional subject for Arab students on top of all other compulsory subjects, yet schools do not receive extra funding to support their learning. [xvii]
The abovementioned factors negatively influence the learning outcomes of Arabic-speaking students which is indicated by the average lower achievement of Arab pupils and students on both national and international exams.[xviii] Arab students are 30% less likely to receive a matriculation certificate (Bagrut) which is needed to enter higher education and certain courses or even jobs.[xix]
Ethiopian students also experience significant discrimination. Although most of them attend Jewish religious schools, particularly the Orthodox Jewish community in particular questions the legitimacy of the minority’s Jewish identity due to their relatively recent presence in Israel and often also because of their darker skin colour.[xx] Racial discrimination, sometimes even by teachers, combined with low socioeconomic background widens the educational gap between Jewish and Ethiopian Israelis and results a considerably large dropout rate (10.5% official dropout and 23% hidden dropout) among Ethiopian students.[xxi] The issues Ethiopian students face are so severe that only ‘30% of twelfth-grade Ethiopian students earn the Bagrut at the level required for university entrance, compared to 65% of the general Jewish student population’ which further hinders Israeli Ethiopeans’ social mobility.[xxii]
Innovation But Not Equal Distribution –Socioeconomic Obstacles in Education
In Israel, socioeconomic inequalities majorly exist along ethnic and religious lines: Arabs and Haredi Jews together constitute approximately 30% of the Israeli population but make up 60% of the poor in the country.[xxiii] The reason behind this overrepresentation varies for the two groups.
As mentioned before, historical hostility between Arabs and Jewish Israelis are still prominent and often result in discrimination towards Arabs. Haredi Jews, on the other hand, are stuck in lower socioeconomic positions because of their strictly orthodox religious lifestyle in which men dedicate their life for reading the Torah and the community lives in relative segregation.[xxiv]
While Jewish Israelis usually receive quality education for years and live in families where both parents work, Arab and Haredi communities frequently lack quality education, have lower paid jobs, and live in families where either one or both parents are unemployed.[xxv] Low socioeconomic background is generally in negative correlation with dropout rates, while the parents’ level of education is also a significant factor; the higher the number of years the parents attended school, the lower their children’s chances to drop out.[xxvi] This shows a vicious circle of social immobility which widens the educational and socioeconomic gap between the ethnic and religious groups in Israel.
However, not only are parents’ financial and educational statuses determinant in dropout rates. Since funding for general education institutions is allocated by local governments, schools in less affluent areas are frequently underfunded and cannot always provide quality education. This means that funding for Arab schools in Arab neighbourhoods can be 10 or even 20 times lower than in wealthier areas.[xxvii] Moreover, the population of Arab areas is increasing, which means a significant rise in student numbers in Arab schools.
In light of the above, the redistribution and reconsideration of funding allocation is becoming urgent to ensure quality education to all students in these areas.[xxviii] Financial issues affect the quality of Arab schools negatively, which can have a demotivating effect on Arabic-speaking student to continue or finish their studies. It gives some hope, however, that dropout rates have significantly declined since 2003 among Arabic-speaking students and fallen from 15.8% to 8.1% thanks to some reforms targeting the Arab education sector.[xxix]
When it comes to the Haredi community, boys from age 14 often transfer to yeshiva schools which are not supervised by the Israeli Ministry of Education. These schools follow a specific curriculum which rather focuses on religious studies and gives little space to regular school subjects. This means that Haredi students usually perform worse than other Jewish Israelis on international exams neither do they attain the Bagrut, which prevents them from entering higher education.[xxx]
However, recently the Israeli government has shown some admirable efforts in assisting yeshiva schools to ensure more regular subjects being taught, and thus increasing the chances of young Haredi Jews to pursue higher education and higher paid jobs. The state offered to cover 100% of the funding with an additional stipend for each student at every Haredi school that adopts core subjects in its curriculum, like mathematics or English.[xxxi]
Lacking Technology in the 15th Most Innovative Country – Issues During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic further widened the educational gap along socioeconomic lines. Israel has closed its educational institutions due to the pandemic in March 2020 and continued providing education through remote teaching.
However, many households lacked basic facilities needed for online education (computers, internet access, or even electricity) and even if they had access to them, families often could not afford multiple devices and facilities to support the learning of all their children.[xxxii]
The seriousness of these issues is exacerbated by the fact that students with low socioeconomic statuses are more likely to need assistance or extra attention from teachers which they rarely had the chance to get through online teaching, especially that some teachers also had difficulties adapting to remote teaching.[xxxiii] While some only struggled with getting used to the online platforms, others simply did not have access to appropriate facilities necessary for remote teaching.
In addition, online teaching was problematic in the Haredi Jewish community also because they traditionally avoid using internet, and although the number of internet users in the community is increasing, it is still not without obstacles for some children to participate in online education. A few Haredi schools simply refused to stop in-person teaching.[xxxiv]
Troubled Territories – Area C
Eventually, it is important to take a look at the West Bank territories (the majority of Palestine’s territory) occupied by Israel with almost only Arab residents. Legal, administrative, and governmental (and so many other) statuses of this region are complex and cluttered, but it is clear that Israel have significant influence over the region in every aspect.
The occupied West Bank territories were divided into three administrative regions in 1995, Area A, B and C.[xxxv] To put it simply, Area A is majorly governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), while in Area B the PA has similar responsibilities, except for the security of the area which is managed by Israeli authorities. Area C, which means roughly 60% of the West Bank’s territories, is under Israeli control apart from certain civilian issues such as education and healthcare.
Despite it seems that Israel does not have much to do with education in the West Bank, they do have a tremendous amount of indirect influence over these civilian sectors just by controlling land or constructions in Area C. Besides, international law also identifies some responsibilities for Israel as it states that territorial occupants need to ensure human rights and dignified living conditions for people subjected to occupation.[xxxvi]
The education sector in Area A and B are affected by the overwhelming control of Israeli authorities in Area C, since the isolated regions with no airport or bay can only get supplies through Area C. However, this article primarily focuses on Area C as the education sector faces the most severe problems there.
