In Guatemala we face diverse challenges when it comes to education. However, as a Medical Sciences student I think it is important to highlight education for children with special needs. Right now, Guatemala has a very poor public education system, which makes it hard for any kid to develop into a productive and independent adult. Less than 40 percent of Guatemalan teenagers can access high school education, and most of those who do will not graduate. And this is true of mainstream students. What about those who need curricular adaptation or any other kind of help? Most of the time they are denied the right to education for a number of reasons: the shame parents feel at having a child with disabilities; the economic barriers for them to afford education; or the shortage of organizations that are prepared to help and educate them. At this point in time, Guatemala is not ready to provide equal opportunities for all its students.
However, three years ago I got in touch with a great non-profit organization, the Margarita Tejada Foundation for Down Syndrome (DS). I worked with them as a volunteer and I had the opportunity to discover the different programs they created to educate DS children and adults, turning them into independent human beings, prepared to join society and play an active role. I believe they are innovators because they taught me how education does not need to be seen in terms of a classroom, chalkboard and notebooks. Education is transformation, and is about giving people the opportunity to fulfill their potential. The organlzation focuses on teaching people with DS useful skills such as handcrafts, paperwork, baking, cleaning and harvesting. This experience made me wonder: is it really necessary to measure educational progress through solving equations and taking tests? Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Education is about acceptance and participation.
My proposal is to begin by identifying the kids with special needs, especially in rural areas of Guatemala. It is then necessary to create a volunteer network to support the families raising DS children, since the early years of life are an important moment in development to provide educational stimulation. There is no time to waste. We need to give those parents inexpensive tools,and useful information to stimulate their kids at home and take care of the medical issues they may have to face later on.
I am very excited and grateful to be taking part in the WISE Learners’ Voice Program. This is the chance of a lifetime to learn from people all over the world, sharing ideas and discovering different perspectives on similar issues. I think it is great that Qatar Foundation is opening a window of opportunity for students like us, to learn from the top people in the field. The gift of their wisdom is something that will definitely change us forever. I can’t wait to arrive in Doha and participate in the workshops and the summit.
Ana Karen Fetzer
Indonesia’s constitution guarantees ”education as a right, … and the government strives to achieve better quality of education for all citizens regardless of their skin color, regions, impairment, and religions, and social classes” (MoNE, 2008). A single national education system was established by law in 1989. As shown in figure 1, formal education in Indonesia is divided into two streams, which exist in parallel at primary and secondary level: there is the general education system which is managed by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC), and has been decentralized to district government since 2001; and there are the Islamic Schools or Madrasah which come under the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) and the management of which is still centralized. (Weston, 2008, p.9). In terms of ownership and management, both general schools and Madrasah schools can be public or private (Weston, 2008, p.9). Despite having several tracks, a general school graduate has the option of proceeding to a higher level of education, whether at a general or Madrasah school.
Major Challenges to Indonesia’s Education
- In terms of access, Indonesia has met the target of universal basic education. However, access to senior secondary and especially tertiary education remains low, particularly for the poor. The number of children beyond the age of 15 enrolled from the poorest quintile drops dramatically, and by higher education, falls to less than 2 percent. Only 40 percent of 19-year-olds from the richest quintile were enrolled in school in 2010, a share that, worryingly, has not changed since 2006 (World Bank, 2013a, p.1).
- Looking at the pupil-teacher ratio in 2011, it would seem that Indonesia’s education system is strong with sufficient availability of teachers. Nationally, at primary level, every 16 students are taught by one teacher, and at secondary level almost every 15 students are taught by 15 teachers (UNESCO, 2011). But if we look closer at this situation, the national distribution of teachers is not good, because they are mostly concentrated in big cities, as the Minister of Education has admitted (Republika, 2011).
- In terms of quality of education, if we look at PIRLS, TIMSS, and PISA’s results, Indonesia is significantly below the international standard. For example, according to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), Indonesia is significantly below the OECD average statistically, having scored 402 (493 average) in reading, 371 (496 average) in mathematics, and 383 (501 average) in sciences (OECD, 2011).
- Despite the fact that the government has increased the education budget to 20 percent of the National Budget, transparency, good governance, efficiency, and effectiveness of the use of the budget should be in place.
- The government needs to boost public-private partnerships (PPPs) as one of the ways to increase resources, access to education, research, and innovation to improve the quality of education at all levels.
- There is a need to improve the quality and availability of teachers in all regions. Good quality teacher training, profiling, and also incentives should be priorities as teachers are the front line of education.
- The government should ensure people’s involvement in the education policy-making process, including in design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. There are a lot of education policy decisions which are not evidence-based and are irrelevant due to the fact that government does not involve the people in the process.
