World Refugee Day happens once year, but the issues it is designed to highlight are a daily concern for Lebanon. As the country which hosts the world’s largest number of refugees per capita, Lebanon holds some important lessons. Lebanon almost doubled the size of its national public education system in five years in response to the ongoing refugee crisis, something no country has ever done before. The large increases in primary education seen particularly in African countries in the last decade and a half rarely accounted for more than a 50 percent increase in the total public school population as they were focused on the first six years of school; Lebanon has increased its overall public school population by almost 100 percent.
Poor math and science scores in Sub-Saharan African schools – particularly in school-leaving exams – has long plagued educationists and policy makers. As my colleague, Waly Wane, pointed out in a recent post, failures to improve learning outcomes in these subjects raise doubts as to whether African education policies can ever deliver the scientists and engineers the continent needs to do better socio-economically.
Twenty-four-year-old Narmina enrolled at the Azerbaijan University of Languages in September of 2012. In the last year of Narmina’s studies, her father, a war veteran, and mother encountered financial difficulties and were unable to pay Narmina’s tuition. Having dropped out or, more accurately, “stopped out” of her studies, Narmina applied to Azerbaijan’s newly established Maarifci Student Loan Foundation (MSLF) and was one of the first to be awarded a student loan. With the much needed financial support, Narmina has since completed her bachelor’s degree and now works at a local tourism company.
Editor's note: This is a guest blog by Jonathan Starr, founder of Abaarso School of Science and Technology, and the author of “It Takes A School.”
60 Minutes, The New York Times, MSNBC, BBC, and CNN are just some of the media outlets that have covered the story of Abaarso School in Somaliland. Abaarso is also the subject of a recently released book, It Takes A School, and an upcoming documentary, Somaliland, The Abaarso Story. All this attention is the result of Abaarso’s extraordinary success, despite conventional wisdom believing Abaarso’s results were impossible anywhere, never mind in the unrecognized breakaway country of Somaliland. Given Abaarso’s achievements and modest price tag, its approach is worth a deeper dive for lessons that can be applied elsewhere.
Recently, the OECD released the results for PISA 2015, an international assessment that measures the skills of 15-year-old students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real-life problems. There is a sense of urgency to ensure that students have solid skills amidst modest economic growth and long-term demographic decline in Europe and Central Asia (ECA).
When it comes to evaluating education systems, we have available basic high-level indicators such as a country’s GDP allocated to education, national learning levels, enrollment and completion rates, and data on teachers. But “What is going wrong?” and “Where is it going wrong?” are more difficult questions to answer.
When I visited Peru for the first time last month for a business development trip, I met with the heads of some leading private education institutions. At the end of my visit, I decided to book a cultural tour of Lima. During the tour, I asked our guide Marcos where he learned English as I found him very articulate, knowledgeable and with a good sense of humor. To my pleasant surprise and astonishment, he told me that he learned it by himself, mainly online. He then started practicing with visiting tourists until he became more comfortable leading tours himself.
Quality and innovative education policies emerge usually from a combination of factors such as good teachers, quality school management, and parental engagement, among others. In Brazil, a country with tremendous diversity and regional inequalities, good examples have emerged even when they are least expected. Ceará, a state in the northeast region of Brazil — where more than 500,000 children are living in rural areas and where poverty rates are high — is showing encouraging signs of success from innovative initiatives in education. The figures speak for themselves. Today, more than 70 of the 100 best schools in Brazil are in Ceará.