Area C of the occupied West Bank territories hosts approximately 325 thousand Jewish Israelis, 180 thousand Palestinians, and 20 thousand Bedouin and other shepherding Israelis.[xxxvii] Israeli control limits non-Israeli settlement and certain activities, such as construction and infrastructural matters. These measures often leave non-Jewish villages without basic utilities and services, such as water, electricity, healthcare, education, or appropriate public transportation and roads.[xxxviii] Moreover, Israeli authorities have the right to demolish Palestinian and Bedouin settlements along Israeli interest and relocate their population.[xxxix] Some Bedouin villages are demolished simply because the Israeli authorities do not acknowledge them as official settlements. [xl]
Despite the lack of direct Israeli influence on education, these conditions prevent mostly Palestinian and Bedouin children from attending school among appropriate conditions, or even from attending at all. The demolition of settlements endangers educational institutions as well, while new schools can rarely be built due to the restriction of non-Jewish construction. This leaves entire villages without any form of educational services. In 2012 alone, 37 schools were facing demolition because they were built without a permit from Israeli authorities.[xli]
The lack of infrastructure is also challenging for non-Jewish children to physically get to school, as public transportation and school buses are limited in the area.[xlii] 189 out of 532 settlements do not even have a primary school at all,[xliii] which means that many children have to walk up to two hours each way to get to school.[xliv] This often becomes impossible when weather conditions are hostile.[xlv]
In addition, it is often unsafe for small children to travel alone to school due to frequent atrocities targeting Palestinian and Bedouin children, some of which is committed at military checkpoints where children often need to cross to get to school.[xlvi] During school raids, the Israeli military frequently arrests several students and confiscate school equipment. These dangers discourage parents to send their children to school, especially their daughters. [xlvii]
Girls’ education is particularly endangered as some traditional societal norms prohibit them to travel alone and when no male family member can accompany them on the way, they cannot attend school.[xlviii] In addition, early marriage, or the need for them to stay home to help take care of their grandparents or disabled siblings, for instance, also results in many girls never attending or failing to finish their education. [xlix] However, it is not genuine to girls to potentially drop out or miss school to help out their parents.[l] As the socioeconomic gap widens between Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish citizens and residents, some families become unable to afford school equipment, basic needs like shoes,[li] or public transportation, thus they cannot send their children to school despite education itself is free.[lii]
These circumstances negatively influence the quality of education which results in common disinterest in education among children in Area C which can result in children leaving school, while the ones who can continue with their studies often do this in poor-equipped educational institutions.[liii] Dropout rates are particularly high among Bedouin children: only 32% of them get a matriculation certificate compared to 68% of the Israeli population (excluding the Haredi community). [liv] These issues were exacerbated by schools shifting to online teaching during COVID-19, as Bedouins frequently live in tents without any electricity, internet access, and computers.[lv] ‘About 100,000 Bedouin students and about 2,000 Bedouin college students from the Negev’ had severe difficulties to attend school during the pandemic. [lvi]
Finally, it is also important to highlight that education in Area C lacks the adequate financial resources. Most financial support arrive from international organisations, such as the USAID, UNRWA, and the Middle East Quartet.[lvii] However, both these organisations and the PA need to complete prolonged bureaucratic procedures to finance projects and receive permit from Israeli authorities. The difficulties frequently result in organisations abandoning their projects or lead to subsequent delays in project implementation.[lviii]
Israel inarguably has some admirable achievements regarding its education sector. However, policymaking and policy implementation face severe difficulties not only in terms of creating effective and inclusive policies for its ethnically and religiously diverse population, but also because of (unresolved) historical conflicts among the country’s ethnic groups. These clashes are reflected in Israel’s education system where the disadvantage of, for example, Arab or Ethiopian Israeli students is significant compared to Jewish Israeli students. These inequalities are partly indicated by the generally worse performance of Arab or Ethiopian students on both international and domestic exams.
Tackling educational inequalities (or any discriminatory practices embedded into a social, political, or economic system) is a multi-generational project. However tedious, slow, or impossible it seems sometimes to carry on with such an initiative, the current state of the Israeli education will lead to further damage if inequality issues are left unresolved. The vicious circle of poverty, closely intertwined with ethnic lines, cannot break without mutual cooperation, understanding, and the recognition of each other’s grievances. The Israeli government in cooperation with civil society actors must bridge societal gaps and the wide-spread disconnection between ethnic groups and between socioeconomic classes, to build an empathetic and harmonious society.
Of course, issues are more complex than simply setting up a few educational programmes or giving some extra funding for Arabic-speaking schools, for instance. But change must start somewhere, and maybe it has already in the six Hand in Hand Arabic-Jewish schools.[lix] The bilingual privately funded schools work with a multicultural curriculum that aims to advance inclusion and equality in the Israeli society. Hand in Hand does not only initiate productive discussion between ethnic groups but also facilitate their harmonious cohabitation and cooperation to build a healthier society and a peaceful future.
[x] Da’as, Rima’a, and Alexander Zibenberg. “Conflict, control and culture: implications for implicit followership and leadership theories.” Educational Review 73, no.2 (2021): 199.
[xi] Orwell, George. Animal Farm. 1945. Reprint, Boston ; New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Corp, 1945.
[xii] Reingold, Roni, and Lea Baratz. “Arab School Principals in Israel – between Conformity and Moral Courage.” Intercultural Education 31, no. 1 (November 20, 2019): 88.
[xiii] Da’as, Rima’a and Alexander Zibenberg. “Conflict, control and culture: implications for implicit followership and leadership theories.” Educational Review 73, no.2 (2021): 189.
[xiv] Reingold, Roni, and Lea Baratz. “Arab School Principals in Israel – between Conformity and Moral Courage.” Intercultural Education 31, no. 1 (November 20, 2019): 89.
[xv] Da’as, Rima’a and Alexander Zibenberg. “Conflict, control and culture: implications for implicit followership and leadership theories.” Educational Review 73, no.2 (2021): 199.
[xvi] Zeedan, Rami, and Rachel Elizabeth Hogan. “The Correlation between Budgets and Matriculation Exams: The Case of Jewish and Arab Schools in Israel.” Education Sciences, 12, no.554 (2022): 2.
[xvii] Resh, Nura, and Nachum Blass. “Israel: Gaps in Educational Outcomes in a Changing Multi- Ethnic Society.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Race and Ethnic Inequalities in Education, edited by Peter A. J. Dworkin and A. Gary Stevens, 631–94. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019; 671.
[xviii] Da’as, Rima’a and Alexander Zibenberg. “Conflict, control and culture: implications for implicit followership and leadership theories.” Educational Review 73, no.2 (2021): 199.
[xix] Zeedan, Rami, and Rachel Elizabeth Hogan. “The Correlation between Budgets and Matriculation Exams: The Case of Jewish and Arab Schools in Israel.” Education Sciences, 12, no.554 (2022): 2.
[xx] Resh, Nura, and Nachum Blass. “Israel: Gaps in Educational Outcomes in a Changing Multi- Ethnic Society.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Race and Ethnic Inequalities in Education, edited by Peter A. J. Dworkin and A. Gary Stevens, 631–94. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019; 659.
[xxvi] Yanay, Guy, Hadas Fuchs, and Nachum Blass. “Staying in School Longer, Dropping out Less: Trends in the High School Dropout Phenomenon.” Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 2019; 19.
[xxix] Yanay, Guy, Hadas Fuchs, and Nachum Blass. “Staying in School Longer, Dropping out Less: Trends in the High School Dropout Phenomenon.” Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 2019; 9, 11-12.
[xliii] OHCHR. “United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territory | Access to Education in Area c of the West Bank.” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory, July 4, 2017. https://www.ochaopt.org/content/access-education-area-c-west-bank. (Accessed 20 September 2022).
