Over the past decades, education investments in the developing world have led to unprecedented enrollment rates. Yet, even with these historic investments, children sit in classrooms every day without learning. More than a schooling crisis, we face a learning crisis. Despite progress in countries as diverse as Vietnam, Colombia and Peru, millions of children leave school without knowing how to read a paragraph or solve a simple two-digit subtraction.
Emotions are the DNA of human experience. Social relationships play a pivotal role in helping us become fully human. Connectedness is an essential need for our species. So, we tend to assume it comes naturally and, thus, needs not to be taught in schools.
It is only recently that policymakers and organisations are paying attention and defining emotions and social skills as essential to a well-rounded education. This is mostly based on growing evidence that socio-emotional skills increase academic outcomes and well-being and employers seek those skills and will pay for them.
Last fall, while supporting the preparation of a World Bank-financed education project in Guyana, and exploring entry points for gender and disability inclusion (with Braille business cards in hand), I met Mr. Leroy Phillips at the Guyana Society for the Blind (GSB). Leroy introduced himself after stepping into my meeting room to collect his cane.
I learned that Mr. Phillips was a youth leader, disability rights advocate, student of communications and freelance radio broadcaster from Georgetown with a weekly disability-themed program Reach out and Touch. Leroy has also been invited to speak internationally, earning accolades for his work for children with disabilities, including the inaugural Queens’ Young Leaders Award 2015.
Leadership is a critical aspect of all social endeavors. In schools, talented leadership is essential to student achievement. School leadership impacts all facets of education: teacher motivation, shaping the conditions and the environment in which teaching and learning occurs, and interaction with the broader community. A large scale six-year study reported by Louis et al (2010) covering 180 schools in 43 school districts in the US found that there is no single case of a school improving its student achievement record in the absence of skilled school leadership.
In many school systems, effective school leadership is far from the norm. It is often simply assumed that school leaders, irrespective of capacity, will discharge responsibilities and initiatives assigned to them. Moreover, programs to prepare and or support school leaders are either lacking or ineffective.
I have always been amazed to find myself being the only woman participating in meetings and workshops in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It’s the largest country in Francophone Africa, with an estimated 77 million people of whom 50 percent are women. When asked where are the women of the country, the response is often the same.
It begins with a smile, followed by something like: “we don’t know, they are just not interested. Job vacancies are open to both genders, but female candidates either do not apply, or do not have the required skills. There is nothing we can do about it.”
International Children’s Day is celebrated in Mongolia as an official holiday. I could see that it provided an opportunity to reflect on the country’s commitment to create opportunities for its children to thrive and realize their full potential in school and adult life. Nowhere is this commitment more evident than in the education sector. With near-universal access to basic education achieved, legislation and government policy now calls for the expansion of early childhood education (ECE) services to cover every child in the country.
We teamed up with Right To Play, a global development organization headquartered in Canada, to design and deliver a session that explored how learning takes place in situations marked by conflict and violence. Central to the discussion were the role and relevance of social-emotional learning (SEL) and psycho-social support (PSS) to the learning agenda in conflict and violence affected contexts. The immediate goal is to provide school access and safety to children and youth. However, once safe in school, their learning and socio-emotional wellbeing become interdependent objectives.
- Sustainable Communities
The last 15 years have witnessed the largest global expansion of tertiary education in recent history due to a 60 percent growth in student enrollment. India’s performance is even more dramatic—tertiary education expanded almost a spectacular threefold, from 8.4 million students in 2000-01 to 23.8 million in 2013-14. The number of tertiary education institutions has also increased significantly.
Globally, more than 700 million women alive today married before the age of 18. Each year, 15 million additional girls are married as children, the vast majority of them in developing countries. Child marriage is widely considered a violation of human rights, and it is also a major impediment to gender equality. It profoundly affects the opportunities not only of child brides, but also of their children. And, as a study we issued this week concludes, it has significant economic implications as well.
Finland’s success in PISA ― a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of 15-year-old students’ aptitudes in mathematics, science, and reading ― was a surprise to Finns. In 2006, it was the best performing country. Even though the results have declined, Finland still ranks among the top countries.