How after-school tutoring in Nepal hurts the students that can’t afford it | 

Students as Shreeshitalacom Lower Secondary School. Kaski, Nepal.
Students as Shreeshitalacom Lower Secondary School. Kaski, Nepal.
Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

While conducting research in 2005 and 2006, Seema Jayachandran heard parents in Vietnam complain that teachers who offered paid tutoring were not teaching well during the school days. The parents accused the teachers of worrying more about the extra money they would make at the end of the day, rather than the students in the classroom.

The Northwestern University economics professor eventually had the opportunity to see whether there was any truth to the claim. He research in Nepal, recently published in the Journal of Development Economics, found that teachers who provided after school paid tutoring spent less time teaching in the classroom.

The students who are able to afford the tutoring performed better on secondary-school exams, those who don’t participate suffer. The problem is not unique to Nepal.

“It seems to be a pretty common phenomenon in mainly poorer countries in Asia,” said Jayachandran to Humanosphere. “In Africa it does not seem to be as common. Tutoring is not as common, but you do not hear this complaint in places where it occurs.”

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Calls grow louder for urgent action to protect Syria’s children | 

children study

The present situation for Syria’s children is bad. Three years have passed and a generation is caught in the middle.  It’s not hyperbole when considering that there is no end in sight to the civil war.

Physical danger is an immediate concern. Numbers are hard to know, but estimates put the number of children killed during the conflict at 10,000.

Need is driving some children into labor, something that was not the norm for Syria before the fighting started. Salah is only 15 years-old, but he works in a mine near the Beka’a valley of Lebanon, with his brother. School is not an option for the boys and the family needs income. So they must work.

“I didn’t use to work in Syria,” Salah said to UNICEF. “But I am working here because I need to help with the expenses. My brother is working too. We can’t go to school, so it’s better if we work.”

Also worrying is fact that some 3 million kids are not going to school, roughly half of the country’s school age children. If the disruption lasts for much longer the impacts could be long lasting, worry humanitarian organizations.

A total of 5.5 million children have felt the impacts of the fighting. The number of children affected by the Syrian civil war doubled in the past year and it keeps growing.

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Global Partnership for Education taps former Australian PM to boost funding for education | 

Troy Constable

The global campaign for education snagged a high-profile politician this week. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will assume the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Global Partnership for Education.

The organization’s model is akin to that of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, but it has not been able to wrestle the same financial resources.  The Global Fund managed to raise $12 billion in its December replenishment event, short of the $15b requested, but more than the previous $10b.

The Global Fund for Education hopes to also succeed when it holds its replenishment meeting in June.  A public goal has not been made, but the group said that they received $1.2 billion in funding requests in 2013. The Global Partnership for Education has managed to allocate $3.1 billion since 2002, not enough to stave off the 6.3% decline in global aid for basic education between 2009 and 2011.

“I am also alarmed about the recent sharp decline in donor support to education that threatens the progress achieved over the past decade, particularly for girls’ education,” said Gillard at the time of her appointment. “The global community must respond generously to the upcoming call for a renewal of multilateral, bilateral and national financing for basic education.”

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Building classrooms does not equal learning | 

Kenyan primary school students, in class.
Kenyan primary school students, in class.
Tom Murphy

Amid UNESCO’s jaw-dropping report on the immense challenge to education around the world is an important fact: Some 37 countries are losing half of the money they invest in primary education because students are not learning.

Even when children go to school, they are not learning. That is in part reflected in the statistic that an estimated 175 million young people cannot read a full sentence.

This problem is reflected in the language of the report and its accompanying release. The problem is learning, not education. Despite that knowledge, there is still attention on the basic goals of teachers and schools.

“We need 5.1 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

It is held that education is an important step of development. However, the evidence that spending money on education will not lead to job growth. Economist Francis Teal determined that more graduates is well and good, but they have nowhere to go if there are no jobs. Some may argue that better education can lead to the creation of working opportunities, but it appears to be that it is more about investing in connections to global markets.