[xlvi] OHCHR. “United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territory | Access to Education in Area c of the West Bank.” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory, July 4, 2017. https://www.ochaopt.org/content/access-education-area-c-west-bank. (Accessed 20 September 2022).
[liii] UNICEF. “State of Palestine: Country Report on Out-of-School Children.” UNICEF, July 2018, 3.; Kadman, Noga. “Acting the Landlord: Israel’s Policy in Area C, the West Bank.” Edited by Yael Stein. B’TSELEM. The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, June 2013. https://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/201306_acting_the_landlord. (Accessed 19 September 2022); 82.
Taliban means suppression of women. Taliban means degrading a woman’s qualities, place and role in society. Taliban means no education or work for women other than housework and childbearing. Taliban means deprivation of women’s fundamental human rights, living in fear and without dignity.
Most Afghans, including some Taliban, do not support excluding women and girls from the education system and are seriously concerned about the consequences for the whole nation.
After the Taliban’s announcement to ban female students from university, male university students walked out of their exam in protest against the Taliban’s decision, and several male professors resigned.
Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar, have voiced their sorrow at the university ban and urged the Taliban authorities to withdraw their decision.
“There is no religious or cultural justification for it,” said 26-year-old Husna Jalal, a Political Sciences graduate from Kabul.
Jalal fled Afghanistan in August last year after the Taliban took over the city of Kabul. Jalal has been working for four years in Kabul after graduating from university, but like many working Afghan women predicted the strict Sharia would be implemented soon after the Taliban took over the country.
“It’s heartbreaking to see my sisters being violated of their fundamental human rights. I saw them marching in the streets crying out for freedom and equality, and how Taliban security forces used violence to break up the group and stop them from practising their freedom of speech”, said Jalal. “People worldwide need to raise their voices for my sisters; the Taliban have taken all our hopes.”
The Taliban, known as the Talib, who sought to end warlordism in Afghanistan through stricter adherence to Sharia since 1996, took control of Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by force in 2021.
For decades, the role of Sharia has become an increasingly contested topic worldwide. The International European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR) ruled in several cases that Sharia is “conflicting with the fundamental principles of democracy”. Some traditional practices comprise severe human rights violations, especially on women and their freedom of education.
When the Taliban came, they abolished the Ministry of Women. Women were gradually withdrawn from television screens. Tens of thousands of women were unemployed in different branches. They were forbidden to go anywhere exceeding 72 km without a mahram. Women are being pulled out of social life. The health services offered to them are limited, their employment opportunities are limited, and their right to education has been taken away.
Taliban’s recent announcement to immediately suspend until further notice women from universities across the country is a blatant violation of their human equal rights consecrated in multiple international treaties worldwide.
“The first commandment of Islam is “read”. Islam urges both men and women to seek knowledge. While the Qur’an addresses human beings, it advises men and women to gain knowledge, find the truth, reveal and develop their own potential, and become perfect human beings,” said PhD holder from Islamic Theology, Dr Ali Unsal in a recent interview for Broken Chalk.
Dr Ali Unsal is an experienced writer, researcher, teacher, and preacher with a strong background in Islamic Theology and Islamic Jurisprudence. Dr Unsal earned his PhD in Islamic Theology and Master and Bachelor of Divinity from top divinity schools in Turkey. He has lived in the US for several years, where he enhanced his academic and professional studies and experience by engaging with both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans via seminars, workshops, counselling, local community services and academic writing. He headed the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies (IITS) in Fairfax, VA.
Dr Unsal organizes panels, seminars and discussions with academicians from different countries, and he is fluent in English, Turkish, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Tatar.
According to Dr unsal, Hz. Muhammad encouraged the education and upbringing of girls, who were especially despised and undervalued throughout history. “For example, in one of his Hadiths, “Whoever raises and disciplines two girls until they reach adulthood, we will be together with that person on the Day of Judgment,” explains Dr Unsal.
“When women came to him and said that he constantly taught men in the mosque and conveyed the message of Allah, but that women were deprived of this, he gave them a special time and gave them a kind of education.
Hz. Aisha, the wife of Muhammad, became one of the most prominent scholars of her society with what she learned from her. Everyone would come and learn from him what he was missing. In the history of Islam, women occupied a significant place in scientific and cultural life. Continuing education in an unofficial structure in the Islamic world and being attached to the teacher rather than to the school made it easier for women to receive education from scholars in their close circles. Among the masters of Tâceddin es-Subki, one of the great Islamic scholars, who listened and learned hadiths, 19 women are mentioned. Suyûtî learned hadith from 33, İbn-i Hacer 53 and İbn-i Asâkir 80 women,” said Dr Unsal.
On August 24th last year, the foreign ministers of the G-7 group of states – an intergovernmental political forum- urged the Taliban to retract the bans on women’s education, warning that “gender persecution may amount to a crime against humanity that will be prosecuted.”
Several media sources reported Taliban forces outside Kabul universities since the ban, stopping women from entering the buildings while allowing men to go in and finish their work.
The Minister of Higher Education, Nida Mohammad Nadim, a former provincial governor, police chief and military commander stands firmly against women’s education, saying it is against Islamic and Afghan values.
“In my opinion, it has nothing to do with Islam,” said Dr Unsal. “Because it totally goes against Pashtun traditions. In that tradition, a woman should only stay at home, cook her food, give birth to a child, and not go out unless necessary. This has nothing to do with Islam. Because the Prophet’s wife, Hatice, was a big businesswoman. Women were present in all areas of social life. In the market, in the mosque. Hz. Ömer appointed a woman named Şifa as an inspector to supervise the bazaar.”
Minister Nadim also told the media that the ban was necessary for several reasons: to prevent the mixing of genders in universities, that women did not comply with the dress code, that female students went to other provinces and lived without their families, and because the study of specific subjects and courses being taught violated the principles of Islam. These reasons do not seem convincing to the world’s public opinion.
Why does the Taliban restrict women’s education? Islam Doesn’t Deny Women Education, So Why Does the Taliban?
“In my opinion, there could be two reasons.,” explains Dr Unsal. “First, there is no state experience. They cannot read the dynamics of society correctly. They still have a tribal mentality. This makes them do very wrong things. They cannot embrace all segments of society.
The second is a kind of shift of perspective or a kind of ignorance. They interpret Islam in line with their own tribal culture. Unfortunately, this is both contrary to the universality of Islam and far from responding to the needs of modern times. Therefore, they act with a radical and marginal interpretation.”
Across the country, the Taliban have banned girls from school beyond the sixth grade, blocked women from their jobs and ordered them to wear a burqa or head-to-toe clothing in public. Women have also been banned from parks and gyms.
“Many young girls are traumatized when held. Some families in the news say that their daughter is constantly crying and cannot be comforted. Young people and families are worried about their future,” said Dr Unsal.
“Our sisters, our men have the same rights; they will be able to benefit from their rights … of course, within the frameworks that we have,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Despite initial promises to a more moderate Sharia rule and to respect women’s rights, the Taliban have implemented their interpretation of Islamic law/Sharia since they took control in August 2021, and evidence continues to emerge that the Taliban are violating the rights of women.
