Despite Thailand’s success in expanding educational access, new empirical evidence suggests that much more needs to be done to maximize the potential of its students. The 2012 PISA reading assessment reveals that almost one-third of Thai 15 year-old students were “functionally illiterate,” lacking critical skills needed for employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. Furthermore, the performance gap among schools has been widening in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the disadvantaged and poorer-performing students are concentrated in small rural village schools.
Now that the dust has settled around the PISA results we have been thinking about the reasons behind Indonesia's poor showing. For those of you who haven't seen them, Indonesia ranked lower than all participating countries except Peru in mathematics and science, and was fifth from last on reading. Perhaps more worrying were the low absolute levels of learning reported for 15-year-olds. In mathematics, three-quarters of students were rated at or below the lowest benchmark – a level associated with only rudimentary levels of proficiency and a lack of higher order thinking skills.
Imagine what the world would look like if there were no teachers, what our life would be like, and what your surroundings would look like. Is it a modern world like today or just jungles with no civilization? Take your time and imagine.
I started working in Angola just before the peace treaty was signed in 2002. Luanda was a dangerous city at the time, and armed youths were a common sight on the street corners. Traveling within the country was almost impossible as roads were either destroyed or mined. The authorities had little control over service delivery, and in many provinces, the population had migrated and there were very few villages left. But now, nine years after the peace treaty, Angola is a very different country. It is about this new country that I want to tell you, about a school in one of the most remote villages in Angola, where a silent revolution is taking place – a learning revolution.
I must first introduce you to Lucinda Alves, a primary school teacher. Lucinda is 26 years old, and like many of her fellow villagers, returned to Ongiva, in the southern province of Cunene, after the war. After attending eight years of school, she is now a primary school teacher. She is one of about 70,000 new teachers who were recruited by the Ministry of Education between 2004 and 2008. Like many of her colleagues all over the country, Lucinda is an auxiliary teacher. This is a new teacher category that is supposed to include those with a minimum qualification of 12 years of schooling and no pedagogical training. The next category, teacher with a diploma, allows auxiliary teachers to upgrade their academic and pedagogical qualifications and develop their careers. All teachers in Lucinda’s school are auxiliary including the head teacher.