One of the best practices which has been celebrated nationally comes from social movements, such as Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesian Teaching Movement). This is an initiative that aims to give access of good quality education to all kids in Indonesia by sending the best Indonesian graduates to teach for a year in primary schools in remote areas. The movement also involves public participation and boosts community services in education through its other programs. Another best practice comes from YCAB (Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa), one of Indonesia’s prominent non-profit organizations, which provides education to help young people be confident and independent in making smart choices, choosing a healthy lifestyle that is free from drugs and HIV/AIDS. YCAB provides opportunities for school drop-outs and underprivileged young people to pursue their dreams and future independently through the provision of Basic Education, Digital Inclusion, and English Literacy courses. Furthermore, YCAB assists graduates with vocational skills to secure employment and empower low-income female entrepreneurs economically through microloans.
Expectations at WISE
I believe that the opportunity to participate as a WISE Learner will provide me with the necessary intellectual and practical environment to enrich and expand my understanding of creating supportive policy solutions to address the most pressing educational issues. I will also be able to learn from other WISE Learners who have taken many initiatives in their own countries. In return, I believe that my unique background, achievements, passion, and network can provide additional value for the program. I can be the door through which the program can engage with certain global youth movements and other education programs for social change, gain access to educational development in Indonesia, and collaborate on educational development.
Ministry of National Education. (2008). Country Report: Indonesia. Indonesian Public Policies on Inclusive Education. Presented at the 48th session of the International Conference on Education, Geneva, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/National_Reports/ICE_2008/indonesia_NR08.pdf
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2011), PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary. p.8. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/46619703.pdf
Republika. (2011). Persebaran Guru Tak Merata, Kemdikbud Kaji Perpindahan Otonomi Pendidikan. Retrieved from http://www.republika.co.id/berita/pendidikan/berita-pendidikan/11/12/10/lvyumb-persebaran-guru-tak-merata-kemdikbud-kaji-perpindahan-otonomi-pendidikan
Siniscalco, M.T. (2004). Paper Commissioned for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2005, The Quality Imperative: Teachers’ Salaries. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001466/146696e.pdf
SMEC International. (2006). Indonesia: Madrasah Education Development Project. Jakarta: ADB. Retrieved from http://www2.adb.org/Documents/Reports/Consultant/37475-INO/37475-INO-TACR.pdf
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2011a). Global Teacher Indicators: Pupil Teacher Ratio. Retrieved from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/unesco/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=3336&IF_Language=eng
Weston, Stuart. (2008). A Study of Junior Secondary Education in Indonesia: A Review of the Implementation of Nine Years Universal Basic Education. Jakarta: USAID. Retrieved from http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/EdStats/IDNdprep08.pdf
World Bank. (2011). Unemployment Youth. Retrieved from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.FE.ZS/countries
World Bank. (2013a). Spending more or Spending Better: Improving Education Financing in Indonesia. Jakarta: World Bank. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/03/17537371/spending-more-or-spending-better-improving-education-financing-indonesia
YCAB Foundation. How We Work. Retrieved from http://www.ycabfoundation.org/learn/how-we-work/
Paulo Freire describes the way in which “knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other”. Schools provide a space for transformative processes to take place. Now, more than ever, invention and re-invention of knowledge, social structures and the way in which people engage with the world around them is needed in order to address the economic, environmental and socio-political challenges of the 21st century.
In Ireland, students have called for the reform of Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) in secondary schools. The role of education, and in particular CSPE, is central to providing a space for re-invention and transformation. CSPE in the Irish curriculum has the potential to be utilized as a politicized and transformative space where youth have the ability to develop their political literacy and identity in relation to modern-day democratic citizenship, socio-economic and political challenges. Currently, “the transformation of citizenship perceptions and political participation is not without challenges. Many young people have not developed the voting ‘habit’, which can pose serious problems in electoral democracies in the future when they potentially reach the ‘age of disillusionment’”. (EACEA, 2013)
This ‘age of disillusionment’ amongst youth is evident within Irish society at present. During a period of increasingly challenging economic and socio-political change, CSPE must play a central role in how young people engage with the process of democratization and citizenship. For example, “there is a general agreement that in order to motivate young people to participate, a far more in-depth education about politics is called for. Many argue that politics and policy studies should form a much more central part of basic school studies because, it is argued, many young people simply do not know enough about how their system works”. Furthermore, the ethos of a reformed CSPE curriculum should integrate the belief that “participation in democratic life cannot be reduced to membership of organisations, but should also relate to the attempts made by young people to influence policy-making and politics and their efforts to come together to discuss, think about and plan for social change. (EACEA, 2013)
Democratic participation and socio- political literacy are integral to the progress and development of Irish society and the world at large. Consequently, the reform and re-invention of Civic, Social and Political Education must be prioritized and implemented so that students are given an opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and ability to engage with democratic citizenship and confront the socio-economic, political challenges facing the 21st century. It is through this process that schools have the ability to transform and reinvent the world around them by teaching their students to “Be a Voice, Not an Echo”.