So how can the international community help Afghanistan females?
“EU should stop funding the Taliban’s business. Children from Taliban families should be sent back to Afghanistan to study there, not abroad, said Jalal.
“International donors should identify and exert the leverage they have on the Taliban, whether it’s through diplomatic sanctions, economic sanctions, aid, political pressure, and other means. They should use it to press for concrete commitments on women’s rights that will be meaningful to women and girls and measurable through monitoring,” said Jalal.
According to Dr Unsal, sanctions from international donors might not work. The Taliban has a holding and rugged character. The correct thing would be that Muslim societies, such as the organization of the Islamic Conference or Organisation of Islamic Cooperation or the communities of Islamic scholars do something in collaboration with human rights organizations which will yield faster results.
“The Taliban are disturbed by the world’s criticism of their decisions for their society and the demand for their mistakes to be corrected. They say, “Don’t interfere in our internal affairs”.
Some international universities or organizations may offer training opportunities and provide free lectures, courses and diplomas.
Another thing is that some countries with which the Taliban, not from the Western world, but from the Islamic world, can cooperate can help ease this tension through their scholars,” suggested Dr Unsal.
“Women in Afghanistan are tired of talking and sharing their stories with the foreign press and organizations. They feel like no one is going to help or can’t help,” said Jalal.
Education is an internationally recognized human right essential to Afghanistan’s economic growth and stability. The Taliban are obliged under International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect women’s rights fully. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2003.
The Taliban inherits Afghanistan’s obligations under that Convention, including “pursuing by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women.
Women now need a male guardian to travel more than 48 miles or to undertake basic tasks such as entering government buildings, seeing a doctor or taking a taxi. They are banned from nearly all jobs except medical professions and, until Wednesday, teaching. Women also can no longer visit public parks.
Taliban’s ban on women and girls from education has permanently sentenced Afghan females to a darker future without opportunities.
“Half of society consists of men, and the other half is women. Therefore, girls have the same right to education as boys. There are vital roles that women can play in all areas of life. In some areas, they can do better jobs than men. This decision of the Ministry of National Education of Afghanistan is both a violation of human rights and a misfortune for Afghanistan,” said Dr Unsal.
*The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. The UDHR is widely recognized as having inspired, and paved the way for, the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, applied today on a permanent basis at global and regional levels (all containing references to it in their preambles).
Zambia is a landlocked country located in the south central part of Africa. It has a population of about 18 million according to the world bank. Zambia has one of fastest growing economies in Africa, however, its educational sector faces several of challenges as 60% of the population living below poverty and 40% out of this living in extreme poverty.
Despite the global pandemic, Corona virus, Zambia faces the following problems in its educational sector; lack of qualified teachers, educational materials, financing and lack of adequate school infrastructures. According to Kelly (1992) poverty has stricken the education system in many of African countries, therefore most pupils and teachers are not able to find the basic needs they deserve”. This is true about Zambia, because even though with the existence of the government and organizations to help the welfare of the country, Zambia still needs more interventions to change the current situation in its educational sectors.
Lack of qualified teachers
A large number of teachers at fundamental schools in Zambia in both rural and urban areas are not completely trained or qualified. This affects the quality of the provision of the education framework. The issue is that teachers are not able to teach and cover some topics which they do not fully understand. A case which Hoppock (1966) called academic poisoning where pupils are taught wrong abilities and theories. In regards to this, there is need for teachers to be trained and treat their respective job as professions and not anything else.
Most schools in Zambia do not have adequate educational materials like books, rulers, maps, charts and many other resources needed for the provision of education to children. According to Carmody (2004), education without resources is like education without a future. In this case, Carmody is alleging that quality and sustainable education cannot continue or be given without any formal documentation or resources to back it up. There is need for educational materials at basic level in many schools in Zambia . There is a need to improve the procurement of books and other educational materials in order to improve the standard of the Zambian educational system in both rural and urban areas.
Money is the limiting factor for most of the activities in which we are basically found. When it comes to the educational sector, teachers require salaries and compensation. According to research, there had been a number of strikes made by educators in the teaching profession in trying to request money and complaints on salary delays. These strikes directly affect the provision of the education system in Zambia . Therefore, finances are one of the biggest factors to be paid attention to.
Lack of adequate school infrastructures
A great problem for most people in Zambia is the lack of adequate school infrastructures. Numerous children in Zambia are not able to go to school because they are discouraged by the distance they have to walk to and from their school. Due to this problem some parents fear to send their children of young age to school especially the female pupils. The government and various organizations have taken part in building schools in the country, however there is still a need for more intervention.
It is important that all stakeholders work with the Zambian government to make resources available. Student centered learning approach through improved teacher training courses should be provided to teachers. Lastly, governments, donors, organizations and all stakeholders need to work collaboratively to improve the educational sectors.
The Romanian education system has developed greatly in the past decades, however it still faces many difficulties in providing all people with the right to access to education. According to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, Romania is doing 65% of what it could possibly do with its national income when it comes to ensuring the right to education. Romania ranks at the bottom, of all European countries. This essay explores the main educational issues in Romania, sorted into four main categories: access to education, quality of education, discrimination and violence in education and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on education.
Access to education
Marginalized social groups and minorities face difficulties in exercising their right to education in Romania. In particular, Hungarian and Roma minority children, disabled, rural and poor children, refugees and children who lack birth certificates are the ones who are the most vulnerable and are often left out of education or have less access than the rest of society.
Hungarians are the largest minority group in Romania and even though minority language education is allowed by law for Hungarian students, they often have no access to it due to the shortage of teachers. In addition, classes about Hungarian culture, history and language are in addition to the Romanian curriculum that all students must follow, resulting in higher number of lessons for minority children, bigger workload and thereby lack of equal opportunity.
70% of Roma people live in poverty in Romania according to the World Bank. Poverty limits their access to education as Roma children were found to have lower enrolment rates, higher dropout rates and their illiteracy rate is ten times higher than other students in Romania.
In rural areas, 16% (ages 7-10) and 25% (ages 11-14) of children are not enrolled in primary education while these ratios are significantly lower, 9% and 6% respectively in urban areas. This is mainly caused by the lack of educational institutions in rural areas and inadequate infrastructure to travel to the nearest school.
Disabled children also face difficulties in accessing education in Romania. 40% of children with disabilities are placed in segregated schools or do not participate in education at all, while only 21% of high schools are equipped with access ramps.
In the year between 2019-2020 Romania adopted a new legal framework to enhance the integration of refugees and migrants. However, enrolment for foreign children still remains a challenge as the procedure is regularly delayed and Romanian language education is hardly accessible because of the shortage of staff . Furthermore, migrant children are often enrolled in grades below their age because of their lack of language skills, they experience psychological problems due to leaving their home country and receive no psychological counselling or support.
