Empowering Armenia: A Positive Shift in Education Amidst Challenges

Written by Aneta Orlowska

Armenia, a nation located in the South Caucasus, is experiencing a period of transformation in its educational landscape. In recent years, a combination of technological advancements, international collaborations, and dedicated local initiatives has brought about significant progress. This momentum is especially important as Armenia faces challenges such as an influx of refugees and the need for uninterrupted education. In this article, we will explore the advancements Armenia is making in education and the promising developments that indicate a brighter future for the nation.

Starlink’s Impact: Bridging Educational Divides

One catalyst for change is the arrival of Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation project. This initiative is set to revolutionize education in Armenia by bringing high-speed, low-latency internet to remote areas. It aims to address the connectivity gap that has hindered educational access for many. The impact of this initiative is profound, particularly in rural regions where students have faced limitations in accessing online resources, participating in virtual classrooms, and engaging in distance learning.

With the advent of Starlink, students in remote areas now have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. The newfound connectivity facilitates access to online libraries, research materials, and educational platforms, thereby broadening their knowledge horizons. Virtual classrooms enable interaction with teachers and students globally, fostering a global perspective and cultural exchange.

Furthermore, the low-latency internet provided by Starlink facilitates real-time collaboration, making distance learning more interactive and engaging. Students can ask questions, seek clarification, and receive immediate feedback, thereby enhancing their understanding and retention of the material. The arrival of Starlink signifies a significant leap forward, affirming that technology can bridge educational gaps and create a more equitable learning environment.

Energy-Efficiency Initiatives: A Green Commitment to Education

Armenia is taking steps to prioritize education by implementing energy efficiency initiatives. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union (EU) are collaborating to provide a €25 million loan for energy efficiency renovations in Yerevan’s polyclinics and kindergartens. This initiative aligns with the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Eastern Partnership, with a focus on the flagship project “Investing in a green Yerevan – energy efficiency and green buses.”

The project goes beyond infrastructure improvements and aims to improve the quality of life for patients, healthcare staff, kindergarten children, and teachers. The renovations include upgrading building envelopes, replacing windows, and installing energy-efficient systems. By prioritizing green practices, not only does this initiative reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, but it also creates an environment that promotes learning and well-being.

UNESCO’s Support: Nurturing Educational Continuity for Refugees

Armenia’s resilience is further highlighted by its response to the influx of refugees, particularly from the Karabakh region. Recognizing the urgent need for educational support, Armenia officially sought UNESCO’s assistance, specifically in maintaining educational continuity for displaced pupils. UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, promptly responded, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to education.

In collaboration with national authorities, UNESCO is developing a comprehensive plan of action. This plan focuses on ensuring optimal learning conditions, providing access to remedial or catch-up programs, and offering psychosocial support to help displaced students cope with the challenges they face. The commitment to maintaining educational continuity for refugee children reflects Armenia’s dedication to providing a stable and nurturing environment even in the face of adversity.

Teach For Armenia: A Beacon of Educational Transformation

Amidst these challenges and transformations, Teach For Armenia emerges as a beacon of hope. This nonprofit organization envisions a future where all children, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, have access to an excellent education. With a mission to catalyze a nationwide movement of impact-driven leaders, Teach For Armenia operates the Seroond initiative, a transformation model for public schools in Armenia.

Seroond embodies a holistic approach to education, recognizing that traditional systems may not fully address the diverse needs of students. By prioritizing social-emotional learning alongside academic success, Seroond aims to create a more equitable and effective education system. The program’s focus on individualized learning plans, family support, and a holistic learning environment aligns with Armenia’s commitment to fostering well-rounded and resilient individuals.

Conclusion: A Bright Horizon for Armenian Education

Armenia’s educational landscape is undergoing a positive metamorphosis, propelled by technological innovations, international collaborations, and dedicated local initiatives. Starlink’s arrival brings connectivity to remote areas, leveling the educational playing field. Energy efficiency projects underscore Armenia’s commitment to creating conducive learning environments. UNESCO’s support for refugee education and Teach For Armenia’s transformative initiatives demonstrate the nation’s resilience and dedication to shaping a brighter future through education.

As Armenia continues to navigate challenges, the collective efforts of individuals, organizations, and international collaborations illuminate a path toward a more inclusive, connected, and resilient educational landscape. The progress made in recent times paints a picture of hope and determination—a testament to the transformative power of education in building a better future for Armenia and its children.

The commitment to education in Armenia serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring generations to overcome adversity, embrace knowledge, and contribute to the development of a prosperous society. It is through education that Armenia’s children can find the tools they need to build a brighter future, break the cycle of conflict, and foster peace and stability in the region. With continued support and investment in education, Armenia can overcome its challenges and create a society where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Together, we can ensure that education remains a cornerstone of progress and a catalyst for positive change in Armenia.

References

Cover Image: “Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Armenia” by Asian Development Bank via Flickr

Educational Challenges in the Faroe Islands

Written by Anna Strunk

Nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The archipelago of 18 islands is populated by around 52,000 habitants, most of which speak the local tongue of Faroese. Despite its isolated and small territory, as well as their small number of inhabitants, Faroese people have a quality of life that excels that of many other countries. For instance, the unemployment rate reached a record low of 0.6% in June 2023, one of the lowest among European countries. The Faroe Islands also possess one of the lowest crime rates in the world, making it an exceedingly safe place to live and travel to. In regard to education, another crucial quality-of-life indicator given its pivotal role in empowering individuals, fostering economic prosperity, and enhancing social well-being, the Faroe Islands’ schooling system is based on the belief that everyone should have equal access to educational attainment. This translates into public free education for the whole population at all levels, from primary school to higher education. However, that being said, education in the archipelago has its problems and challenges, as pointed out by a Faroese student who moved abroad for higher education interviewed for this article, such as the limited university degrees or the nature of the small communities negatively affecting young students.

Nature of small and dispersed communities

An important topic which emerged from the interviews was the nature of the small communities in the Faroe Islands affecting kids’ academic success and well-being in school. Much research has looked into the influence of community type on a child’s academic achievements and social-behavioral skills, among others, and although none have looked at it in the specific case study of the Faroe Islands, one can draw conclusions for it too. For instance, due to their small numbers, the Faroese live in small close-knit communities, in which everyone knows each other. This means that many parents and teachers had relationships or mutual associations before they created a parent-teacher relationship. This may be good, as much research has shown that “positive connections between parents and teachers have been shown to improve children’s academic achievement, social competencies and emotional well-being”[i].

Conversely however, if a teacher harbors negative perceptions of a student’s parents, this can lead to (sometimes unconscious) stigmatization of certain children through biased teacher-student interactions possibly resulting in lower grades. For instance, the interviewee mentioned an instance in which the daughter of a known shoplifter in the Faroe Islands received stricter teaching in which it was harder for her to pass her assignments just because her last name was associated with her dad’s criminal record. Similarly, in one another instance recollected, the daughter of a beloved teacher completed high school with minimal effort due to the positive associations teachers had with her dad. Furthermore, adding to the bias problem related to pre-existing negative perceptions between teachers and parents, Witte finds that small and less densely populated communities, such as those found in the Faroe Islands, experience lower quality parent–teacher relationships than big cities, which she speculated might be due to factors such as less and limited access to partnership-building opportunities and support in rural and town areas compared to big cities[ii].

While primary schools are very accessible, with many of them throughout the various villages or even teachers traveling to kids’ homes, there are less options for gymnasium, which means students and parents have to travel greater distances to go to school or interact with teachers, potentially leading to lower attendance rates and contributing to academic difficulties, or making it less likely for parents to attend ceremonies which involve them in their child’s educational upbringing. Therefore, the nature of the small and dispersed communities in the Faroe Islands can affect kids negatively both due to pre-existing negative associations between parents and teachers, as mostly pointed out by the interviewee, as well as due issues such as the distance between schools and families, which can limit parent-teacher time for collaborative, relationship-building meetings.

Reliance on other countries for educational resources

Another main issue pointed out by the interviewees is the reliance of the Faroe Islands on Denmark and the rest of the Nordic community for educational resources and opportunities. One of the most straightforward examples of this reliance is the fact that University of the Faroe Islands (Fróðskaparsetur Føroya, in Faroese), located in the capital city of Tórshavn, only offers 16 bachelor’s degree options. This means that many students seeking a (specific) higher education after high school are forced to move to another country, often mainland Denmark, in order to pursue their choice of studies. For instance, in the academic year of 2016/2017, 1,202 students pursued their bachelor’s degree in Denmark, 173 somewhere else, and only 996 stayed in the Faroe Islands.

The necessity of relocating abroad for educational pursuits may cause disparities in the accessibility of higher education depending on socioeconomic background, as not everyone has the economic and social means to depart from the archipelago and leave friends and family behind in pursuit of advanced studies. This is most evident by the fact that Faroese people get married and have kids very early on. The interviewee pointed out that some of their friends wanted to study medicine abroad with them, but due to starting families right after high school, leaving the country was not a viable option, and thus had to give up their educational dreams and study something more accessible within the archipelago. However, the effects of socioeconomic background on the possibilities for studying abroad in regard to the Faroe Islands are yet to be researched in-depth.

This trend regarding the expatriation of Faroese students has been on the downturn however, as in 2020 1,018 students stayed in the archipelago while only 767 went elsewhere. As recounted by Linda Klein in an article for DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), this is most likely due to young people in the Islands starting to see a future at home: the University has added new degree opportunities in recent years, and a new dorm has been built for students of the University of the Faroe Islands, making it easier and cheaper for students to find their own place in the capital. However, even if the trend is in the downturn, the reasons have not been researched in-depth and the number of students who must leave the Faroe Islands to study is still quite significant. Thus, the government needs to continue to ease the difficulty of choice young people face in the Faroe Islands between their home, family, and friends, and the pursuit of higher education for better job opportunities later in life.