EACEA (2013) Political Participation and EU Citizenship: Perceptions and Behaviours of Young People. Evidence from Eurometer Surveys. European Commission: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.
EACEA (2013) Youth Participation in Democratic Life. Final Report February 2013. European Commission: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency. LSE Enterprise.
Freire, P (1996) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (Rev. Ed.) Penguin: London
How would you describe your national educational system?
The national education system in Pakistan could be best described as an entity full of paradoxes. On the one hand, there are government schools, which are poorly funded and universally maligned for their lack of impact. Access to these schools is free or highly subsidized, and thus they are the schools of choice for low-income families. In contrast to these, one can also find schools which pride themselves on their quality of education, and their ability to send students every year to the world’s top universities. Of course, an overwhelming majority of these schools are privately owned, and on most occasions charge fees in excess of the average monthly salary in Pakistan. It is clear that there is a massive problem with inequality in society which is accordingly reflected in the Pakistani educational system. People who can afford to pay top dollar can have access to world-class education, and those who cannot are doomed to the vicious cycle of poverty.
What are the major challenges?
Apart from the major challenge of access, a big stumbling block presents itself in the form of an outdated curriculum and teaching practices. When I was in secondary school, the textbooks I used to learn Urdu were written in 1973 and had undergone only minor revisions since. The world has transformed enormously since the 70s and I think that we students were cheated out of a tremendous learning opportunity by being instructed using outdated content. Urdu literature has moved on, and so have teaching techniques. Although it is essential to teach the classics, it is equally important to teach students the right way, something that can only be achieved by constantly reviewing teaching practice. Furthermore, the curriculum is tainted with a bias that views minorities in Pakistan (e.g. Hindus and Christians) in an unfavorable way. Given the current situation of Pakistan, these issues are extremely important, because the training of young minds is the only way to secure a better future for the country.
What solutions would you propose to these challenges?
The solution, in my opinion, involves ensuring that the educational authorities first decide what direction they want the country’s education to take. The country is presently divided over whether education should be provided in English, Urdu (the national language) or both. Similar debates are taking place over the methods employed to teach important subjects such as the natural sciences. Although it is good to have debate, there is an urgent need for clarity in order to drive educational policy forward. Once a clear path forward has been decided on, it is important to provide many resources as intensively as possible in order to achieve the desired outcomes. According to the World Bank, Pakistan spends just 2.4 percent of its GDP on education, and the trend is towards further cuts. Considering the relative size of the Pakistani economy and population, this is simply not enough. In order to get results, more resources need to be directed towards education in general.
Drawing on your experience, could you describe any innovative projects / initiatives / outstanding educators you know about?
During my time as a student, I have had the honor of being educated by wonderful teachers. One of my teachers in high school, Mr. Nicholas Jayanathan, actively encouraged the students to develop critical thinking skills when presented with any problem. Our high school did not have technologically advanced laboratories or fancy classrooms. However, Mr. Jayanathan made active use of whatever resources he had at hand. I think other educators can learn from him as he showed us that it is more important to develop skills than simply feed students information, while making maximum use of the available resources. He was innovative in the way that he provided additional value to the students while remaining within the existing bounds of the system. His teaching method was exemplary, and was unhampered by the scarcity of resources - a problem that afflicts education worldwide today.
Recently, I have had conflicting feelings about education in Nigeria. I have always been a strong critic of the level of decay and dysfunction in the public education system, but there have been quite a few innovations coming out of the private education system recently. In presenting an overview of the national education system in Nigeria, I will highlight the state of ithe nfrastructure, teacher qualification and training, and access to education in rural areas.
Across the country, several public primary and secondary schools have fallen apart due to the use of poor construction materials. Classrooms are built without windows, black (or white) boards, chairs or tables. Most schools have no libraries, dining halls, laboratories, or lavatories. Students are routinely found sitting on bare floors, open window sills, or sharing wooden planks with three or four other students. Needless to say, the use of technology is almost completely non-existent in public school in Nigeria. On the other hand, wealthy private schools have made considerable progress in infrastructure design, creating functional libraries and laboratories, and incorporating technology into classrooms. The challenge, however, is access: the vast majority of Nigerian students cannot afford tuition in private schools, and are thus confined to poor public schools.