Finally, even though registration at birth is mandatory in Romania, many children still lack these official documents that prevents them from accessing public services such as education, thereby putting them in a disadvantaged position.
Quality of education
Although the general literacy rate of people over 15 years was 99% in Romania in 2021, a national literacy study in 2022 found that 42% of Romanian students in grade 1 to 8 are functional illiterate, meaning that they are able to read words and texts but have difficulties in interpreting the information.
Dropout rates are the highest in Romania between all EU countries with over 15% in 2021. The Romanian Education Ministry developed the National Program to Reduce School Drop-out to reduce this rate by covering educational expenses. The shortcoming of this policy is that it tries to reduce dropout rates by financial tools, thereby disregarding dropouts caused by pregnancy, child marriage, disability, and other social-cultural and health reasons which cannot be tackled by merely financial tools.
Sanitary conditions are alarmingly poor in Romanian schools. Only 72% of schools had basic drinking water and hygiene services in 2021, which was the lowest in Europe. In 2018, thousands of schools lacked sanitary and fire safety authorization. To ensure the quality and success of education and reduce dropout rates, an undisturbed and well-equipped educational environment is essential.
Romanian students scored on average 50 points below the OECD average on the 2018 PISA test in all 3 categories (reading, mathematics, science). Socio-economic status seemed to be a significant predictor of reading test scores in Romania, as the variation between the top and bottom quarters of economic, social and cultural status is one of the highest of all participating countries. This illustrates the inequality in the quality of education received by different social groups.
In 2022 a new law was made in Romania that ruled sex education can only be taught from grade 8 and with the parents’ written consent. Grade 8 in the Romanian education system corresponds to age 14-15 while in the meantime the proportion of teenage mothers is the highest in Romania from all EU countries. In 2020, 357 children were born to mothers between the age 10 and 14 while this number is well below 120 in all other EU states. Making sex education less accessible leads to and early pregnancy and motherhood which often forces young girls to drop out from school and discontinue their education.
Shortage of qualified teachers, low salaries and low societal appreciation of teachers is an issue in many Eastern-European countries and Romania is no exception. In the academic year 2019-2020, the annual gross starting salary of public-school teachers was around 9000 euros in Romania, one of the lowest in the EU. This means 750 euros per month which is not enough to cover living costs in Romania.
Information Technology (IT) skills and digital literacy are essential in the 21st century. In Romania only 57% of students between 15 and 19 had basic or above basic IT skills, compared to the 82% EU average. This is mostly caused by schools’ lack of adequate equipment and qualified teachers to offer high-quality IT classes. Rural areas are especially lacking digital infrastructure and internet connection.
All these shortcoming of the educational system can be partly explained by the low government spending on education in Romania. In 2020 Romania’s spending on education was the second lowest in the EU with only 3.7% of the country’s GDP compared to the 5% EU average.
Discrimination and violence in education
Roma students experience discrimination in the Romanian education system, just as the minority is often discriminated against in the whole population. Roma children are often put in segregated classrooms despite the 2007 Ministerial Order that banned their segregation which has lacked implementation ever since. Segregated classes have often worse learning environment compared to mixed classes, they lack heating, water and qualified teaching staff more often and therefore have lower academic results and higher dropout rates.
A study showed that 30% of female students experience some form of sexual harassment and abuse throughout their studies while this ratio is 50% for university students. Sexual abuse committed by teachers often remains unreported because of the social status and power of teachers and because of the fear of adverse consequences. Sexual harassment affects children’s physical and mental well-being, increases the chance of depression and can lead to teenage pregnancy, which again, forces girls to drop out from school.
A study from 2022 found that 82% of students have witnessed bullying at school, illustrating the prevalence of the issue. Bullying at school can take various forms such as social exclusion, physical threats and spreading rumours and can have a negative effect on victims’ mental health which in turn affects their academic progress and learning process.
In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and schools around the globe closed and switched to online education to halt the spread of the virus. Online education deepened the gap between urban and rural areas as rural students had significantly less access to internet and digital equipment necessary to participate in classes. In 2021, 87% of urban households had access to internet, while only 73% in rural areas. The Ministry of Education and Research estimated that over 250.000 children had no access to online education during the pandemic because of lack of electricity, equipment or internet. These disadvantaged students from poor areas fell behind with the course materials and without immediate measures, their dropout rates will increase.
Another barrier of online education is the lack of IT skills. 50% of students who did not attend online classes reported that the reason for this was that the teacher did not give classes online. This is mostly caused by teachers’ lack of knowledge on how to teach online and the teachers’ lack of access to internet, equipment, and online educational tools. In addition, 13% of students reported that they did not know how to use online platforms. The pandemic affected the education process of marginalized children more, creating further challenges for them to access education.
Per rispettare gli standard nazionali e internazionali in materia di diritti umani, il Sudafrica deve affrontare diversi ostacoli nella sua sfera educativa. Questo articolo presenterà alcune delle sfide educative più diffuse nel Paese.
Uno dei problemi principali del settore educativo oggi è rappresentato dalle strutture a disposizione degli studenti. È di fondamentale importanza che le scuole includano strutture sicure e protette per i bambini e le attrezzature necessarie agli studenti per proseguire la loro istruzione. Secondo Equal Education (EE, 2016), nel 2013 il ministro dell’Istruzione di base, Angie Montshegka, ha accettato una legge che obbliga le scuole di tutto il Paese a disporre almeno di acqua, elettricità, internet, aule sicure con un massimo di 40 studenti in classe, sicurezza e le strutture necessarie per studiare e praticare diversi sport. Sebbene l’obiettivo sia stato fissato per il 2016, oggi molte scuole hanno problemi ben più gravi di una cattiva connessione a Internet. Il Paese sta cercando di raggiungere gli obiettivi prefissati, ma la strada da percorrere è ancora lunga. Numerosi articoli evidenziano i casi di morte di studenti a causa di infrastrutture inadeguate. Inoltre, le carenze igieniche delle scuole sono un problema che influisce sulla salute degli studenti. Un esempio è dato dai servizi igienici e dalle latrine a fossa, dove gli studenti sono a rischio di problemi di salute a causa dell’igiene inadeguata. Questi ostacoli impediscono agli studenti di concentrarsi sull’istruzione e sullo sviluppo.
Le disuguaglianze sono ampiamente visibili nelle scuole sudafricane. Secondo Amnesty International, i bambini delle prime 200 scuole ottengono punteggi più alti in matematica rispetto ai bambini delle altre 6.600 scuole. Altre statistiche evidenziano che oltre il 75% dei bambini di nove anni non è in grado di leggere in modo significativo. In alcune province, la percentuale raggiunge il 91%. Il sistema educativo si sta ancora riprendendo dall’era dell’Apartheid, con il risultato che i bambini vengono trattati in modo diverso a causa della loro provenienza, della ricchezza o del colore della pelle. The Quality of Primary Education in South Africa, un rapporto dell’UNESCO, afferma che, in teoria, tutti i bambini hanno uguale accesso ai tre livelli di istruzione del Paese. Tuttavia, molti istituti che ospitano studenti provenienti da comunità a basso reddito non sono riusciti a migliorare la qualità dell’istruzione impartita. Il governo deve affrontare il problema della povertà e dell’istruzione.