Another facet of this reliance on Denmark, other Northern countries and the English-speaking world in general is the fact that little books and other educational materials are written in Faroese, and more recently more English materials have been introduced in the classroom. Danish has for most of recent history been a principal language in the Faroe Islands, with most of the population speaking it fluently, and has so far coexisted without marginalizing and diluting the Faroese language.

However, with the introduction of English into classrooms, there’s a good likelihood that the Faroese are to become a trilingual society, as evidenced already by young people code-switching between Faroese and English in everyday conversations, and sometimes even only speaking in English. If this trend follows them into adulthood, Rakul Skaale Andreasen argues in her thesis that “it might mean that English will replace Faroese in the future”[iii]. Therefore, less and less people speak Faroese as fluently as they used to, which was pointed out by the interviewee when mentioning that kids nowadays have to be reminded of common words such as ‘airport’, as they only remember it in English. This has been shown to have negative effects on people’s sense of belonging, community, and inclusivity, as good proficiency in the national language contributes to these factors[iv].

Ultimately, university students being forced to an extent to move to other countries and thus receive education in a foreign language, as well as the large-scale introduction of school materials in English, violates Faroese people’s right to be taught in their mother tongue, a right stressed in many international human rights documents and conventions such as Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights and European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. However, more research into the topic is needed, as well as its effects, with Skaale Andreasen’s thesis offering a steppingstone into this field.

Conclusion

Although education in the Faroe Islands is that corresponding to one of general quality, it has many issues which need to be addressed. Of course, given the fact that the Faroese are small in numbers and the territory is dispersed in various islands, the education system cannot be expected to be perfect with all opportunities larger communities with more people can offer. However, the problems these characteristics give rise to need to be identified in order to minimize them, and whether some of those outlined in this article are anecdotal evidence from first-hand accounts or a symptom of a wider problem remains to be studied. Therefore, in order to make the system as accessible as possible and foster students’ well-being to the maximum extent, more research is needed, as without it, it is way more difficult to pinpoint the problems and address them. In this sense, the lack of research could be argued to be one of the main challenges to an ever-improving Faroese education system, which adapts to the various situations and challenges of the time.


References

[i] Sheridan, S. M. (2018). Establishing healthy parent-teacher relationships for early learning success. Early Learning Network. https://earlylearningnetwork.unl.edu/2018/08/29/parent-teacher-relationships/

[ii] Based on findings by Kushman & Barnhardt, 2001.

[iii] Breum, M. (2020). Færøsk in a nutshell. Truer engelsk færingernes sprog? Uddannelses- Og Forskningsministeriet. https://ufm.dk/uddannelse/videregaende-uddannelse/priser-og-konkurrencer/specialekonkurrence-om-rigsfaellesskabet/2020/faerosk-in-a-nutshell-truer-engelsk-faeringernes-sprog. Article on Rakul Skaale Andreasens’ thesis about the attitude of young Faroese towards Faroese, English and Faroese-English code switching.

[iv] Verbal Planet. (n.d.). The Connection Between Language and National Identity. Retrieved October 29, 2023, from https://www.verbalplanet.com/blog/languages-and-national-identity.asp#:~:text=Language%20as%20a%20Source%20of%20Pride%20and%20Identity%3A&text=Proficiency%20in%20the%20national%20language

Cover Image by Max Fischer via Pexels

Press Release: International Day for Education

Children in classroom with food

On the 24th of January, the world celebrates the importance of education for peace and development with the International Day of Education. In light of this celebration, Broken Chalk reiterates the importance of education as a human right, and reaffirms its mission to address human rights violations in the educational field today. 

UNESCO has declared the theme for this year ”Learning for Lasting Peace” and is dedicating this year’s International Day of Education to the crucial role education and teachers play in countering hate speech. Education is a powerful tool that has the potential to influence future societies. If inclusive and of quality, it promotes understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among individuals and communities.

Today, a staggering 250 million children and youth find themselves out of school, while 763 million adults grapple with illiteracy. Access to education is highly unequal, meaning not every child has the same opportunity for development. Broken Chalk deems this situation unacceptable, recognizing that the right to education is being violated on a massive scale.

Broken Chalk reiterates its commitment towards Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG4), in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. Considering the theme of International Day of Education 2024, “Learning for Lasting Peace”, Broken Chalk recognises that the worryingly high number of international conflicts in the last year has detrimentally affected the ability of people to access equitable and quality education. Broken Chalk calls for all stakeholders to do their utmost to focus on peaceful resolutions and policies in order to allow for greater educational accessibility and peace for students around the world.

On this International Day of Education, it is essential to recognise the importance of teachers for their role in the journey towards inclusive and equitable education. Regrettably, there is a growing shortage of teachers across the world, significantly impacting educational access and quality. Broken Chalk commits to continuing its practice of publishing “Educational Challenges” articles. Broken Chalk hopes that these articles will bring to light the difficulties teachers and other stakeholders face in their respective countries. By ensuring that the narrative around education development is broadened to include the perspectives and challenges of teachers, Broken Chalk believes that there will be more significant progress towards achieving universal education accessibility, quality and equity.

In addition to its ongoing efforts, Broken Chalk will publish several articles in celebration of the International Day of Education. Broken Chalk will continue to raise awareness, encourage dialogue, address human rights violations in education, and drive action to achieve quality education for all. 

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk

Challenges in Guinea’s Education System

Written by Merve Tiregul

Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a country located on the west coast of Africa with a population of 13.53 million[i]. The region is known for hosting various ancient empires and civilisations, such as the Ghana and the Mali Empire, and a wide range of ethnic groups with historical roots, like the Fulani, Mandinka, and Susu people[ii] [iii] [iv]. In the late 19th century, Guinea came under French control with European powers, particularly France, establishing colonies in the region[v]. Guinea gained independence from France on October 2, 1958, under the leadership of Ahmed Sékou Touré, who became the country’s first president[vi]. It was the only French West African colony to choose immediate independence rather than continued association with France[vii].

However, Touré’s presidency grew to be authoritarian and was marked by political repression, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement[viii]. Touré’s policies led to the international isolation of Guinea and the country becoming one of the poorest in the region[ix]. Following Touré’s death, the country continued to struggle with poor macroeconomic performance, weak governance structures, and political instability in the 1990s[x]. In 2010, Guinea made considerable progress with a new constitution and democratic elections[xi]. However, the country faced political upheaval with a coup d’état in September 2021, leading to a fluid and unstable political landscape once again [xii]. The remnants of colonialism have left enduring imprints on the nation’s history, politics, and education system, contributing to structural challenges that still persist. Today, Guinea stands as one of the least developed nations globally, and the current political instability poses a substantial barrier to achieving widespread education access within the country [xiii].

While strides have been made to increase access to education, there is still ample room for improvement. Access to quality education is unequally distributed, especially in rural areas, leading to disparities in enrolment rates and learning outcomes. Although primary education for Guinean children is free and compulsory, the country struggles with extremely low enrolment and completion rates [xiv]. This is due to various factors such as economic barriers, traditional gender roles, cultural norms, and lack of infrastructure. This article aims to delve into the educational challenges in Guinea, shedding light on key issues that demand attention.

Lack of Infrastructure

The lack of adequate infrastructure in schools is a great concern in Guinea. Although the Guinean government made promises to increase the budget for education by 20% per international standards, it has been declining since 2020 to 10.2%, getting close to an all-time low [xv] [xvi]. Poorly equipped classrooms, libraries, and sanitation facilities hinder the quality of education and demotivate children from going to school. Many schools face a shortage of essential learning resources such as textbooks, reference materials, and teaching aids. The lack of these resources hampers the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes [xvii].

The lack of infrastructure also has a direct effect on the gender disparity in accessing education. As per the United Nations Children’s Fund, approximately 10% of female children in Africa miss or drop out of school due to not having access to proper restroom facilities during menstruation[xviii]. In fact, following improvements in school sanitation, Guinean girls’ enrolment rates witnessed a 17% increase from 1997 to 2002, demonstrating the crucial role sanitation facilities play in girls’ access to education [xix].

The insufficient infrastructure is particularly pronounced in rural regions making it harder for children to attend school regularly. This issue is particularly critical given that approximately 62% of the population in Guinea resides in rural areas [xx]. The country has a predominantly agrarian economy, with agriculture being a primary source of livelihood for a significant portion of the population. Additionally, Guinea has experienced relatively limited urbanisation and the pace of rural-to-urban migration has been slow. Unfortunately, ensuring universal access to education is significantly more difficult in rural areas where the majority of Guineans live. Schools are usually hard to reach because of long distances and insufficient transportation networks, such as roads and public transportation. Moreover, improving the quality of education proves notably challenging in Guinea’s rural areas. The lack of qualified teachers, adequate classrooms, educational materials, and sanitary facilities poses an even more significant problem in these regions compared to urban areas [xxi].

Quality of Education

The shortage of qualified teachers in Guinea is a pressing concern regarding the quality of education. Many schools, especially in rural areas, face difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers with proper qualifications. The average classroom consists of 80 students and only one teacher[xxii]. Large student-teacher ratios make it challenging for educators to provide individual attention to students. The Education Systems Analysis Programme report has shown that in 2019, a mere 45% of students who completed primary school demonstrated satisfactory proficiency in reading and only 32% exhibited sufficient skills in mathematics[xxiii]. This data illustrates the importance of the teacher shortage problem given its direct influence on learning outcomes.