I believe that teachers form the fabric of good schools, and I believe that the role of a teacher is that of a facilitator and mentor. In my experience, very little facilitation and mentoring takes place in Nigerian schools. Teaching is not a very enviable profession in Nigeria, thus only poor academic performers enrol in teacher training colleges where the bar for performance is consequently set very low. Entering the teaching profession with poor qualifications and no training programmes, teachers are unable to impart knowledge to students. In a random exercise conducted recently, the Governor of Edo State in eastern Nigeria, Mr. Adams Oshiomole, asked a teacher with 20 years of teaching experience to read an affidavit which she had signed. Sadly, she couldn’t read out the words on the paper.
If these sad occurrences are witnessed in urban schools, one can only cringe at the quality of education being delivered in rural schools. In rural areas, most of the kids are being left behind with only a handful of missionary schools in operation. There has been a general neglect of students in villages with no teachers willing to teach in remote areas, dilapidated school buildings and inaccessible roads. In water-logged areas, students are often found swimming across rivers to get to school.
In proposing solutions to the problems confronting national education in Nigeria, I believe that there needs to be a national blueprint for reform. There needs to be a plan for financing of education, increasing the national budgetary allocations for schools and ensuring that infrastructure upgrades are thorough. There must also be a review of teaching qualifications, ensuring that those who are entrusted with developing the nation’s future leaders are adequately equipped to lead that transformation. Alongside reviewing teaching qualifications, there must be a review of professional development programmes and increased remuneration for teachers. There is also an urgent need for curriculum redesign and increasing access to education in rural areas.
An example of an innovative approach to education is what I have experienced at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. The institution has adopted a Socratic method of teaching whereby teachers lead classrooms with an average of 15 students, and teachers serve as facilitators of conversations, empowering students to learn at their own pace.
By participating at the WISE Summit, I expect to share opinions and exchange ideas with a network of other young leaders who are as passionate about educational reform as I am. I expect to hear from practitioners who are already implementing innovative projects in their home countries, and network with potential collaborators for projects which I will initiate. Above all, I believe that the collective energy that will be transmitted at the Summit will inspire me to find my niche and lead initiatives for change in my country.
Education, I believe, is a word that combines two concepts: gaining and sharing, or taking and contributing. The idea of gain, comes, obviously, from receiving the information that our educators present us with. Sharing, however, is a concept that does not have a clear definition. Some of us could relate this concept to the idea of students contributing to the educational program. Others might think of it as students sharing the knowledge they acquire throughout the years between each other.
In the first case, sharing would be a concept that not many educational systems implement, or even apply. The educational system that I have followed for more than 10 years of my life does not necessarily consider the idea of having students contributing to the program by any means.
Students, under this program, are seen as pure receivers—never as contributors. By the end of the first six years of the educational program, students are expected to be able to express themselves fluently in three different languages: French, Arabic, and English. By the end of the last six years, they are expected to master these three languages, besides obtaining the skills required (in math, physics, philosophy, history, geography, and biology) to pass international exams like the Baccalaureate.
One of the main points that could be criticized in the structure of this program is the lack of social tutoring or monitoring of students. The big focus on filling students’ minds with a set of subjects in a very specified way leaves no room or possibility for any activities to build interpersonal communication skills among students. This eventually leads to the formation of a whole generation that is filled with knowledge but incapable communicating it.
Taking part in this program, it was a challenge for me to be a receiver and still insist on the idea of being a contributor. Developing communication skills in us students was a vague concept for me to begin with. Throughout the years, however, I have learnt that what we refer to as “interpersonal communication skills” could simply mean the ability to read a text in public without feeling sick with stage fright, the ability to have a conversation with the teacher without shaking, or even the ability to raise your hand and ask a question in class without hesitating. As simple as these acts may sound, developing the required skills to perform them has been a bit of a challenge with the lack of the right platform for it. Being aware of this point, however, has helped a great deal. We, as students, have developed the idea for an annual event that is fully monitored and organized by pupils. The program started as a student initiative, and eventually became a part of the educational program which helped improve the role of students as real contributors to the educational system.
Thus, taking part in any educational system, it is very important to believe in the significance of creating that balance between gaining and sharing, or taking and contributing.This is an important way, I believe, that we can improve our educational systems and make positive contributions to it.
The first thing I heard about Harishprotap from his class teacher is, “He never listens to class lectures, he never participates, he has no interest in learning.” Harishprotap looked at me strangely when his teacher was talking to me about him. He is a fifth grade student in DBDS (Dr. Bansi Dhar School) Kota, Rajasthan, India. I got to know about Harishprotap when I was doing a project on “Innovative Teaching Practice in Math and English” for primary section as a part of my internship at DBDS in the summer of 2012. This internship helped me reflect on how youth involvement can change the traditional picture of the learning environment around the world.