Inoltre, la qualità dell’istruzione scolastica è un problema prevalente in Sudafrica. Secondo una ricerca condotta da Gustafsson nel 2021, il pensionamento degli insegnanti in Sudafrica raggiungerà il picco massimo entro il 2030, il che comporterà di conseguenza la necessità di nuovi educatori formati e la ristrutturazione di classi e istituti. Attualmente, la metà delle classi ha 30 studenti per classe, ma il restante 50% può superare i 50 bambini in una classe. Per ridurre il numero, si stima che circa 100.000 nuovi insegnanti entrino nel sistema educativo, il che richiede formazione e finanziamenti su larga scala.
Un’altra sfida che il settore educativo sudafricano deve affrontare oggi è la qualità degli insegnanti. Oltre 5.000 degli attuali insegnanti non sono qualificati per la loro professione. Gli insegnanti non sono competitivi sul mercato del lavoro; hanno una scarsa comprensione dei programmi di studio e nessuna competenza pedagogica, il che porta gli studenti a diplomarsi senza le conoscenze necessarie.
Ciclo di analfabetismo
Infine, secondo il rapporto OCSE del 2019, il Sudafrica ha la più alta percentuale di persone di età compresa tra i 20 e i 24 anni nel settore NEET (né occupazione né istruzione). Il Sudafrica ha ottenuto un punteggio di quasi il 50% su questo criterio, il più alto tra tutti i Paesi esaminati dal rapporto dell’OCSE. Il rapporto 2021 del professor Khuluvhe parla della gravità del problema dell’analfabetismo, affermando che, nel 2019, il tasso di adulti analfabeti (di età superiore ai 20 anni) era del 12,1%, ovvero circa 4,4 milioni. Ciò equivale a una parte considerevole della popolazione che non ha raggiunto un livello di istruzione di 7° grado o superiore. L’analfabetismo comporta conseguenze di vasta portata per la popolazione, tra cui una prole non istruita e il mancato contributo alla società, danneggiando così l’economia del Paese. Il Sudafrica deve affrontare questo problema e ridurre il più possibile la percentuale di analfabetismo.
La Federazione Russa è uno Stato relativamente nuovo. È nata 30 anni fa, dopo la dissoluzione dell’Unione Sovietica. La Russia ha un background storico, sociale e culturale unico, con un mix di imperialismo, influenza sovietica e 30 anni di storia moderna. Tutti questi periodi diversi hanno avuto un impatto sul sistema educativo. Ci sono stati numerosi tentativi di riformare il sistema educativo dopo la dissoluzione dell’Unione Sovietica. Alcuni dei più significativi sono stati le innovazioni della legge federale “sull’istruzione” del 1992, tra cui la possibilità di scuole private, nuovi libri di testo e l’autonomia finanziaria delle scuole (Dashchinskaya, 1997); la firma della Dichiarazione di Bologna nel 2003, che ha segnato l’inizio di uno spazio educativo europeo unificato in alcuni istituti russi; e l’introduzione di test standardizzati nazionali, obbligatori dal 2009 (Tsyrlina-Spady, 2016).
Secondo un esperto di istruzione, i cambiamenti fondamentali sono arrivati con le riforme del 2009-2010 e l’emanazione di una nuova direttiva di legge (On Education in the Russian Federation, 2012). Le riforme cruciali hanno incluso il finanziamento delle scuole per studente, nuovi test standardizzati per i diplomati e le matricole, la priorità della vicinanza alla scuola nel processo di ammissione, la creazione e la sostenibilità di ambienti scolastici sicuri, la promozione dell’istruzione inclusiva e la graduale chiusura delle istituzioni educative specializzate.
Cambiamenti di successo come l’investimento consistente nell’istruzione, la creazione di un sistema di valutazione nazionale e l’inclusione dei punteggi ottenuti come indicatori principali per l’ammissione all’università (fornendo pari accesso alle università a tutti gli adolescenti, comprese le famiglie a basso reddito e le persone provenienti da regioni lontane), la copertura quasi universale dell’istruzione prescolare e i finanziamenti pro capite. Questi cambiamenti hanno permesso agli studenti russi di superare i risultati del Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) per il 2019, che, al momento della pubblicazione, mostravano la Russia in testa alla classifica dopo le economie dell’Asia orientale (Shmis, 2021). Tuttavia, lo scopo di questo articolo è quello di far luce su alcuni dei problemi più urgenti del settore educativo russo.
Le sfide dell’educazione inclusiva
Esistono diversi tipi di sfide che ostacolano la realizzazione dell’educazione inclusiva. In primo luogo, non c’è un numero sufficiente di specialisti che possiedono le capacità e le competenze necessarie per lavorare con bambini con bisogni speciali. Uno studio condotto nella regione federale degli Urali ha evidenziato che circa il 60% degli intervistati ha notato l’assenza di personale altamente specializzato (psicologi, pedagogisti sociali, tutor, ecc.), soprattutto nelle scuole delle piccole città e delle aree rurali (Grunt, 2019). In secondo luogo, non c’è abbastanza materiale. Sebbene oggi la maggior parte delle scuole inclusive disponga di ascensori, rampe, porte allargate, cartelli in Braille e accompagnamento sonoro, mancano materiali didattici e metodologici per l’insegnamento ai bambini con bisogni speciali (Mironova, Smolina, Novgorodtseva 2019). In terzo luogo, la burocrazia dell’istruzione è particolarmente onerosa per quanto riguarda l’educazione inclusiva. La distribuzione del potere e delle responsabilità tra insegnanti, tutor, psicologi o assistenti sociali può rappresentare un ostacolo al raggiungimento di accordi. Infine, esiste un enorme divario nella comunicazione, nella collaborazione e nella corretta interazione tra insegnanti e genitori, tra bambini con e senza bisogni sanitari speciali. I conflitti di valore diventano evidenti quando le classi sono mescolate con bambini disabili e… Purtroppo, gli attori coinvolti nelle attività educative non sono sempre disposti a comprendere i cambiamenti avvenuti negli ultimi anni.
Il declino del prestigio degli istituti tecnici e professionali
La tendenza diffusa a conseguire un diploma di istruzione superiore è indubbiamente benefica per la società; tuttavia, ogni moneta ha due facce. Nel caso della Federazione Russa, questa tendenza ha portato a una sovrasaturazione del mercato del lavoro con specialisti con un’istruzione superiore. Questo, a sua volta, ha diminuito il prestigio delle scuole professionali e tecniche e ha portato alla mancanza di specialisti tecnici o di lavoratori con una formazione professionale secondaria (Ivanova, 2016). La Russia ha uno dei più alti tassi di istruzione terziaria tra i membri dell’OCSE, come illustrato nel grafico 1 (OCSE, 2019). Nonostante il calo del prestigio degli studi professionali, i programmi professionali sono ancora relativamente più diffusi che in altri Paesi OCSE.