Economic Barriers

Economic constraints pose significant challenges to families striving to provide education for their children. A poverty measurement survey conducted by Unicef in 2020 has shown that around half the population of children in Guinea live in poor households [xxiv]. Educational expenses, such as textbooks, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation impede access to education for many Guinean children. Moreover, many families in Guinea rely on agriculture or informal sector activities for their livelihoods. Sending a child to school means diverting labor from economic activities, which can be a significant opportunity cost for families dependent on daily wages.

Economic barriers also have a direct impact on the gender disparity regarding access to education. If a low-income family has both male and female children, they often prefer sending their boys to school while girls stay home to help with chores. Boys are regarded as a better investment than girls and their education is therefore deemed more valuable for low-income families, especially in rural areas [xxv].

Boys in a classroom. Guinea, June 2015, by GPE/Tabassy Baro via Flickr

Gender Disparities

While primary and secondary schools have become more accessible for Guinean girls since the 1980s, gender disparity in education remains a significant challenge in Guinea. When it comes to enrolment and completion rates, especially at the primary and secondary levels, there is a wide gap between boys and girls. In 2012, the rate of completion for primary school among females stood at 61.5% [xxvi]. Regarding secondary school participation, the net enrolment for males was 40.5%, whereas for females, it experienced a discouraging decline to 25.9% in 2016 [xxvii]. As of 2020 data, it was estimated that 37.8% of boys complete lower secondary school in Guinea, whereas the rate is 28.5% for girls [xxviii]. Notably, the disparity in completion rates between boys and girls stands at 9.3, surpassing the Sub-Saharan Africa aggregate gap of 3 [xxix]. When it comes to adult literacy, the gap between men and women stands at 29.9 which is larger than the gap of the Sub-Saharan Africa aggregate, 13. While 61.2% of Guinean men can read and write, the literacy rate is notably lower for women at 31.2%[xxx].

The gender gap in education has a large impact on the employment and financial independence of women. Since 1990, there has been a decline in the participation of women in the labor force in Guinea. In 2022, the participation rate in the labor force was 63.7% for men, whereas it was 41.7% for women [xxxi]. Education and literacy also play a significant role in the social standing of women and the extent to which women are empowered to contribute to and influence key aspects of their family life. In 2018, only 30.4% of Guinean women were involved in making major decisions in the household, such as household purchases, decisions about their healthcare, and visits to family, relatives, and friends [xxxii].

A 2008 research conducted by Tuwor and Soussou on gender discrimination and education in West Africa reveals persistent challenges affecting girls’ education[xxxiii]. These obstacles include cultural beliefs, misinterpretation of religious teachings, parents with limited literacy and education, and economic constraints. Families are often worried that their girls will lose their traditional values and will not make suitable wives if they receive an education. The study suggests that within Sub-Saharan Africa, the society reinforces the idea that a woman’s primary role is within the household and that girls should uphold traditional roles as brides, mothers, and domestic labourers. Due to these cultural norms and gender roles, girls are forced into child marriages, pregnancies, and physical and sexual violence within those marriages which prevent them from going to school [xxxiv]. Data collected by UNICEF from 2008 to 2012 supports this by revealing that 35.6% of female teenagers were married during this period[xxxv]. While the rate of adolescent pregnancies has decreased since 2010, 115 of every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in Guinea in 2021, which is still 2.7 times more than the world average[xxxvi].

Additionally, household chores, caring for younger siblings, and cooking are other domestic responsibilities expected from girls which hinder their ability to attend school. According to the same study, the concern that their girls might get sexually assaulted or even raped is another reason why Guinean parents are reluctant to send their girls to school [xxxvii]. An empirical research conducted by Coleman in 2017 has revealed that it is, in fact, common for teachers to demand sexual favours from female students for a passing grade with little ramifications[xxxviii]. Overall, traditional gender roles, cultural norms, child marriage, and gender-based violence are all serious obstacles to girls’ access to education.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Guinea faces a wide variety of educational challenges that demand immediate attention and collaborative solutions. In order to achieve universal access to education, it is crucial for the government to address the issues of qualified teacher shortages, inadequate infrastructure,  economic barriers, and gender disparities. As we envision a future where every Guinean child has equal access to quality education, collaborative efforts between government bodies, communities, and international partners become paramount. Increasing the budget for education, investing in teacher training programs, improving infrastructure, and leveraging technology for educational enhancement are essential steps in the right direction. Moreover, the acknowledgment of the unique challenges faced by Guinean girls and women must be at the forefront of educational reforms. Gender-sensitive policies, community engagement, and awareness initiatives are vital components in dismantling barriers and fostering a more inclusive educational landscape. By overcoming these challenges and prioritising education, Guinea can lay the groundwork for innovation, economic growth, and social cohesion, and promise a better future for its youth.

References

[i] World Bank. (2022). Population, total – Guinea. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=GN

[ii] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1998, July 20). Ghana | History, Culture & Legacy. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Ghana-historical-West-African-empire

[iii] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2023, December 4). Mali empire | History, Rulers, Downfall, Map, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Mali-historical-empire-Africa

[iv] Guinea | Map, Flag, Population, People, Religion, & Facts. (2024, January 10). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Guinea/People

[v] O’Toole, T. E. (2023, June 9). History of Guinea | Events, people, dates, & facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/history-of-Guinea

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Schmidt, E. (2009). Anticolonial nationalism in French West Africa: What made Guinea unique? African Studies Review, 52(2), 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1353/arw.0.0219

[viii] Pace, E. (1984, March 28). Ahmed Sekou Toure, a Radical Hero. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/03/28/obituaries/ahmed-sekou-toure-a-radical-hero.html

[ix] Farah, D. (2000, November 9). Leader keeps tight grip on Guinea. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/11/09/leader-keeps-tight-grip-on-guinea/c09726c4-1247-471c-880d-3c6c91592178/

[x] United Nations Development Programme. (2017). Country programme document for Guinea (2018-2022). Retrieved December 13, 2023, from https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/2022-10/cpd_guinea_2018-2022.pdf

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Samb, S. (2021, September 6). Elite Guinea army unit says it has toppled president. Reuters. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/heavy-gunfire-heard-guinea-capital-conakry-reuters-witness-2021-09-05/

[xiii] Samb, S. (2021, September 6). Elite Guinea army unit says it has toppled president. Reuters. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/heavy-gunfire-heard-guinea-capital-conakry-reuters-witness-2021-09-05/

[xiv] The World Bank. (2019). Guinea Education Project for Results in Early Childhood and Basic Education (. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/pt/292711553199830295/pdf/Project-Information-Document-Guinea-Education-Project-for-Results-in-Early-Childhood-and-Basic-Education-P167478.pdf

[xv] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xvi] MacroTrends. (n.d.). Guinea education spending 1991-2023. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/GIN/guinea/education-spending

[xvii] The World Bank. (2019b). Project Appraisal Document: Guinea Education Project for Results in Early Childhood and Basic Education. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/490581562983276735/pdf/Guinea-Project-for-Results-in-Early-Childhood-and-Basic-Education.pdf

[xviii] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xix] Lafraniere, S. (2005, December 23). Another school barrier for girls: no toilet. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/23/world/africa/another-school-barrierfor-african-girls-no-toilet.html?_r=0

[xx] The World Bank. (n.d.). Rural population (% of total population) Guinea. World Bank Open Data. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS?locations=GN

[xxi] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xxii] Three ways people are improving education in Guinea. (2017). The Borgen Project. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://borgenproject.org/education-in-guinea/

[xxiii] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] UN. (2016) UN data. Retrieved from https://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=GUINEA

[xxviii] UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). UIS.Stat Bulk Data Download Service. Retrieved December 12, 2023 from https://apiportal.uis.unesco.org/bdds.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] International Labour Organization. “ILO Modelled Estimates and Projections database (ILOEST)” ILOSTAT. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://ilostat.ilo.org/data/.

[xxxii] Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). (n.d.). Women participating in the three decisions (own health care, major household purchases, and visiting family) (% of women age 15-49). Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://genderdata.worldbank.org/countries/guinea/#:~:text=28.5%25%20of%20girls%20and%2037.8,%2DSaharan%20Africa%20aggregate%2C%203

[xxxiii] Tuwor, T., & Soussou, M. (2008). Accessing pupil development and education in an inclusive setting. International Journal of Inclusive Education. 12(4), 363-379.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

[xxxv] UNICEF World Summit for Children. (2016). Plan of action for implementing The world declaration on survival, protection and development of children in the 1990s. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/wsc/plan.htm#Basic

[xxxvi] United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects

[xxxvii] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xxxviii] Ibid

Cover Image: “A classroom in session at Kigneko School; Dabola Area, in Guinea.” by GPE/Adrien Boucher via Flickt

پناہ گزین ٹیچر میلک کیماز کے ساتھ انٹرویو

میلک کیمازترکی سے تعلق رکنے ولا ایک پناہ گزین ہے اور اس وقت ایمسٹرڈیم کے ایک بین الاقوامی ہائی اسکول میں ریاضی کے استادنی کے طور پر کام کرتی ہے۔ اسکول میں وہ MAVO, HAVO اور VWO کےطلباء کو ڈچ میں ریاضی سکھاتی ہے۔

How did you end up in the Netherlands?