I observed how the teacher was teaching and the students were responding in Harishprotap’s English class for two days. Then I came up with some games for the class based on what they were learning. I learned these games and teaching methods from my university professors and Access Academy (A Pre-University Program) teachers. On the first day Harishprotap did not participate. On the second day he started raising his hand. Surprisingly, on the third day he was very active in his team. Then I felt, “It’s possible to inspire students like Harishprotap and help them to enjoy the learning environment.”
In this globalized world, if we are looking for creative thinkers and passionate professionals in the field of work, we must think of renovating the education system from primary school level onwards because this is the stage where a student first engages himself or herself with the academic learning process. If students get a chance to think about their dreams and capabilities from the first stage of their school lives, it will help them thereafter - at junior, higher secondary, and university level.
There are many Harishprotaps in almost every school around the world. Can we inspire them to learn? Can we help them experience the joy of learning? Yes, we can! To do this, we need to get rid of conventional attitudes towards learning and stop depending on the major decision makers to change the system. I believe that if young people from all around the world start taking responsibility in their respective communities, it is possible to change the primary education system, especially in developing countries.
I believe in inspiration because it gives me the courage, motivation, and strength to do what I want to do. I strongly believe that WISE is going to be an outstanding platform, which will inspire me to achieve my goal. At WISE, will be able to meet professionals who are passionate about creating a better world by bringing innovation to education. Most importantly, I am very much looking forward to meeting the WISE Learners’ Voice Team, because we all are passionate about education even though we may have different stories and we are from different parts of the world. I hope that through this year-long program we will be able to learn from each other, help each other carry out our projects, and together bring positive change to the whole world by contributing to our own societies.
I like to define education as the lifelong process of elevating our minds and purifying our hearts through discipline. Everyone gets the “elevating our minds” part, but “purifying our hearts” usually leaves people with a semi-perplexed look on their faces. I should explain.
When talking about education I am always haunted by the powerful words of David Orr, who said: “the designers and perpetrators of the Holocaust were the heirs of Kant and Goethe. In most respects the Germans were the best educated people on Earth, but their education did not serve as an adequate barrier to barbarity.” As Orr remarks, many of the global and local problems we presently face—such as the environmental crisis—are caused not by ignorant people, but by “people with BAs, BSs, LLBs, MBAs, and PhDs.”
Meaning, education is not necessarily good in and of itself, and this is why “elevating our minds” is not enough. I think it was Aristotle who said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the heart could be playing a much more significant role than we think in the development of our intellect. That is actually one of the problems of education today, in the words of Sir Ken Robinson: it focuses exclusively on the brain, and slightly to one side. What about the rest of our being?
In my view, there is an imbalance between what we learn and how we learn it, not to mention a lack of prioritization. For instance, we learn more about how nature works than we learn about how human nature works. Even when we study nature we only look at science but never even ask why something as powerful as “science” is possible to begin with. Indeed, why is the universe intelligible? Why—not just “how”—can we study it, derive equations, understand certain phenomena (to some extent), and use this knowledge for our benefit? Why is there “something’”and not “nothing”?
I was fortunate to experience studentship in the Middle East and in North America at different stages of my life. I went to a French school in Damascus, and we were lucky to have some great teachers who always presented us with thought-provoking questions that sometimes threw us completely out of “the box”. They made us appreciate not just science, physics, chemistry and mathematics, but also art, poetry, theater, music and film. There was a lot of cross-pollination between disciplines, and I felt this deepened our humanity and allowed us to make some interesting connections.
Then I traveled to Canada to study mechanical engineering at McGill University, where I am also currently pursuing a Master’s degree in the same field. Here, too, I was fortunate to learn with excellent teachers both at university and outside. While the academic world is usually very much encephalocentric (focusing on and caring only about the brain), I was blessed to meet and study with extraordinary artists and spiritual gurus who completely challenged that worldview. We could all use a healthy and balanced education where we pay equal attention to all of our human faculties.
At WISE, I hope to meet like-minded and unlike-minded educators and learners who strive to make education a more meaningful and enriching experience. I especially look forward to the thoughtful conversations and collaborations that are going to take place throughout the year. Finally, I sincerely hope to share and employ what we are going to learn for the benefit of our diverse communities.
Singapore, commonly known as an island country too small to notice on the map, has been recognized for having one of the top academic systems in the world. As of 2012, 67.7 percent of the population possesses at least a secondary or higher qualification (Statistics Singapore, 2013) and over 25 percent of the population as of late has a university degree (Statistics Singapore, 2013). The government is currently pushing for the latter to reach 40 percent by the year 2020. Being the service capital for global capitalism, the education policy in Singapore is closely coordinated with labor market policy. The Singaporean government is constantly trying to upgrade its population. They offer countless scholarships for students to attain post-secondary qualifications which are mostly connected to working bonds. However with every extremely successful set of strategies comes its set of challenges.
