What Will It Take to Improve Learning?

Kristen Grauer

This week's feature image is courtesy of the World Bank's Learning for All Symposium: Investing in a Brighter Future. Learn more about this event below!

Yesterday’s Learning for All Symposium hosted by the World Bank served as an important reminder to world leaders, humanitarians, and other stakeholders in the education space that over the next 21 months - preceding the deadline for the 2015 U.N. Millennium Development Goals - it is imperative that we reaffirm our commitment to resolving the global learning crisis. While several nations have announced a new dedication of financial resources to education in the coming years, President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, advised the international community to “avoid well-funded dysfunctionality.” In other words, investing in education is not enough; to realize the full potential of the world’s students, we must invest in learning. We must train teachers, periodically assess students, and monitor and evaluate our strategies.

We must also ensure that our strategies reach the most vulnerable children. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon identified five groups of beneficiaries that global education policy should prioritize: children living in fragile and conflict-affected states, children living in remote or rural areas, children living in extreme poverty, children with disabilities, and girls.

Here at CEI we have identified a number of innovative education programs transforming the lives of children in these priority areas. While there are many more to discover in the CEI database, this week we are highlighting five interventions from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia that believe education is the key to achieving international development.

1. Fragile & Conflict-Affected States | Education de Base (EDB) ProgramSenegal

The Education de Base (EDB) project was a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors at the national, regional, and local levels to transform middle school education in Senegal. The program's main interventions included curriculum reform and teacher training, good governance and management, and targeting vulnerable children. By the end of the project in 2013, EDB achieved national scale, with the new curriculum now being implemented in all 1,200 middle schools in Senegal. The MOE has issued national decrees for schools to incorporate the project's student government program and student dropout prevention councils and also adopted a generalized model of the popular intensive teacher training program.

2. Remote or Rural Locations | Mobile Ger Kindergartens, Mongolia

UNICEF Mongolia's Mobile Ger Kindergartens travel each summer to serve hard-to-reach children of nomadic herder families and come equipped with furniture, teaching materials, toys, and meals for students. Each mobile kindergarten takes place in a ger, a traditional Mongolian dwelling. These tent structures are easy to build, take down, and move, and operate at a fraction of the cost of regular pre-schools. In addition to implementing the mobile kindergartens, UNICEF focuses on capacity building and educating parents on the importance of enrolling their children in pre-school. The initiative is part of UNICEF Mongolia's broader early childhood education program which also involves teacher training and collaboration with the government on policy-related issues.

3. Extreme Poverty | Dustbin KidsNigeria

Love on the Streets (LOTS) Charity Foundation focuses on education and community development, and caters specifically to the needs of street and vulnerable children. They believe the problems of children cannot be solved without helping their parents and/or caregivers, thus the Dustbin Kids program strives to not only develop the children who participate but the community at large. The program caters to the physiological (feeding, clothing and shelter), social, educational, psychological, medical and emotional needs of street children throughout the Dustbin Estate community in Lagos. Its offerings include a literacy support program, scholarship opportunities, leadership training, "Fun Day" excursions, among other community development initiatives.

4. Children with Disabilities | Bridging the Gap - Technology Based Resources for Deaf EducationPakistan

The Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF) is working to improve education opportunities and the general quality of life for deaf children and adolescents in Pakistan, through the development of a standard Pakistan Sign Language (PSL), and is creating learning tools including a recorded visual dictionary on DVD, a website, a book for students, and a mobile phone web-app. Through the development of PSL based tools; FESF aims to improve the literacy levels of deaf students in Grades 1-9 (as the material can be used at various grade levels), parents’ and teachers’ ability to communicate with the deaf, and access to literary resources for the deaf. Currently, FESF is in consultation with GEO News, a leading news channel in Pakistan, with regard to the creation of a TV show featuring PSL as its main component.

5. Girls' EducationAdvancing Girls' Education in Africa (AGE Africa)Malawi

AGE Africa supports disadvantaged girls in rural Malawi to complete secondary school with scholarships, an extracurricular life skills program, and post-secondary assistance to pursue higher education or income-generating activities. AGE Africa works closely with the government - both at the district and central levels - to identify populations in need and introduce the program's unique life skills curriculum to schools across the country. Each year, AGE Africa works with more than 500 girls through its scholarship fund or extracurricular program.Currently, AGE Africa is working with the government to propose a pilot program of its CHATS curriculum in 10 public schools for one year. Based on the pilot's impact and results, AGE Africa would then lobby for the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MOEST) to reform the national curriculum and scale up the program in government schools nationwide.

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