آپ نیدرلینڈ میں کیسے آئے؟

میلک اپنے شوہر کے ساتھ ترکی سے بھاگ گئی تہی اور ہالینڈ آنے سے پہلے، وہ تین سال تک عراق میں رہے، جہاں میلک نے ریاضی کے استادنی کے طور پر وظیفہ انجام دیا۔ جب میلک حاملہ ہوئیں، تو وہ جانتی تہی کہ ترکی واپس جانا اور عراق میں رہنا اب کوئی آپشن نہیں ہے۔ وہ اپنی بیٹی کے بہتر مستقبل کے لیے کچھ کرنا چاہتی تھی۔ پہلے انھیں اندازہ نہیں تھا کہ وہ کہاں جا سکتے ہیں۔میلک نے بتایا کہ، “ہمارے پاس کسی یورپی ملک کا ویزا نہیں تھا اور نہ ہی امریکہ جانے کے لیے گرین کارڈ”۔ انٹرنیٹ پر راہ حل کی جانج پرتال میں کچھ وقت گزارنے کے بعد انہیں معلوم ہوا کہ ہالینڈ ایک ایسا ملک ہے جہاں پناہ گزینوں کو استقبال کیا جاتا ہے، جہاں انہیں مدد مل سکتی ہے اور جہاں وہ آزاد ہیں۔ میلک کاکہنا ہے،”آزادی میرے لیے بہت اہم ہے، اسی لیے ہم نیدرلینڈ آئے”۔ اب میلک اور اس کے شوہر پانچ سال سے ہالینڈ میں رہ رہے ہیں۔ “یہ بہت بڑا قدم تھا، اورشروع میں مجھے آراستہ ہونے میں بہت مشکل کا سامنا کرنا پڑا۔ مجھے معلوم نہیں تھا کہ ہالینڈ میں رہنے کا کیا مطلب ہے۔ میں ہالند کی زبان نہیں جانتی تھی اور نہ ہی ڈچ ثقافت کے بارے میں کچھ پتہ تھا”۔ میلک اور اس کے شوہر خود ھی ہالینڈ آئے تھےاور ہالینڈ میں ان کا کوئی رشتہ دار یا جاننے والا نہیں رہتاتھا۔

آپ ریاضی کے استاد نی کیوں بنے؟

“جب میں چھوٹی تھی تو ریاضی کی استانی بننا میرا خواب نہیں تھا۔لیکن بعدمیں مجھے انتخاب کرنا تھاکہ میں کس سمت جانا چاہتی ہوں۔ اورمیں جانتی تھی کہ مجھے ریاضی پسند ہے۔ میں ریاضی کو ایک قسم کے کھیل کے طور پر دیکھتی ہوں یا پھرایک پہیلی کی طرح جسے میں حل کرنا چاہتی ہوں۔ اس کے علاوہ، میں یہ بھی جانتی تھی کہ دوسرے لوگوں کو ریاضی پڑھانا مجھےپسند تھا۔ اکثر مجھے اپنے بھائیوں یا اپنے گھر والوں کو چیزیں سمجھانا پڑتی تھیں اور مجھے یہ کرنا پسند تھا۔ اس لیے ریاضی کی استانی بننے کا انتخاب ایک اچھا فیصلہ تھا۔”

آپ کو کن دشواریوں کا سامنا کرنا پڑا ہے؟

جب میلک اور اس کے شوہر نیدرلینڈ آئے تو سب کچھ شروع سے شروع کرنا پڑا۔ انہیں ڈچ زبان یا ثقافت کے بارے میں کوئی اندازہ نہیں تھا۔ ایک AZC واقع ایمسٹرڈیم میں میلک نے خود کو ڈچ زبان کی بنیادی باتیں ایک کتاب سے جو آنکہ دسترس میں تھی، سکھائی ۔ وہ دس مہینہ AZC میں اپنے شوہر اور اپنی نو زاد بیٹی کہ ساتھ رہی۔ اب وہ جنوب مشرقی ایمسٹرڈیم میں اپنے خاندان کے ساتھ ایک گھر میں رہتی ہے۔ اپنے ڈچ کو بہتر بنانے کے لیے، اس نے ایمسٹرڈیم کی میونسپلٹی کی طرف سے پیش کردہ ایک مفت کورس کیا۔ اس کہ علاوہ اس نے Hogeschool van Amsterdam میں “Orientation Track Statusholders for the Classroom” (Oriëntatietraject Statushouders voor de Klas) بھی مکمل کیا۔ اس ٹریک کہ مدد سے نے نہ صرف اسے ڈچ زبان میں مہارت حاصل ہوی بلکہ اسے ڈچ کی تعلیمی نظام کے بارے میں بھی علم ہوا اورپر اسے سیکنڈری اسکول میں انٹرن شپ حاصل کرنے کا موقع ملا۔

اب وہ اسی اسکول میں ریاضی کی استانی کے طور پر کام کر رہی ہیں۔ یہ سب کچھ دیکہنےاور سنے میں آسان لگتی ہے۔ میلک نے بتایا کہ تدریسی ملازمت تلاش کرنا ناقابل یقین حد تک مشکل تھا۔ مثال کے طور پر، اس نے 40 سے زیادہ اسکولوں کے لیے درخواست دی جن میں سے صرف 5 اسکولوں نے جواب دیا۔ آخر میں، وہ دو اسکولوں میں سے انتخاب کر سکتی تھی۔ وہ بہت اداس تھی کہ کچھ اسکولوں نے بالکل جواب نہیں دیا تھا۔ “میں مختلف ہوں، میں سمجھتا ہوں، لیکن مجھے جواب کی توقع تھی ، خاص طور پر جب نیدرلینڈز میں اساتذہ کی کمی ہے۔” میلک نے محسوس کیا کہ ڈچ لوگ پہلے اس پر بھروسہ نہیں کرتے تھے۔ “وہ دوسرے لوگوں سے ڈرتے ہیں۔ وہ پہلے تو آپ پر یقین نہیں کرتے، لیکن ایک بار جب آپ ان کا اعتماد حاصل کر لیں تو سب اچھا ہے اور وہ بہت اچھے اور پیارے لوگ ہیں۔”

ترکی اور ڈچ کے تعلیمی نظام میں کیا فرق ہے؟

“ڈچ تعلیم ترکی سے تھوڑی مختلف ہے۔” مثال کے طور پر، میلک نے سمجھایا کہ ترکی میں اسکولوں کی بھی مختلف سطحیں ہیں۔ لیکن فرق انکہ عمروں کا ہے جس میں بچوں کی سطح تبدیل ہوتی ہے۔ مثال کے طور پر، ترکی میں ابتدائی اسکول بھی آٹھ سال کا ہے، لیکن ہالینڈ میں بچے کم عمر میں ہائی اسکول جاتے ہیں۔ اس کی وجہ سے، میلک کو یہ لگتا ہے کہ ڈچ بچے جو ابھی ہائی اسکول شروع کر رہے ہیں ان میں تھوڑا سا بچکانہ گی ہیں۔ میلک نے جو دیکھا وہ یہ ہے کہ ڈچ بچے بہت زیادہ خود مختار ہیں۔ ‘یہاں کے بچے بہت زیادہ فعال ہیں۔ ترکی میں استاد کو 100 فیصد فعال ہونا ضروری ہے، اور طالب علم صرف اس کی پیروی کرتے ہیں جو کہا جاتا ہے. “ہالینڈ میں، بچے اسائنمنٹس آزادانہ طور پر انجام دیتے ہیں بغیریہ کہ استاد ہر چیز کی وضاحت کرے۔” ایک اور فرق یہ ہے کہ ہالینڈ میں بہت سے مختلف قسم کے اسکول ہیں، جیسے کہ سرکاری، نجی یا عیسائی اسکول۔ ترکی میں صرف ایک قسم کا اسکول ہے۔

مستقبل کو دیکھتے ہوئے۔

اگرچہ میلک کو ترکی میں اپنے خاندان اور دوستوں اور اپنی ثقافت کی کمی محسوس ہوتی ہے، پھر بھی وہ ہالینڈ آنے کے انتخاب سے خوش ہے۔ اس کے خاندان اور دوست وقتاً فوقتاً اس سے ملنے آتے ہیں لیکن وہ خود ترکی واپس نہیں جا سکتی۔ میلک لیے سب سے اہم چیز آزادی ہے جو اسے ہالینڈ میں حاصل ہے۔وہ دوسرے پناہ گزینوں کو بتانا چاہتی ہےکہ شروع میں ہالینڈ آنا اور یہاں استاد بننا ایک بہت مشکل مرحلہ ہے، لیکن آپ کو کبھی بھی ہمت نہیں ہارنی چاہیے اور ہمیشہ اپنی پوری کوشش کرنی چاہیے۔ یہ وقت کے ساتھ آسان اور آسان ہو جاتا ہے.

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Written by Georgette Schönberger

Translated by Uzair Ahmad Saleem  from [https://brokenchalk.org/interview-with-melek-kaymaz/]

Проблемы образования в Казахстане

Бьёрн Лаурин Кюн

Казахстан – быстро развивающаяся страна в Центральной Азии, которая за последние годы добилась значительного прогресса в развитии образования. Тем не менее, страна по-прежнему сталкивается с рядом проблем, которые необходимо решить, чтобы повысить качество образования и предоставить лучшие возможности для своих граждан. В данном отчете рассматриваются проблемы образования в Казахстане, их причины и возможные решения.

Проблемы образования и их решения на уровне начальной школы:

Во-первых, начальное образование в Казахстане охватывает первые четыре года обучения в школе. Одной из серьезных проблем, стоящих перед начальным образованием в Казахстане, является низкое качество преподавания. Согласно докладу ЮНЕСКО, многие учителя не обладают необходимыми навыками для обеспечения качественного образования, что приводит к низким результатам обучения, которые оказывают значительное влияние на страну (UNESCO, 2019). Кроме того, не хватает современных учебных материалов, особенно в сельской местности, где многие школы не имеют доступа к современному оборудованию и ресурсам. Устаревшие учебные программы также упоминаются в качестве серьезной проблемы для начального образования в Казахстане (Karatayeva et al., 2019).

OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264267510-en.