Towards the end of 2011, the Lien Foundation – a local philanthropic organization - initiated two global studies that included “The Starting Well Index”, which ranked Singapore as 29th out of 45 countries on the basis of the quality of the early childhood education system. Being a country that took comfort in believing that it has one of the best performing systems, this ranking acted as a wake-up call for the nation. The Early Education industry has made the headlines lately with both local and international discussions about the many factors that determine its standards. This includes the ecological support that the industry is receiving, the governance of the pre-school sector and the gaps within the sector in accessibility, quality and equity.
Another major challenge that the country is facing is the creative gap in society. This academic-driven country is still very much bureaucratic and hierarchical. As such, it is falling far behind in the knowledge economy of the 21st century that is strongly based on the origination of ideas.
It is important for the government to channel positive attention in managing and altering policies concerning the early education system. The country as a whole must understand the importance of the first seven years of a child’s life and how important the early education setting that he or she experiences is in allowing for holistic growth to build a more resilient individual.
To start closing the creativity gap, it is important – first and foremost - for teachers to look beyond “pen-and-paper” teaching. Learning in classrooms ought to be made hands-on and dynamic, allowing for multiple means of representation, engagement and expression. When children are provided with platforms to explore within a wide spectrum, the classroom will ooze with creativity. Opportunities can be explored by allowing children to learn through play and also through the arts. These avenues will provide children with platforms for discovery beyond the conventional boundaries and help them grow to be critical and creative thinkers. On a much larger scale, it is important for the government to expand and create a more dynamic system and move away from its highly bureaucratic ways.
I believe that the Summit will act as a magnificent kick-start to my year-long journey with the team of WISE Learners. Through my participation I hope to be able to interact with professionals from all around the world and gain new perspectives and ideas on how we can reinvent education together to meet the needs of learners from every walk of life. I hope to meet and interact with global-minded young people that strive to advocate for education.
Nur A’qilah Abu Saiere
Haiti has an educational system which aims to promote accessible, high-quality education with qualified teachers and professors.
This educational system is divided into four levels: Preschool, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education.
Although the system is based and modeled on the French system, it is still necessary to influence the policies that determine the design and delivery of school education.
In 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake which affected every sector, especially the educational system, by destroying and damaging the majority of schools. Although free education for all is guaranteed by the constitution, the government has been unable to fulfill this obligation given the literacy rate, which is approximately 51 percent. The reasons for this are:
- Access is still limited and quality still remains a major challenge;
- Public investment is very low in the field of education (less than 15 percent);
- More than 60 percent of the population is living under the poverty line, so people cannot afford private school tuition for their children, since public school is less than 20% and private school is still not accessible to everyone;
- A large number of teachers are unqualified.
- The lack of structures and standards does not contribute to high-quality education.
- When I imagine a better education system in my country, I mainly want to see the following improvements:
- A considerable part of the public budget assigned to education (25-30 percent);
- Regular training of teachers;
- Enhancement of the quality of education;
- Strengthening the regulation of the educational system;
- Promotion of research and reading at school.
That being said, the situation is worrisome. The Ministry of Education alone cannot change things. We are all being affected. So if we do not act quickly, we will fail in reaching our goal of making education the key to success.
I have been part of this system since I was three years old and I have realized that my country lacks an educational structure.
Although Haitian schools are considered overly theoretical, I was pleased, delighted and privileged to carry out chemistry, biology and physics experiments at secondary school. But I also had to memorize entire pages for my courses, because the exams were so difficult.
I am one of those who first used the Online Trading Investment and Simulator (OTIS) in Haiti. With OTIS I learned and applied several key concepts covered in both basic investment courses and portfolio management courses in my university.
In spite of difficulties and issues that I had to face from primary, secondary school and university, I have always done my best to be among the top students in my class, which is why I am happy today to say that my experience as a learner has been quite enriching.
Being a WISE Learner is both an honor and a privilege. Through my membership of WISE Learners’ Voice, I hope to learn as much as I can and expect to increase and strengthen my communication and leadership skills. This is also an opportunity to strengthen both my interpersonal development and academic study skills.
As the World Innovation Summit brings together prominent educational, political and social leaders, I hope to have enough information to explore. I am very excited about being able to share my ideas and views regarding education.
I am looking forward to an intellectually and socially enriching experience at the World Innovation Summit for Education.
Deepa is a little girl from Bangalore who dreams of being a doctor. When she turned 12, she had to quit school because her parents, who work at one of the city’s many construction projects, asked her to start work as a maid instead and contribute to the family’s income. This is a challenge she shares with eight million children in India who have never set foot in a school.