Risorse: OCSE. (2019). Education at a Glance 2019: Country note. OCSE.
Aumento degli investimenti a seguito delle nuove sfide del sistema educativo
Per aumentare la qualità dell’istruzione russa sono necessari nuovi investimenti. La Russia offre un’ottima infrastruttura digitale, quindi la digitalizzazione e la creazione di piattaforme educative su misura sono solo una questione di investimenti aggiuntivi e di sforzi di collaborazione. È fondamentale adattarsi alle nuove modalità di insegnamento, come i regimi ibridi e online, durante la pandemia COVID-19. L’introduzione di metodi di insegnamento e apprendimento unici consentirà di migliorare la qualità dell’istruzione russa. L’introduzione di metodi di insegnamento e apprendimento unici aumenterà la motivazione e il coinvolgimento degli studenti nel processo.
Insegnare a sviluppare le competenze della vita reale
Dopo la partecipazione degli studenti russi alla valutazione PISA delle capacità di problem solving collaborativo (2015), è stato rilevato il divario negativo più significativo tra i risultati in matematica, scienze e lettura (test fondamentali di PISA) e la capacità degli studenti di risolvere i problemi in modo collaborativo (Shmis, 2021). Poiché si tratta di una delle competenze vitali moderne, le nuove riforme dovrebbero essere adattate per introdurre nuovi aspetti del lavoro collaborativo nelle scuole e renderle un centro per ottenere nuove conoscenze e padroneggiare le competenze necessarie per il mondo moderno.
By Elizaveta Rusakova
OECD. (2019). Education at a Glance 2019: Country note. OECD.
Mironova, M. V., Smolina, N. S., & Novgorodtseva, A. N. (2019). Inclusive education at school: contradictions and problems of organizing an accessible environment (for example, schools in the Russian Federation).
Vasiliev, I. А. (2013). Quality of the school education: subjective view on the education process. Sociological Journal, (4).
Gohberg, L. М., Zabaturina, I. Yu., Kovalava, G. G., Kovaleva, N. V., Kuznetsova, V. I., Ozerova, О. К., & Shuvalova, О. R. (2013). Education in Numbers 2013: brief articles guide. М.: National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, 17.
Mentre l’istruzione francese è prima facie accessibile a tutti, poiché è gratuita dall’inizio fino all’istruzione superiore, i francesi sostengono che il sistema educativo francese conosce molti ostacoli. Ho intervistato francesi che stanno ancora frequentando il sistema educativo francese, sia pubblico che privato, e alcuni che lo hanno terminato da tempo, nella speranza di verificare la pertinenza delle affermazioni.
L’ostacolo più ricorrente che è stato menzionato è lo status degli insegnanti. Gli insegnanti sono sottopagati e sottovalutati. A loro volta, la qualità dell’insegnamento viene criticata perché è poco approfondita e unilaterale. Molte persone con un’istruzione francese hanno sentito di dover seguire perfettamente le aspettative degli insegnanti e di non avere spazio per l’individualità o l’originalità. In particolare, la salute mentale viene trascurata perché gli studenti devono lavorare per molte ore. Allo stesso modo, non c’è supporto psicologico o incoraggiamento generale, poiché il sistema francese è basato sulla competizione e il successo è considerato una responsabilità dello studente. Invece di essere incoraggiati una volta raggiunto un livello accettabile, gli studenti vengono criticati perché non sono migliori. Allo stesso tempo, non c’è comprensione per la stanchezza, la cattiva salute mentale o i disturbi mentali, perché non ci si aspetta che gli studenti chiedano aiuto e vengono respinti quando lo fanno. Un intervistato ha spiegato:
In effetti, l’insegnamento non è incentrato sugli alunni. Al contrario, è costruito su un sistema gerarchico.
Uno studente dell’istruzione pubblica ha anche spiegato di non aver mai ricevuto tutoraggio o informazioni sulle opzioni future, ad esempio su quale programma scegliere per accedere a un lavoro o a opportunità all’estero. Ogni sua decisione dipendeva interamente dalla propria ricerca.
In particolare, è emersa una chiara differenza nelle risposte degli studenti provenienti da scuole pubbliche e private, in quanto i ragazzi che hanno ricevuto un’istruzione privata hanno espresso una soddisfazione complessivamente più elevata. È risaputo che questo divario offre opportunità diverse ai bambini, a seconda del loro background socio-economico. Di conseguenza, è necessaria una riforma sistemica per dare agli insegnanti della scuola pubblica maggiori possibilità di svolgere con successo il proprio lavoro. Questo esempio di rispetto per la professione da parte del governo si rifletterà probabilmente anche sul comportamento dei bambini
Questo formato unilaterale si riflette nei programmi scolastici francesi, che fino al 2021 offrivano solo tre percorsi principali: Letteratura, Economia o Matematica e Scienze. Solo queste tre qualifiche, basate sulla teoria, sono state considerate valide. Per coloro che non si adattano a questa struttura programmatica, orientarsi verso un diploma più pratico e più vicino al mondo del lavoro sarà giudicato negativamente e non all’altezza. In effetti, le scuole francesi sono ai primi posti nella valutazione europea e mondiale rispetto ad altri Paesi che impartiscono ai ragazzi corsi più professionali. In particolare, si può prevedere che questa struttura programmatica sia particolarmente impegnativa per gli individui neurodivergenti. Tuttavia, il recente cambiamento del “baccalauréat” è più vicino a una selezione “à la carte” e consente una maggiore libertà nella costruzione dei corsi; si spera di ridurre al minimo queste critiche.
In particolare, il rapporto mondiale ha identificato i diritti dei disabili nell’istruzione come la questione principale nel 2022. In effetti, le norme francesi sull’integrazione dei bambini disabili nell’istruzione sono note per essere molto confuse e deludenti, e lasciano i genitori senza alcun sostegno. Ci sono ancora progressi da fare, perché l’integrazione di per sé non è sufficiente. Ad esempio, un intervistato ha ricordato che alcuni amici, genitori di bambini con disabilità, si rammaricano della mancanza di personale a scuola per assistere e proteggere i loro figli dal bullismo.
Inoltre, possiamo notare il recente (2021) divieto di indossare il velo musulmano per i minori nelle scuole e per i genitori che li accompagnano. Questo divieto aggiornato segue restrizioni precedenti che sono state criticate come islamofobiche. In effetti, questo divieto pone un peso sproporzionato sulle ragazze musulmane che frequentano la scuola, rispetto agli altri bambini.