Отсутствие доступа к современному оборудованию и средствам сыграло решающую роль во время пандемии COVID-19, когда после всплеска инфекций были введены общенациональные ограничения. В последующие месяцы была введена строгая изоляция, что негативно сказалось на системе образования в Казахстане (Marteau, 2020). Это можно увидеть на следующем графике:

World Bank Blogs. Post-COVID education in Kazakhstan: Heavy losses and deepening inequality. Retrieved from: https://blogs.worldbank.org/europeandcentralasia/post-covid-education-kazakhstan-heavy-losses-and-deepening-inequality

В связи с этим, чтобы решить проблемы начального образования, правительство реализовало несколько инициатив. В 2011 году были запущены программы “Новое гуманитарное образование” и “Новая школа”, направленные на повышение качества начального образования (Nurmukhametov, et. al, 2015). Эти программы были направлены на внедрение современных методов обучения, современных учебных материалов и новых учебных программ, отражающих современные тенденции и требования, чтобы предотвратить стагнацию в стране и ее системе образования. Правительство также инвестировало в программы подготовки учителей для повышения квалификации преподавателей с целью дальнейшего улучшения качества системы образования в Казахстане.

Однако, несмотря на эти усилия, между городскими и сельскими районами существует значительное неравенство в качестве образования, которое усилилось после COVID-19. В сельских районах качество образования ниже, так как многие школы не имеют необходимого оборудования, материалов и квалифицированных учителей. В связи с этой сохраняющейся проблемой правительство запустило несколько инициатив по устранению этих различий, в том числе программу “Новая деревня”, которая направлена на повышение качества образования в сельской местности (Yakavets & Dzhadrina, 2014). Программа предусматривает финансирование строительства новых школ, восстановление существующих школ и обучение учителей. Это крайне важно для системы образования Казахстана, поскольку большинство граждан проживает в сельской местности, расположенной вдали от развитой инфраструктуры, и, таким образом, сильно зависит от образовательных программ, предлагаемых правительством.

Проблемы образования и их  решения на уровне среднего образования:

Среднее образование в Казахстане охватывает классы с пятого по одиннадцатый. Качество преподавания в средних школах в целом выше, чем в начальных. Однако учебные программы устарели и не отражают современных тенденций и требований, которые развиваются быстрыми темпами под влиянием глобализации и развития технологий. Последствия устаревшей учебной программы, используемой во многих казахстанских школах, заключаются в том, что учащиеся не получают достаточной подготовки для современной рабочей среды. Обновление учебной программы и обеспечение ее соответствия потребностям современной экономики может быть достигнуто путем привлечения отраслевых экспертов к ее разработке и предоставления учителям необходимой подготовки для эффективного преподавания (Rakhimova & Gabdulhakov, 2018).

Кроме того, существует нехватка квалифицированных учителей, особенно в сельской местности, что, по сути, создает те же проблемы, что и в системе начального образования (Karatayeva et al., 2019).

Для решения этих проблем правительство запустило несколько инициатив. В 2018 году была запущена программа “Цифровой Казахстан”, направленная на модернизацию образования и внедрение цифровых технологий в учебном процессе. Программа направлена на предоставление учащимся доступа к цифровым ресурсам, такими как электронные книги и платформы онлайн-обучения. Правительство также инвестировало в программы подготовки учителей для повышения квалификации преподавателей и привлечения квалифицированных преподавателей в сельские районы, чтобы обеспечить более доступные источники образования для тех, кто живет в сельской местности Казахстана.

Проблемы образования и их решения на уровне высшего образования:

Высшее образование в Казахстане сталкивается с такими проблемами, как нехватка квалифицированных преподавателей, устаревшие учебные программы и отсутствие академической свободы. Коррупция и академический плагиат также являются распространенными проблемами в системе высшего образования страны, что пагубно сказывается на академических и профессиональных перспективах трудоустройства казахстанцев (Karatayeva et al., 2019).

Для решения этих проблем правительство запустило несколько инициатив. В 2010 году была запущена программа “Модернизация высшего образования”, направленная на повышение качества высшего образования в Казахстане (Yakavets & Dzhadrina, 2014). Эта программа была направлена на привлечение более квалифицированных профессоров, повышение качества исследований и модернизацию учебных программ для общего улучшения образования в университетах. Правительство также инвестировало в развитие цифровых технологий в высшем образовании и создание новых университетов, чтобы сделать образование еще более доступным.

The Borgen Project. Education in Kazakhstan (2015). Retrieved from: https://borgenproject.org/education-kazakhstan/

Однако, несмотря на эти усилия, проблемы в сфере высшего образования продолжают существовать. Нехватка квалифицированных преподавателей по-прежнему является серьезной проблемой, особенно в научно-технических областях, которые приобретают все большее значение в условиях глобализации. Кроме того, учебные программы в некоторых университетах все еще устарели и не отражают современных тенденций и требований двадцать первого века. Кроме того, в системе высшего образования страны распространены коррупция и академический плагиат.

Финансирование – еще одна проблема, особенно заметная в высшем образовании, которую необходимо решить в секторе образования Казахстана. Несмотря на то, что правительство увеличило инвестиции в образование, финансирование высшего образования все еще ограничено по сравнению с другими странами. Увеличение инвестиций в образование и изучение альтернативных источников финансирования, таких как частные инвестиции и международная помощь, могут решить эту проблему (Sultanbekova & Turgunova, 2018).

Проблемы образования в Казахстане: Возможные решения

Можно сделать вывод, что Казахстан добился значительного прогресса в развитии образования, но все еще существует ряд проблем, требующих решения. Решение этих проблем потребует согласованных усилий со стороны правительства, педагогов и других заинтересованных сторон в сфере образования. Совместными усилиями Казахстан сможет повысить качество образования и предоставить лучшие возможности для своих граждан. Для решения проблем в системе образования можно предпринять несколько шагов. Правительство должно увеличить свои денежные инвестиции в образование. Бюджет страны на образование должен быть увеличен, чтобы обеспечить достаточное финансирование для строительства новых школ, восстановления существующих школ и предоставления современных учебных материалов.

Библиография:
  • Marteau, J. (2020). Post-COVID education in Kazakhstan: Heavy losses and deepening inequality. World Bank Blogs. Retrieved from: https://blogs. worldbank. org/europeandcentralasia/post-covid-education-kazakhstanheavy-losses-and-deepeninginequality#:~: text= Before% 20COVID% 2D19% 2C% 20six% 20out, more% 20students% 20i nto% 20functional% 20illiteracy.
  • Nurmukhametov, N., Temirova, A., & Bekzhanova, T. (2015). The problems of development of distance education in Kazakhstan. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences182, 15-19.
  • Rakhimova, A., & Gabdulhakov, R. (2018). The challenges of modernizing the educational system of Kazakhstan. Journal of Education and Practice, 9(6), 23-29.
  • Sultanbekova, S., & Turgunova, L. (2018). Education financing in Kazakhstan: Challenges and solutions. European Journal of Education Studies, 5(5), 28-38.
  • UNESCO. (2019). Education in Kazakhstan. Retrieved from: https://en.unesco.org/countries/kazakhstan/education
  • World Bank. (2018). Kazakhstan Education Sector Assessment. Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/kazakhstan/publication/kazakhstan-education-sector-assessment
  • Yakavets, N., & Dzhadrina, M. (2014). Educational reform in Kazakhstan: Entering the world arena. Educational reform and internationalisation: The case of school reform in Kazakhstan, 28-52.
  • Zhanar, B. (2020). Modernization of Education in Kazakhstan: An Analysis of Successes and Failures. Journal of International and Comparative Education, 9(1), 49-61.

Educational Challenges in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Written by Aoibhínn Kiely

The U.S. Virgin Islands are situated in the Caribbean Sea, located some 64 to 80 kilometres east of Puerto Rico. The region consists of three larger islands, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, and approximately 50 smaller cays and islets, amassing a total area of 133 square miles. Due to the inviting climate, the U.S. Virgin Islands attracts a large number of tourists each year, however tourism is one of the region’s only economic resources, and financial aid and funding is provided by the United States.

The region is at risk for hurricanes, with an average of 5 passing the region yearly, and in September of 2017 the territory sustained extreme damage from a barrage of two Category 5 hurricanes within the span of two weeks. Irma and Maria together destroyed virtually all crops of St Croix and an estimated 90% of buildings in the territory were destroyed or severely damaged.

Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands is compulsory and government-run schools operate for free. The Virgin Islands Department of Education runs 21 elementary schools, six middle schools and six high schools between two school districts spread between the three main islands. The territory also sports one university, The University of the Virgin Islands, a public liberal arts based university. 

However, a great number of students attend private schools, and most of the families who relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands opt to send their children to private or religious affiliated schools, who also charge a tuition fee. Educational challenges in the U.S. Virgin Islands are characterised by poor funding, staff shortages, and struggling infrastructure, causing huge barriers to adequate education for the working class population of the islands.

Unsafe working (and learning) conditions

The vast majority of those who relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands will decide to send their children to a private school to receive their education. With the Peter Gruber International Academy, situated on St. Thomas, requiring annual tuition ranging from $13,150 to $21,000 excluding materials and accreditation fees, it is starkly obvious that this option is not for everyone. However, given the state of current affairs in public schools, there is no doubt as to why parents would go out of pocket to avoid their children attending the region’s public schools.

In September 2023, teachers across St. Croix walked out of their classrooms in protest, claiming that the conditions they are expected to work in are untenable and entirely unsafe. The protesting teachers mention not only the long-standing issues of underfunding for the schools, but also sweltering temperatures that have to be endured in classrooms, many of which have no clean drinking water. This region, famous for its balmy temperatures, has schools operating without air conditioning. The response to this protest has been to implement schedule adjustments, enforcing earlier dismissal and shortened class periods for the schools on St. Croix. In effect, poor funding has caused policy makers to opt for less schooling hours as opposed to providing adequate equipment to the schools.

