Two years ago, 23-year-old Pedro Flores became a technician specializing in renewable energy—all thanks to a degree from a technical institute in Maule, located in one of Chile’s poorest regions. After completing his degree in just two years, Flores became the only person in his family to obtain an advanced degree. Today, he lives in Santiago and works for a private solar energy multinational corporation, where he earns a competitive salary that is only slightly below the average for entry-level professionals in his field, most of whom spent over five years in university.
Photo: Ravinder Casley Gera
Alberto Gwande and his students at Khuzi school in Malawi need more teachers. The school is severely understaffed, with only six teachers for nearly 800 students. “I was supposed to receive new teachers last year, but they never came,” recalls Alberto, the headteacher.
Khuzi is 20 kilometres away from Nathenje, the nearest large village with a trading center, and its Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) is 131 pupils per teacher. In contrast, Chibubu school, located four kilometers from Nathenje, has a PTR of 65, while Mwatibu school, located inside the village, has a PTR of just 49. And yet, despite the shortage at Khuzi, it was Chibubu which received four new teachers last year.
I believe that people who are constantly on the lookout for new models of education should also look to the past at something that was started over 40 years ago. In the 1970s, the “New School” model was born in rural Colombia.
New School – Escuela Nueva in Spanish – is recognized for its innovative nature and for improving the education of millions of children around the world. Originally designed to provide cost-effective schooling to small rural schools in Colombia, it focused on cooperative learning and leadership, feedback, social interaction – all now hallmarks of so-called 21st century learning.
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.
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.
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.
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.