When the Right to Education Act was passed in India in 2010, a Constitutional promise was sought to change this, giving Deepa and millions of children across India between the age of 6 and 14 the right to a free and compulsory education. This right holds the promise of social justice, and offers a way out of poverty and unemployment. It complements the significant progress that India has already made in achieving near-universal primary education through sustained interventions and inputs under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Midday Meal Scheme.
However, while the Right to Education Act is a major step in the right direction and has facilitated greater enrollments in schools, enrollments alone cannot provide children with the skills they need for future growth and employability. There is growing evidence that despite higher investments in primary education the quality of learning in India’s schools is dismally low. The 2012 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER/Pratham) reveals that about 53 percent of the children enrolled in schools at Std V level were unable to read a Std. II Level Text. There is clearly a pressing need for education policy makers in India to tackle the “quality” problem in schooling and to ensure that the right to go to school translates into the right to “learn”.
With 13 percent of its population under six years of age, the significance of these measures for India’s future growth cannot be understated. But as home to 19 percent of the world’s children, the progress that India makes towards turning education into a reality for all its children will be an important factor in determining the progress the world makes in overcoming illiteracy.
I believe that greater innovation and youth engagement in education hold the answer. In this context, the inspiring work done by NGOs and State governments in parts of India could show us the way ahead. Pratham, which won the 2012 WISE Prize for Education, is an example of how an NGO can partner with local governments and youth to create a real difference in the implementation of educational programs in communities. In Tamil Nadu, the State government successfully implemented activity-based learning in 37,500 schools across the State, leading to substantial improvement in student performance. Today, while much has been achieved, talent continues to go to waste because students who possess the enthusiasm and desire to make a positive change are often excluded from processes that determine their futures and are denied representation in places where decision making power, particularly in education, is exercised.
The WISE Learners’ Voice Program represents an important shift from the past by bringing the all-important views of students to the issue of re-thinking education. For me, this is an immense opportunity to meet with educators and learners who work to create sustainable innovative change in education globally. With the insights I gain as a Learner, I hope to be better equipped to contribute to education policy reform in India. Likewise, by bringing my own experiences to WISE, I hope to contribute to the dialogue and inspire more young people to bring about change in their communities.
During the WISE and British Council event held in Manchester in June, I enjoyed discussing the topic of “Future models of learning” with professionals and students who had different perspectives but shared the same passion for education. This subject is an important one that gives rise to heated debate among education practitioners, policy makers, students, teachers, parents, etc. We live in an ever-changing world – with an ever-changing future. Certainty regarding what is to come is a feeling that many people of my generation often lack. We cannot predict, but we can prefer one future scenario to another and do all we can to turn our wishes into reality.
When I think of a future model of education, there are three wishes that I would like to express. I wish for a learning world where the educational journey lasts for a lifetime, where educational systems educate active, responsible citizens and where no-one is excluded from the educational process.
First of all, I believe in a future model in which learning does not stop when we leave the classroom, but where we are lifelong learners, aware of the learning process and able to use various life situations as learning opportunities.
I wish for a world where we learn not only for work skills and career improvement, but also where learning is recognized as a value in itself: used to satisfy one’s curiosity about the world, the passion for knowledge and in order to celebrate our remarkable ability to learn.
As I see it, the infrastructure for lifelong learning is represented not only by Massive Open Online Courses but also by informal study circles or institutions such as Barefoot College - the college for the poor in India, where middle-aged, often illiterate women from all around the world learn about solar technology and engineering in order to be able to solar-electrify their villages.
Secondly, I wish for a future model of learning which will not only foster enterpreunial behaviours but also active citizenship, creating in students a sense of personal responsibility with regard to their community, surroundings and environment, while also equipping them with practical tools for leadership to help communities and facilitate change.
A great practical example of such active citizenship education is the Transition Town movement: a network of communities that promote sustainable economies and ecological resilience in response to climate change and economic instability. This movement is promoting a vision of society where everyone is a leader who can implement a group process in order to achieve a given task, and all community members are expected to participate actively in the process of decision making and implementation - there is no government and everyone is expected to take part. This is a model in which leadership skills are taught through non-formal education on a peer-to-peer basis and they become a habit, as natural as being able to read and write.
My final wish is for a world of inclusive education. I see the role of Information and Communication Technologies as a tool for increasing access to education for various excluded communities and individuals: geographically dispersed communities, people with disabilities, individuals that for other reasons cannot participate. This does not require sophisticated technologies: for women and girls in Afghanistan, who are not allowed to leave their houses, it could just be a radio station. This is the case with a project in which Afghan women create media materials for other Afghan women and girls, enabling them to receive at least basic education: since they cannot go to school, the school is brought to their homes.