Teachers are not the only individuals enraged by these conditions, as students took to the streets in protest of the unsafe conditions they are expected to learn and grow under. Students from two historically rivalling highschools put their differences aside as they called for immediate action from leaders. Devastating heat and lack of air conditioning were only the tip of the iceberg for these students, as placards being held high mentioned termites, mould, leaking ceilings, and other structural ailments concerned with the physical school buildings. Further prompting the action was the stark lack of funding for equipment and maintenance workers.

School facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands have sustained damage not only from the hurricanes in 2017, but also many in the 90s and less severe instances in 2021 and 2022. As a result the infrastructure must constantly be repaired and seen to, which these students believe is not being upheld on the side of maintenance due to exceedingly poor funding. One of the schools in which the students came from, Educational Complex High School, is used as a hurricane shelter, which the students reiterated, poor maintenance is not only an educational disadvantage but a genuine health and safety hazard for those living on the island. The students stood in unison demanding answers to where the large budgets dedicated to the Department of Education have been going, and hoping together that their action will spare future students on St. Croix from the conditions they have to currently endure.

Where have all the teachers gone?

Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Education cannot stress enough the risk that classrooms will not be filled when the 2023/2024 school year begins. With learning deficiencies in the region presenting themselves as a challenge at present, the 127 teachers reaching retirement age represent a looming loss to the educational system on the islands and a concerning prospect for the students.

The school year 2022/2023 saw 33 teachers separate themselves from the department, expanding the 43 pre-existing teaching vacancies in the region. The strategy being employed by the department in an attempt to tackle this growing issue that has been used for years, to try to recruit teachers from outside the territory to fill the gaps. The Department has been driven to launch a special appeal to recruit degree holders and retired teachers to fill substitute teacher positions.

The situation remains dire however with Wells-Hedrington informing lawmakers last year that nearly 200 teachers and support staff retired or resigned from the already struggling public school education system between June 2022 and August 2022. Furthermore, the number of non-certified professionals working in the public schools on the Islands far outnumber those certified, with only 228 certified professionals in comparison to 610 non-certified professionals.  Emmanuella Perez-Cassius, the Board of Educations Vice Chairwoman, is adamant that educators need to receive higher pay, consistent curriculum mandates and better working conditions.

A storm of mental distress

The Board of Educations Vice Chairwoman further remarked that schools are sorely lacking formal trauma and mental health alert systems for children who need aid with serious issues. The Islands align with national data, indicating that children in America are in the midst of a mental health crisis. St. Croix Foundation reported in 2021 that 22.5% of middle schoolers had “seriously considered suicide” and 33.5% of high school students “felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks that they stopped doing some usual activities”. As this data was collected in the aftermath of the aforementioned hurricanes, it was seen as a cry for help and a call to action for the community of the Islands, with special emphasis on the education system to support children struggling in the region.

In July 2023 Perez-Cassius made it clear that schools are not up to date with critical information that can protect children from a mental health crisis. As a result she called for direct and ongoing communication between the Department of Education and Department of Health, as well as other organisations concerning treatments, school services, and awareness for students with escalating mental health concerns.

The Vice Chairwoman additionally called for the implementation of training on trauma based interventions and approaches. Studies have suggested that students on the islands experience PTSD at a significantly higher level than the general population, and a lack of intervention from the education system is an unfortunate shortfall that devastatingly lets students, and teachers alike, down.

Leadership for change

Although there is no absence of challenges faced by those pursuing education through the system in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these very individuals have shown resilience and perseverance time and time again in the face of challenges. The bravery of the protesting teachers and the voices of strong leaders such as Perez-Cassius and Dr.  Wells-Hedrington are not going unseen and unheard as attention is being drawn to these areas of concern.

Furthermore, the children in the region have stepped up and shown that they will no longer allow for unsafe conditions to be tolerated. These students have shown responsibility and dedication in a way that no child should ever have to. Their passion and drive through their protests and their demands of lawmakers have made waves in their communities and it will be impossible for those in power to ignore their rightly placed rage.  After the terror of Irma and Maria the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have worked hard to rebuild themselves and their education system, demonstrations of strength that will stand to the region with any hope.

References

Cover Image by MChe Lee via Unsplash

Navigating Educational Challenges in Mauritania

Written by Laraib Ahmed

Geographical and Historical Context

Situated in the northwest of Africa, Mauritania is a nation known for its rich cultural legacy and expansive desert landscapes. The country, which has the Atlantic Ocean to the west, is well-known for its vast dunes of the Sahara and its breathtaking natural beauty. Mauritania’s cultural identity has been profoundly influenced by a diverse range of historical civilisations, such as the powerful Almoravid dynasty and the Berber empires. In addition, the nation’s history is marked by the intricate interaction of trade routes and nomadic customs, which highlights its crucial function as a link between sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world[i].

Educational Endeavors in a Challenging Context

Mauritania’s educational system has become essential for preserving the country’s intellectual capital and advancing its socioeconomic growth in the face of this geographic and historical context. Notwithstanding the difficulties presented by its arid landscape and ancient nomadic customs, the country has achieved significant progress in elevating education to the top of the priority list. Acknowledging that education can change people’s lives, Mauritania has set out to improve access to high-quality education, promote inclusivity, and close the gaps in educational attainment among its different groups. To empower its people and promote sustainable development, Mauritania is still working toward creating a dynamic and inclusive educational environment incorporating its historical and geographical legacies.

Challenges in the Educational System

Tucked away amid the great and harsh reaches of the Mauritanian desert, the country’s educational system faces a wide range of challenging obstacles. These challenges highlight the complex and multidimensional environment that obstructs the country’s educational advancement, from the enduring problem of low enrollment rates to the intricate web of gender imbalances. The path to education in Mauritania is paved with a convoluted mix of obstacles, each of which poses severe and distinct difficulties that require immediate attention and coordinated efforts to overcome. These issues are felt in remote areas and quickly changing metropolitan areas, underscoring the necessity of an all-encompassing strategy to solve the nationwide educational gaps.

Gender Imbalance and Access to Education

According to data on literacy rates, Mauritania’s total literacy rate dropped significantly over the previous few years, from 96% in 2015 to 87% in 2021[ii]. This worrying trend may indicate problems with the nation’s educational system. This decreasing track highlights the need for a thorough analysis of the variables contributing to this decrease and calls into question the effectiveness of educational policies and programs implemented during this time.

The notable difference in the literacy rates of males and females further highlights gender gaps in the educational landscape. The 62% female literacy rate in 2020 and the 72% male literacy rate in 2021 demonstrate the ongoing difficulties in providing women and girls with equal access to school.[iii] Targeted actions are required to remove the cultural and sociological hurdles that prevent women from pursuing higher education and limit their ability to develop socioeconomically in light of this imbalance.

Importance of Adult Education

In addition, the stated adult total literacy rate of 67% in 2021 raises the possibility that improved adult education programs and lifetime learning initiatives will require coordinated efforts.[iv] Improving adult literacy rates can be achieved by strongly emphasising education for adults. This will help create a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce that can propel the country’s socioeconomic growth.

Efforts to Address Low Enrollment Rates

In Mauritania, low enrollment rates—particularly common in rural areas and among underprivileged communities—remain a major obstacle to the growth of education. Many young people’s access to high-quality education is hampered by the lack of accessible schools and families’ financial struggles. Consequently, a great deal of kids and teenagers miss out on the opportunity for education to change their lives. The government of Mauritania is actively stepping up efforts to address the underlying causes of low enrollment rates, realising the seriousness of the situation. To ensure that no child is left behind in their pursuit of knowledge and empowerment, the government has launched extensive awareness programs, offered scholarships, and emphasised the necessity of creating more accessible schools.

Gender Disparities and Social Hurdles

Furthermore, the data pertaining to Mauritania’s educational system presents a clear picture of the country’s difficulties. The percentage of kids who don’t go to school is a crucial sign of the education gap since it shows how many young people are currently shut out of the educational system and don’t receive the life-changing benefits of education. In Mauritania, a worrying trend is shown compared to 33% of male children of secondary school age, nearly 40% of female adolescents are not enrolled in school.[v] Additionally, the data shows a notable difference in the enrollment rates of children of secondary school age between the wealthiest and poorest parts of the population. This discrepancy highlights the more general socioeconomic issues that interact. This discrepancy highlights the more general socioeconomic issues that impact education and calls for all-encompassing solutions to close the achievement gap and guarantee fair access to education for all groups in society.

Empowerment of Girls and Women

Due to ingrained social mores and cultural traditions that discourage women from pursuing higher education, gender imbalance in Mauritius’ educational system continues to be a problem. A cycle of educational inequality is perpetuated by the persistence of these impediments, which lead to notably lower enrollment rates and higher dropout rates among girls. The government has launched several policy efforts to remove these obstacles and create an inclusive learning environment for people of all genders to solve this urgent issue. Mauritania is actively working to empower girls and create a more equitable educational landscape by implementing comprehensive awareness campaigns, community engagement activities, and safe and friendly learning environments. These initiatives, which comply with the law, aim to create a supportive atmosphere that promotes female involvement and guarantees that every student has equal access to a high-quality education and the chance to reach their full potential.