Whether or not education can lead to income growth, the issue does not matter if students are not learning while they are in the classroom. Continue reading

Failing grade on education worldwide | 

For some reason, the critical role of education as a means to ‘sustainably’ reduce poverty and increase opportunity worldwide seldom gets the same attention as fighting diseases of poverty, technological innovation or efforts aimed at fostering healthier markets.

Maybe that explains the depressing – mostly ignored – findings in a report issued this week by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Or maybe it’s because the report was so damn long and buried all the fun graphics. Seriously, a 300-page report in this day and age (with more than 100 pages of footnotes and appendices)?

So here’s an illustration from page 87 that shows, perhaps surprisingly, that India and China lead the world in illiteracy:

Illiteracy Continue reading

Child marriage seen as a girl’s health issue | 


The development community is starting to pay closer attention to the problem of child marriages.

Long considered an issue of human rights, the conversation about child marriage is shifting to that of health and education. Girls married too young are denied the educational opportunities of their peers and are put at greater health risks, such as HIV and teen pregnancy.

What may seem like a distant problem, child marriage is found in every part of the world. Ending the global practice will unleash opportunity for millions of women and girls.

The number of global child marriages is declining, but not quickly enough. Rates are staggering in places like Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic. More than two out of every three girls are married before eighteen. Roughly half of the girls married early in Niger do so before turning fifteen.

The global rate of child marriage is alarmingly high in developing countries where one out of every three girls will marry before turning eighteen. It is estimated that 142 million girls will marry before the age of eighteen this decade. The majority of cases are found in South Asia and West and Central Africa, but it is India that carries the majority of the burden, 40% to be exact.

It is not only a problem in Africa and Asia. Closer to the US, Haiti has a child marriage rate exceeding thirty percent. Continue reading

Can schools profit from farming? This one might | 

DSC_0169Yala, Kenya – It is not often that a greenhouse is found on the property of a primary school in Kenya. Muhando primary school in Nyanza province has one.

It is a part of an agriculture program at the school supported by the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).

With successful crops and involvement by students and teachers, the project holds the potential to support some of the most vulnerable. Though it is still early and the teachers are not exactly sure what they will do with the profit.

One teacher asserted that it the money made from the farm must support the needy children in the school. Another said it could be used to improve lunch. School meals are available at the school for children that pay or are determined to be vulnerable. Maize and beans are cooked in giant cookstoves installed by the MVP.

DSC_0174The MVP is the brainchild of Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The program seeks to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by tackling poverty from many different angles including education, health and agriculture. The program’s work at Muhando covers the full range of areas.

The program’s fingerprints are all over the school. It bought the cow that produces twenty-four liters of milk every week. It built the rainwater storage tank that collects rainwater from the roof of the school building. It established a computer lab by providing the computers for the school. It even used to provide kale, fruit and other foods to stimulate participation in the meal program. Continue reading

Law & Order: Poverty alleviation unit | 

Gary Haugen
Gary Haugen

(New York) – Movement inside of the Sheraton Hotel, location of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, came to a standstill as President Obama exited the building.

Press and meeting attendees left at once, flooding the lobby of the hotel. A swarm formed in front of the elevators as people tried to predict which door would open first and ensure that they would board to head upward.

I made it up to the fifth floor when the elevator behind me arrived at the lobby. After being cleared by the Clinton Foundation volunteer gatekeepers, wearing white shirts and adorned in CGI branded scarves or ties, I was escorted to one of the conference rooms.

Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), jumped up to greet me as I apologized for my tardiness. He offered his forgiveness with a flash of his gap-toothed smile. A former Department of Justice lawyer, Haugen wears his grey hair in a flat-top style that taunts gravity’s pull.

He led the UN investigation following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The research and his human rights work led to the founding of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in 1997. He discovered that violence is one of the core problems related to poverty.

“The thing you notice is this massive level of violence against the poor in the developing world and the way it undermines their development and opportunity to get out of poverty,” he explains. Continue reading