Recentemente, gli insegnanti francesi hanno tenuto uno dei più grandi scioperi dell’istruzione per protestare contro la gestione da parte del governo delle misure di Covid-19 nel settore dell’istruzione. Riflettendo sul punto già citato del trattamento inaccurato degli insegnanti, questi lamentano di non essere consultati nelle decisioni del governo, di sentirsi dire di cambiare i corsi all’ultimo minuto, di dover condurre corsi ibridi senza supporto e di non essere sostituiti in caso di malattia. In ultima analisi, questa instabilità sta in gran parte compromettendo l’istruzione dei bambini.
Grazie al suo sistema educativo ben strutturato e severo, la Germania è considerata un Paese dagli standard accademici eccezionalmente elevati. Gli studenti sono valutati rigorosamente in ogni fase della loro istruzione, al punto che se uno studente non raggiunge i voti minimi richiesti in due o più classi, deve ripetere l’intero anno per assicurarsi di soddisfare sempre i requisiti per passare al livello successivo. L’istituzione scolastica tedesca si distingue per la sua forte stabilità occupazionale, per gli educatori qualificati e gratuiti, per i bassi tassi di disoccupazione giovanile, per le classi adattate agli stili di apprendimento dei ragazzi e per il lavoro manuale positivo. La Germania, invece, continua ad avere problemi con il suo sistema educativo.
Struttura del sistema scolastico
La Germania ha un sistema di istruzione secondaria a tre livelli che classifica gli studenti in base alle loro capacità dopo aver terminato la scuola elementare. Questo sistema determina poi se gli studenti avranno accesso o meno all’istruzione superiore. Il sistema scolastico tedesco separa gli studenti in base alle loro capacità educative e il monitoraggio inizia dalla quarta elementare, che è troppo presto.
Gli Stati tedeschi, ad eccezione della Baviera, hanno abbandonato il modello a tre percorsi: Gymnasium a orientamento accademico, Realschule a orientamento professionale e Hauptschule a orientamento professionale. A parte il Gymnasium, i tipi di scuola più comuni ora offerti sono integrati (tutti e tre i percorsi combinati), semi-integrati (Hauptschule e Realschule combinati) e cooperativi (tutti e tre i percorsi combinati) (tutti o due i percorsi combinati con il monitoraggio a partire dal sesto anno).
Inoltre, il sistema educativo a doppio binario divide gli studenti in quelli che sono considerati qualificati per l’istruzione superiore e altri che vengono indirizzati alle scuole professionali dopo aver terminato i dieci anni di scuola, con conseguenti disuguaglianze. Di conseguenza, molti studenti tedeschi abbandonano la scuola e vengono inseriti in programmi di preparazione al lavoro piuttosto che in programmi di formazione professionale. Le differenze nelle tecniche di apprendimento e di valutazione degli studenti, così come le diverse raccomandazioni di tracciamento da parte dei loro insegnanti di scuola elementare, contribuiscono alle sfide educative nell’istruzione secondaria tedesca.
L’istruzione secondaria ha un forte impatto sul percorso di carriera di una persona. Le scuole Gymnasium si rivolgono agli studenti più capaci dal punto di vista accademico e consentono di accedere all’istruzione superiore. Le scuole Realschule si rivolgono a studenti più inclini alle professioni, che portano a programmi di apprendistato, scuole tecniche e accesso ai ginnasi, e le Hauptschule a studenti con scarse capacità accademiche, problemi sociali o comportamentali. Queste costituiscono il background e il successivo punto di partenza per l’ulteriore istruzione e formazione degli studiosi tedeschi. Il sistema educativo tedesco è determinato dai singoli Stati della Germania, con conseguenti significative disparità educative.
In Germania, il rendimento scolastico di un bambino è intimamente legato al background dei suoi genitori e gli immigrati e i loro figli sono colpiti in modo sproporzionato dalla disuguaglianza strutturale. La disuguaglianza nel sistema scolastico tedesco è un problema ben noto. Da decenni gli studi dimostrano che gli alunni provenienti da contesti socioeconomici più privilegiati superano abitualmente i loro coetanei, anche quando hanno attitudini cognitive simili. Il sistema educativo deve affrontare la sfida di creare pari opportunità per individui con background diversi.
Nel 2018, l’UNICEF ha analizzato l’equità educativa dei bambini in età prescolare e scolare in 41 Paesi industrializzati. La Germania si è classificata al centro del gruppo, davanti a Stati Uniti e Australia, ma dietro a economie più piccole come Lituania, Danimarca e il primo Paese, la Lettonia.
Gli studenti immigrati e quelli provenienti da famiglie a basso reddito hanno anche minori probabilità di progredire nell’istruzione, poiché l’istruzione nelle aree rurali della Germania è inferiore a quella delle città. La scuola tedesca è stata anche criticata per aver creato un enorme divario nelle opportunità educative tra i bambini provenienti da famiglie benestanti e quelli svantaggiati o provenienti da famiglie di immigrati. Gli studenti provenienti da un contesto socioeconomico più elevato superano i loro coetanei di livello socioeconomico inferiore con identiche capacità cognitive e hanno anche maggiori probabilità di essere raccomandati per i percorsi educativi più elevati in Germania e di accedere alle università. I bambini provenienti da famiglie di immigrati hanno anche una probabilità quattro volte maggiore di essere colpiti da fattori di rischio sociali, finanziari ed educativi, con gli studenti provenienti dai Paesi dell’Europa occidentale/nordica che hanno una maggiore probabilità di avere una laurea rispetto agli studenti provenienti dall’Europa orientale/Turchia.
È dimostrato che i bambini provenienti da contesti turchi, curdi o arabi – conosciuti in Germania come bambini “migranti” anche se sono immigrati di seconda o terza generazione – sono rappresentati in modo sproporzionato nelle Hauptschule di livello più basso, sottoponendoli a un ciclo di emarginazione.
I bambini immigrati in Germania frequentano la Hauptschule due volte più spesso di quelli provenienti da contesti socioeconomici simili. Nonostante alcuni progressi, i bambini immigrati restano sottorappresentati nei ginnasi di livello più alto. In breve, il sistema educativo tedesco non riesce ad aiutare gli alunni a superare lo svantaggio e l’emarginazione dovuti al loro background, anche come minoranze etniche o religiose.
Diverse scuole elementari e secondarie di Berlino isolano i bambini immigrati dagli studenti di origine tedesca in classi separate, apparentemente perché le loro capacità linguistiche sono insufficienti per le classi regolari. In realtà, nonostante il fatto che parlino il tedesco come seconda lingua, le loro competenze linguistiche sono generalmente sufficienti per frequentare le classi regolari, ma fungono da proxy per la discriminazione basata sull’etnia o su altre caratteristiche discutibili. L’istruzione fornita in queste classi segregate è di gran lunga inferiore a quella fornita nelle scuole regolari. Le pratiche discriminatorie stigmatizzano gli studenti migranti, ostacolano la loro capacità di integrarsi adeguatamente e di contribuire alla società tedesca e violano i doveri della Germania ai sensi dell’articolo 26 del Patto internazionale sui diritti civili e politici, in combinazione con l’articolo 2, che vieta la discriminazione.