Complexities in Achieving Educational Equality

Disparities in test scores and educational attainment still exist despite significant success in raising the number of girls enrolled in schools. This difference is caused by a number of underlying causes, such as early births and marriages that force girls to leave school early, which negatively affects both their own and their children’s health and cognitive development. A 2023 UN report[vi] revealed that the primary barrier to girls’ empowerment is the high percentage of females dropping out of school (18%) and child marriages (39%) caused by adolescent pregnancies. Women continue to participate in the labour force at a disproportionately low rate, with the majority of them working in the unorganised sector. They also encounter major obstacles regarding business, financing availability, and land and property ownership. In addition, financial limitations, job insecurity, and land rights restrictions make it harder for Mauritanian women to advance professionally and support the country’s economic growth[vii]. To effectively address these complex issues, comprehensive plans that provide educational opportunities while enabling women and girls to break down social and cultural barriers and take an active role in the socioeconomic development of their country are needed.

Efforts to Modernise the Educational System

Several issues, such as inadequate financing, outmoded teaching practices, and a lack of trained teachers, contribute to Mauritania’s low level of education. The government is putting a lot of emphasis on developing relevant and interesting curricula, integrating cutting-edge teaching technologies, and giving educators opportunities for ongoing professional development because it recognises the urgent need to modernise the educational system.

Mitigating Socioeconomic Limitations

Additionally, in keeping with the guidelines provided by the legal framework, learning resource and educational infrastructure investments are being given top priority to encourage students’ critical thinking, creativity, and holistic development and make sure that the educational system gives them the information and abilities they need to succeed in a world that is changing quickly. Moreover, Mauritanian society’s socioeconomic limitations—such as widespread poverty and unstable finances—create significant obstacles to obtaining and finishing education. In response, the government launched specialised social welfare programs to help low-income families with their financial responsibilities by offering financial aid, scholarships, and vocational training.[viii]

Investing in Educational Infrastructure

Under the legal framework, cooperative efforts with community organisations seek to mitigate financial limitations so that the most disadvantaged members of society can continue their educational aspirations.

Insufficient infrastructure for education, especially in isolated areas, poses a significant challenge to the efficient provision of top-notch education throughout Mauritania. Inadequate classrooms, libraries, and technology resources hinder students’ learning experience and restrict their access to contemporary teaching methods. The government is concentrating on long-term investments in educational infrastructure, focusing on building well-equipped schools, incorporating state-of-the-art teaching tools, and creating thorough maintenance protocols to address this difficulty.

The Road to Inclusive Education

As per the regulatory framework’s criteria, these efforts aim to guarantee the sustainability of educational institutions and close the digital gap between urban and rural locations, giving every student an equal chance to progress in their education. Ultimately, Mauritania attempts to tackle the various issues in its education sector by encouraging cooperation and carrying out targeted initiatives. As a foundation for its people’s future prosperity and equity, Mauritania hopes to develop a strong and inclusive educational environment through collaborations with international organisations, local communities, and the government. Mauritania hopes to establish an educational ecosystem that empowers its people and promotes wealth and sustainable development for future generations by prioritising teamwork and all-encompassing interventions.[ix]


References

[i] Gerteiny, A. G., Deschamps, H. J., Toupet, C. H., & Stewart, C. C. (2023, October 2).

[ii] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.

[iii] OHCHR. (2023). Mauritania: Despite progress, women and girls’ lives are still being sacrificed, UN expert says.

[iv] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.

[v] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.

[vi] OHCHR. (2023). Mauritania: Despite progress, women and girls’ lives still being sacrificed, UN expert says.

[viii] World Bank Group. (2020b). Mauritania: Improving education to foster social cohesion and support economic development.

[ix] Mauritania commits to reinforcing the right to education in national frameworks. (2023, April 20).

Cover Image “A teacher in class with her students” by GPE/Kelley Lynch via Flickr

Sfide all’istruzione in Svizzera

Scritto da Faical Al Azib, tradotto da Eliana Riggi dal post originale in inglese

Sistema scolastico in Svizzera

Il presente articolo approfondisce i punti di forza, le debolezze e le sfide del sistema scolastico svizzero.  Dapprima, viene fornita un’introduzione della struttura e del disegno istituzionale del sistema. Si procede in seguito ad analizzare il sistema attraverso le raccomandazioni dell’Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per i diritti umani e gli indicatori dell’OCSE che riguardano il paese.  Descriviamo il percorso narrativo che verrà intrapreso affinché il lettore possa essere facilitato nella comprensione dell’articolo.

La Svizzera è uno stato federale plurilingue con un sistema scolastico decentrato. I 26 cantoni (stati) sono responsabili dello sviluppo educativo nei loro rispettivi territori. Mentre i cantoni sono responsabili dell’istruzione obbligatoria, il governo federale li supporta nella promozione dell’istruzione post-obbligatoria (scuole di orientamento generale e professionale, corsi di formazione, università). In linea con il principio di decentramento, i cantoni e i comuni finanziano il 90% della spesa pubblica per l’istruzione.

La Confederazione e i cantoni condividono l’obbligo di assicurare un sistema educativo di elevata qualità e accessibilità.  Per adempiere a tale obbligo, la Svizzera ha adottato un sistema di monitoraggio complesso che identifica le sfide chiave e valuta i progressi nel raggiungimento degli obiettivi delle politiche pubbliche. Lo “Swiss Education Report”, che viene pubblicato ogni quattro anni, è uno dei risultati di tale processo di monitoraggio.

Nell’ istruzione obbligatoria, il 95% degli allievi frequenta una scuola pubblica nella propria città. Non esiste una libera scelta nella selezione dell’istituto per l’istruzione obbligatoria, l’ammissione dipende dall’ indirizzo di residenza della famiglia. L’ istruzione pubblica obbligatoria è gratuita. In molte zone, le scuole pubbliche sono utili a promuovere l’integrazione sociale tra alunni. Infatti, bambini provenienti da diversi contesti sociali, linguistici e culturali frequentano la stessa scuola.

Ogni cantone gestisce il programma scolastico e alcuni aspetti istituzionali e strutturali, come le ore settimanali di lezione attribuite alle materie e alle classi. Non esiste un programma scolastico nazionale. Tuttavia, la costituzione federale impone ai cantoni di coordinare e armonizzare i loro sistemi scolastici in quanto a struttura e obiettivi.  Ad esempio, per l’istruzione obbligatoria, i cantoni hanno sviluppato ed introdotto programmi comuni su base linguistico-regionale. In base alla regione, la lingua di istruzione è il tedesco, il francese, l’italiano o il romancio. Tradizionalmente, l’apprendimento della lingua è molto importante in Svizzera. Gli studenti imparano una seconda lingua ufficiale del paese così come l’inglese durante gli anni di istruzione obbligatoria.

La Svizzera ha un sistema scolastico di orientamento professionale molto solido. Vengono offerti principalmente programmi professionali di livello secondario superiore, i quali combinano un apprendistato con uno o due giorni di lezioni a scuola, e programmi professionali di livello terziario.

La maggior parte dei giovani si iscrive alle scuole professionali dopo aver terminato l’istruzione obbligatoria. Ciò li aiuta ad avere un’esperienza solida e pratica di molte occupazioni lavorative (ci sono circa 230 professioni tra cui poter scegliere). Circa un terzo di coloro che hanno terminato il periodo di istruzione obbligatoria sceglie di continuare i propri studi iscrivendosi ad una scuola secondaria superiore di maturità o specializzata, in preparazione ad una futura iscrizione all’università.

I meccanismi dell’Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per i diritti umani: UPR della Svizzera

L’Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per l’Educazione, la Scienza e la Cultura (UNESCO) ha rimarcato che la Svizzera ha adottato molte misure al fine di irrobustire il diritto all’istruzione. Ciò nonostante, ha sottolineato che i minori richiedenti asilo e senza documenti hanno difficoltà ad ottenere l’accesso all’istruzione di livello secondario. L’ UNESCO ha raccomandato alla Svizzera di rafforzare le politiche pubbliche affinché i bambini di origine straniera godano di un’istruzione di qualità e i bambini richiedenti asilo e senza documenti possano accedere alle scuole, specialmente a quelle di livello secondario. Il Comitato sui diritti dell’infanzia ha fatto raccomandazioni simili. Il Comitato per l’eliminazione della discriminazione contro le donne ha invitato la Svizzera a promuovere maggiormente la diversificazione delle opportunità educative disponibili per tutti gli alunni, di ogni genere, e a rivedere il materiale scolastico a livello cantonale e municipale allo scopo di assicurare una prospettiva di genere nell’ insegnamento. Ha anche suggerito allo stato di elaborare nuove strategie per combattere gli stereotipi discriminatori e le barriere strutturali suscettibili di impedire alle giovani ragazze di progredire oltre l’istruzione secondaria e di scegliere percorsi di studio tradizionalmente intrapresi da uomini.

Il report “Education at a Glance 2021” e gli indicatori dell’OCSE

Pari opportunità per gli studenti a prescindere dai contesti socioeconomici di provenienza

Il Programma PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) misura i traguardi scolastici degli studenti con diversi Status Economici, Sociali e Culturali (ESCS). Nel 2018, la percentuale di bambini appartenenti al quartile più basso ESCS che hanno ottenuto il livello 2 del PISA nella lettura era più bassa del 32 % rispetto a quella di coloro che appartenevano al quartile più alto ESCS. Questo divario educativo supera quello medio dell’OCSE, che si aggira intorno al 29 %.

Differenze così significative nei traguardi scolastici possono aggravare le diseguaglianze di reddito. In Svizzera, i dati del 2019 mostrano che il 30% degli adulti tra i 25 e i 64 anni di età che non hanno completato la scuola secondaria superiore, guadagna la metà o meno della metà del reddito mediano. Questa percentuale è maggiore della media OCSE del 27 %.