Apart from the technologies and infrastructure themselves, an important factor for increasing inclusion is political will on the part of governments but also NGOs and other civil society actors. This leads to the appropriate allocation of the required resources (time, money, human resources).
What should not be forgotten, however, is the challenge which lies behind the increased presence of technological solutions in education: that challenge is exclusion, when various degrees of technological literacy and access to technology can further disadvantage some learners.
Many innovative and progressive solutions and ideas to reform, transform and improve education were discussed during the debates in Manchester. It is great that these ideas are being debated. However, I hope that there is a feeling of urgency shared by everyone who is passionate about bringing change the education: this is not a rehearsal – this is life. Education is happening today and the faster the changes are implemented, the more lives will be changed, the more talented people will be identified, and the brighter the future that we can expect for the world.
As a student of education, I tend to view the world through that lens. One of the many beautiful things about Learners’ Voice is that it brings together students from very diverse backgrounds, which enhances the lenses through which we view the world. We learn to be cross-cultural but also multidisciplinary and to understand the connections between our varied homes and fields of work and study.
Yesterday, on the second day of the Global Causes conference at Wheelock College in Boston, I attended sessions on health and human rights that also illustrated that interconnectedness and the tight linkages between education and other pressing issues worldwide. We can improve education, but in every step we should consider what the purpose of education is. Most would agree that formal education should prepare us to lead healthy and productive lives. Fewer could come to a consensus on whether and how education should advance human rights.
Yesterday I had an epiphany, which is that the purpose of education should always be human rights and social justice. Education should prepare young students not only for participation in their own societies, but to advance those societies as well. George Peabody founded the school at Vanderbilt from which I graduated, and he famously said that education is a debt we must pay forward. This, to me, resonates when we consider the purpose as advancement of human rights. If we really want to improve life for future generations, it comes through the health and human rights advancements afforded by excellent education.
In thinking about education for human rights, I am reminded of the shared history of these areas. I think of the sacrifice of the Little Rock Nine as they became the face of racial desegregation of schools in the American south. I think of Malala in Pakistan. If we could always remember and honor human rights in our schools, if we could really learn the lessons of such human rights pioneers, education and society would become more just, equitable, and powerful.
This is one of my favorite photos of our trip to Manchester for the WISE/British Council collaborative event on Future Models of Learning. At first glance it might look like just a nice picture of two learners having dinner, but it is much more…
This picture depicts a learner from Bahrain who studied in Qatar with another learner from Poland who works in Czech Republic having Thai noodles in United Kingdom. The picture was taken by a French entrepreneur who works in London and has Algerian origins. While the pictures were being taken, an Italian/Chilean friend who works in France was laughing at our poses while a Pakistani student who studies in Qatar was struggling with his chopsticks. Isn’t that so… multicultural?
The WISE Learners’ Voice Program exposes us to an extraordinary multiculturalism that does not only broaden our horizons, but it also shows us how we are citizens of the world, sharing the same passion for education and positive change regardless of our different backgrounds.
We learn from our diversity just as much as (or more than) we learn from our individual views and experiences. We learn how to think globally and act locally learning from other countries’ experiences. The learners voice program is a greater whole than the sum if its parts (the parts being us as individuals), because of that beautiful diversity.
Reporting from the Global Causes Conference in Boston
I am happy to report this week from the Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Youth, Children, & Families conference in Boston, where Agazi, Ahmed, Aya and I are proud to represent WISE Learners’ Voice. At Wheelock, we are gathered with leaders from around the world to discuss health, human rights, and, of course, education.
One of my favorite comments from the first day of the Global Causes Conference was about teaching. In the music workshop, someone raised the point that if the teacher isn’t having fun, students won’t be either. As part of the Learners’ Voice program, I am part of the movement seeking to elevate the student and youth perspective in education discourses.
What I loved about being very active in the arts throughout my childhood was the inherent voice available to me in creative and performing arts. Especially for young children, these activities are fun for teachers and their pupils aside from the motor and mathematical skills, teamwork, and self esteem they can help to develop. Fun in school can lead to greater engagement, which I have always believed will in turn lead to greater success for students. The arts are one way to invite students to be active participants in their educational processes.
Beyond the broader implications of arts and youth involvement in their education, it was a wonderful way to begin the conference for us participants! In the same way it can build friendships, trust, and aspirations for social change in the classroom, the first day’s workshops in music, drama, and the visual arts served to do all of that for those of us lucky enough to attend Global Causes at Wheelock. I feel invigorated and inspired to see what the next few days will hold! Please follow what’s happening here at #GlobalCauses.