Diseguaglianze di genere nell’istruzione

In quasi tutti i paesi membri dell’OCSE e per tutti i livelli scolastici, le donne di età compresa tra i 25 e i 64 anni guadagnano meno dei loro colleghi di sesso maschile; i loro stipendi corrispondono in media al 76%-78% di quelli degli uomini. Questa percentuale varia di più all’interno dello stesso paese, a seconda del livello d’istruzione posseduto, piuttosto che tra paesi OCSE. Tra i vari gruppi distinti in base al traguardo scolastico, il divario di reddito maggiore tra uomini e donne dello stesso gruppo in Svizzera è riscontrato per le donne che non hanno una certificazione di scuola secondaria superiore.  Infatti, queste donne guadagnano solamente il 77 % del reddito degli uomini che, allo stesso modo, non possiedono una certificazione di livello secondario superiore. Le donne che possiedono un titolo d’ istruzione secondario superiore o post-secondario ma non terziario guadagnano l’84 % degli stipendi degli uomini appartenenti al medesimo gruppo.

L’istruzione e l’immigrazione

In media per i paesi dell’OCSE, tra gli adulti che non possiedono un titolo secondario superiore, il 57% dei nativi ha un’occupazione lavorativa, rispetto al 61 % di coloro che sono nati all’estero. In linea con questa tendenza, in Svizzera, il tasso di occupazione per coloro che sono nati all’estero e che non hanno titolo di istruzione secondaria superiore era del 71 % nel 2020, più alto rispetto ai nativi (65 %).

Tra gli adulti con istruzione terziaria, il 92% dei nativi svizzeri e l’84% di coloro che sono nati all’estero hanno un’occupazione lavorativa. Coloro che sono nati all’estero e che sono giunti in Svizzera ad una giovane età hanno vissuto alcuni anni all’interno del sistema scolastico svizzero e ottenuto dei titoli riconosciuti a livello nazionale. Di conseguenza, i loro traguardi lavorativi sono generalmente migliori rispetto a coloro che sono giunti in Svizzera ad una maggiore età e che possedevano già titoli stranieri. In Svizzera, tra i nati all’estero con titolo terziario, il 90% di coloro giunti entro i 15 anni di età ha un lavoro, rispetto all’ 83 % di coloro che sono giunti dopo i 16 anni.

Conclusioni

Il governo svizzero dovrebbe rafforzare le proprie politiche pubbliche affinché i bambini di origine straniera godano del migliore livello di istruzione possibile e i bambini richiedenti asilo e senza documenti possano accedere all’istruzione, specialmente a quella secondaria; allo stesso modo, dovrebbe promuovere programmi e attività di sensibilizzazione contro la violenza, gli abusi e il bullismo nelle scuole.   

Inoltre, è imperative incoraggiare una maggiore diversificazione delle scelte educative per ragazzi e ragazze, rivedere il materiale scolastico a livello cantonale e assicurare che un materiale scolastico basato su una prospettiva di genere sia disponibile in tutti i cantoni per tutte le comunità.  

Riferimenti

Educational Challenges in Laos

Written by Uzair Ahmad Saleem

Laos is a landlocked Southeast Asian country with a population of approximately 7.2 million people. It is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 139th out of 189 in the Human Development Index. The progress and wellbeing of the people and country depend heavily on education, but it faces many obstacles, particularly in early childhood education (ECE) and Primary education.

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education (ECE) is the first phase of formal education for children aged 3 to 5. It attempts to prepare children for primary school by providing the foundation for their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. ECE in Laos, however, has low enrollment and completion rates, particularly for kids in isolated and underprivileged communities who frequently do not speak Lao, the official language of instruction.

According to the most recent Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) data, just 44.6% of children aged 3 to 5 years old were enrolled in ECE programs in 2019-2020, with only 37.4% completing them. Children from ethnic minority groups had lower enrollment and completion rates (32.8% and 26.7%, respectively), as did children from rural areas (40.8% and 33.8%, respectively) and poor households (36.9% and 30.1%, respectively).

One of the primary reasons for inadequate access to ECE is a shortage of ECE facilities and skilled teachers in distant and underprivileged communities. In 2017, just 28% of communities had an ECE centre, and only 18% of ECE teachers had received formal training, according to a UNICEF report. Furthermore, many ECE centres lacked basic infrastructure, such as water, sanitation, hygiene facilities, teaching-learning materials, and child-friendly surroundings.

Another factor contributing to inadequate access to ECE is a lack of understanding and demand among parents and caregivers, who frequently do not comprehend the benefits of ECE for their children’s development and learning outcomes. Many parents struggle to send their children to ECE centres owing to distance, cost, language problems, cultural norms, or household obligations.

To address these issues, UNICEF and other development partners are collaborating with MoES to broaden the Community-Based School Readiness Programme (CBSR) into rural areas not Lao-speaking and other educationally underprivileged communities. The CBSR program gives children access to high-quality ECE opportunities through community-based learning centres or at home, with the help of qualified facilitators and volunteers. As part of its parenting education component, the program teaches parents and other caregivers how to support their children’s learning and development at home.

Furthermore, UNICEF and other development partners are assisting the MoES in improving the pre-primary curriculum and ECE quality standards and developing and implementing a national ECE costed action plan. The goal is to provide all children with access to high-quality early childhood education programs aligned with the national curriculum framework and fulfilling minimal quality criteria. The action plan also includes methods for increasing the quantity and quality of early childhood educators and school principals and providing enough teaching-learning materials.

Primary Education

The second level of formal education, primary school, is for children between 6 and 10 years old. Its goal is to equip children with fundamental reading, numeracy, science, social studies, arts, physical education, and life skills. Laos’ primary education system, however, is inefficient and of low quality, contributing to high rates of repeat and dropout and subpar academic results for children.

According to the most recent MoES data, just 84.5% of children aged 6 to 10 were enrolled in primary school in 2019-2020, with only 76.9% completing it. The enrollment and completion rates were lower for girls (83.1% and 75.4%, respectively), for ethnic minority groups (77.9% and 69%, respectively), for rural areas (82.5% and 74.4%, respectively), and for poor households (79.1% and 70.7%, respectively).

One of the key reasons for the low quality and efficiency of primary education is that many children, particularly those from distant and underprivileged communities, have limited access to quality ECE programs. This has an impact on their preparation for primary education since they frequently lack the required language, cognitive, social, and emotional skills. As a result, many students fail to meet the curriculum’s expectations, repeat grades, or drop out of school.

Another cause of primary education’s low quality and efficiency is teachers’ and principals’ limited capacity and skills and a lack of pedagogical support and teaching-learning materials. In 2017, only 54% of primary teachers had received formal training, according to a UNICEF assessment. In addition, many teachers had to deal with issues including high class numbers, teaching multiple grades at once, a variety of languages, poor motivation, low pay, and little supervision.

A third reason for the low quality and efficiency of primary education is the low learning outcomes of students in literacy and numeracy skills. According to the most recent findings of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) assessment, which was done in 2019 among Grade 5 pupils in six Southeast Asian nations (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Vietnam), Laos placed lowest in both reading and maths. Only 18% of Laotian students met the minimal reading proficiency level, and only 12% met the necessary mathematics competence level. These findings suggest that many Laotian kids are not acquiring the necessary knowledge and abilities for future schooling and life.

In order to overcome these difficulties, the MoES is collaborating with UNICEF and other development partners to strengthen the primary curriculum and provide Pedagogical Advisors and teacher training. The goal is to improve the quality and relevance of the curriculum and increase teachers’ and administrators’ capacity and abilities in child-centred pedagogies, assessment, and school management. The Pedagogical Advisors are certified teachers who regularly coach and advise other teachers in their schools and districts.

Furthermore, UNICEF and other development partners are assisting the Ministry of Education in promoting safe and enjoyable learning settings, including adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. The objective is to guarantee that every child can access well-maintained, kid-friendly schools that promote their health, hygiene, and general wellbeing. Activities to raise awareness and prevent violence, bullying, and discrimination in schools are also part of the curriculum.

UNICEF and other development partners also assist the MoES in gathering, analyzing, and utilizing data for evidence-based decision-making and policy formation. The objective is to strengthen the planning and monitoring procedures for the education sector as well as to increase the accessibility, usefulness, and quality of educational data at all levels of the educational system. The program also involves assistance in performing national exams, such as SEA-PLM, to assess students’ learning results.

Additionally, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education are investing in primary school performance through a $46.9 million project jointly funded by them. By enhancing teacher quality, school infrastructure, learning materials, school grants, student assessments, and information systems, the project intends to improve learning outcomes for almost 450,000 children in Laos.

Conclusion

Education is a fundamental human right and a significant factor in individuals’ and nations’ growth and prosperity. However, education in Laos confronts numerous obstacles, particularly in ECE and primary education, which affect access, quality, and efficiency. To achieve quality education for all children in Laos, the government, development partners, civil society, and communities must move quickly and in concert.

References
  • “Education.” UNICEF Lao People’s Democratic Republic, www.unicef.org/laos/education.
  • “New Project to Improve Primary Education in Lao PDR.” World Bank, 19 Mar. 2021, www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/03/17/new-project-to-improve-primary-education-in-lao-pdr.
  • “SEA-PLM 2019 Main Regional Report.” UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, 1 Dec. 2020, www.unicef.org/eap/reports/sea-plm-2019-main-regional-report.
  • Kamiya, Yusuke, and Marika Nomura. “Evaluating the Impact of Early Childhood Education on Child Development in Lao PDR.” International Journal of Early Years Education, vol. 31, no. 1, Routledge, Aug. 2022, pp. 10–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2022.2107489.
  • World Bank Group. “Maintaining Economic Stability in Lao PDR.” World Bank, 15 Aug. 2019, www.worldbank.org/en/country/lao/publication/maintaining-economic-stability-in-lao-pdr.

Cover Image “Happy children in a primary school in Lao PDR” by GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer via Flickr