Aid to education reached an all‑time high in 2016

A new policy paper released by the GEM Report shows that aid to education has reached its highest level since records began. Between 2015 and 2016, it grew by US$1.5 billion, or 13%, to a record US$13.4 billion. This is a breath of fresh air for the sector, which had suffered six consecutive years of falling down the list of donor priorities.

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aid to education has reached its highest level since records beganWhere has this change come from? The paper, Aid to education: a return to growth?’ illustrates that two-thirds of the increase came from more aid to basic education, which covers pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education. The United States, the United Kingdom and the World Bank account for almost half of aid to basic education. By contrast, in terms of the share of national income allocated to aid to basic education, Norway is at the top of the donor scoreboard, for example spending twelve times more than the United States in relative terms. Continue reading

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Ending the practice of banning pregnant girls from schools

Though most countries have signed and ratified international treaties that uphold gender equality, this commitment is not always sufficiently clear where education is concerned. In many places, discriminatory practices that keep pregnant girls out of classrooms continue to exist.

It has become a routine practice to administer pregnancy tests in schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, which has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), some 8,000 girls are expelled every year for being pregnant. As recently as last year, John Magufuli, Tanzania’s President, said that no pregnant girls would be allowed to go back to school. The expulsion of pregnant girls from schools has also been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo.2. RIGHTS & REALITY

International treaties such as the Committee on the Elimination of All Violence and Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention Against Discrimination in Education (CADE) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) are critical in stopping this from happening. They call, for example, for a reduction of female dropout rates (Article 10, CEDAW), an end to discrimination where education is concerned (Article 3, CADE), and accessibility to education for all (Article 13, ICESR). Yet, both the United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo have ratified all three of them. This means the treaty mechanisms enabling citizens to challenge governments that violate these rights are not currently being used effectively. Continue reading

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Using international accountability mechanisms: A test case for private education in Kenya

CAOBy Linda Oduor-Noah, a project manager at The East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights) on behalf of nine complainants who submitted a complaint through the complaint mechanism of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in April 2018. EACHRights is a human rights NGO established in Kenya in May 2010 to promote, protect, and enhance human rights for vulnerable and marginalized groups. Its Education Support Project focuses on upholding the right to education for all children in Kenya especially those living in informal settlements. Over the last two years, it has focused on trends in the privatisation of education.

Bridge International Academies (Bridge) is a multinational, for-profit chain of low cost private schools that entered the Kenyan education landscape in 2009, backed by an A-list of social enterprise funders.  With over 400 schools in Kenya alone, Bridge is the largest commercial provider of education in the region, wielding considerable influence over policy. While the company’s market dominance alone raises questions, it is their threat to rights that made us pay closer attention. Our findings, corroborated by many other independent sources  including both journalists and academics,  led us to the conclusion that the organisation left a lot to be desired with respect to the rule of law, compliance with education standards, transparency and accountability.

A formal complaint

To date our actions have included advocacy through open calls and joint statements, letters to investors and meetings with some, including the World Bank and IFC who invested USD 10 million in Bridge in 2013. A variety of international quasi-judicial mechanisms have also been engaged with, which saw committees  such as the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Commission on the Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (CESCR) confirm our concerns in regards to Bridge’s negative impact on human rights. Continue reading

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Literacy skills gaps: how do they change over time by wealth and by gender?

reading2While there is a focus internationally on measuring literacy and numeracy skills at age 15, as captured in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), at least two aspects are neglected in debates on learning achievement.

First, literacy and numeracy skills continue to develop in some populations after the end of compulsory schooling. For example, as data from the OECD Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey show, these skills reach a peak in the early 30s before they start to decline. This means that young people develop cognitively for many years after finishing compulsory education, at least if they benefit from post-secondary education opportunities.

Older adults possess a lower level of literacy and numeracy skills, mainly because people lose skills as they age but also partly because the quality of education in some countries has improved, which works for the benefit of younger adults.

literacy blogThose with less education not only have lower skills as they enter adulthood but are also more likely to find employment in occupations that do not require the use and development of their skills. They are also less likely to benefit from adult education opportunities.

Second, literacy and numeracy skills do not develop in the same way for all populations. A recent analysis of data from PISA surveys on students at age 15 and Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) surveys of the same cohort 12 years later, brought up interesting conclusions about how young people’s skills develop and what factors influence their development.

Since 2000, PISA surveys have been telling us that two factors make you more likely to have a lower literacy score: being a boy and coming from a lower socioeconomic background. Whether or not an individual is from a low socioeconomic background has been linked to such easy-to-observe factors as the number of books at home or the parents’ level of education. Continue reading

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Gender gap to dividend: why we can’t afford to neglect boys’ education

By the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI)

The ‘gender gap’ is a worldwide phenomenon usually associated with deep rooted inequalities that hold women and girls back across many spheres of life.  However, in the context of education it has evolved to mean different things in different parts of the world. With 15 million girls of primary school age predicted to never even get the chance to learn to read or write compared with 10 million boys, the spotlight has rightly focused on girls in the poorest regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where for too many education remains out of reach.

Yet, globally, of the 264 million children and young people out of school, half are boys.  In light of this, the recently published Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) Policy Paper (35), calls attention to less acknowledged disparities in regions where the gender gap is at the expense of boys.  Research points to an emerging trend that when gender parity in enrollment has finally been achieved in basic education, in many countries it is girls who are staying in school longer and outperforming boys at secondary and tertiary level.

dont forget the boys

Why the gender gap reversal matters

In light of the multiple and compounding barriers girls have historically faced in accessing education, should the gender gap reversal not be a cause for celebration?  With women faring worse in almost every other sphere, most notably the labour market, why should the disadvantage of boys in education in some regions be a reason for concern?  In short, because failure to address the low educational attainment of boys can have grave consequences not only for their own wellbeing, but for that of women and girls too.  Furthermore, as one of the most powerful catalysts for gender equality, education can play a critical role in empowering both girls and boys to challenge discriminatory norms.  Continue reading

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Protect media freedom for transparency and accountability in education

news_080218_wpfd_13 May marks World Press Freedom Day, a date that celebrates the fundamental principle of freedom of expression and offers an opportunity to evaluate the situation of journalists around the world. It reminds us that the defence of those striving to report in an objective, accurate and timely manner is of paramount importance; threats and attacks on them are unacceptable.

The GEM 2017/8 Report, which focused on accountability in education, paid special attention to the role of the media. Every country has assorted formal institutional checks and balances to ensure governments exercise their authority in a way compatible with their commitments, ranging from auditors to parliamentarians. But within a broader political process, informal efforts also serve to hold governments accountable for their commitments, policies and results.

The media can be a key partner in holding governments to account

It is here that the role of the media is critical. The efforts of reporters involve the free flow of information to ensure transparency. People need the media to form and express informed views.

The media have huge potential to raise the visibility of education issues, putting pressure on education actors to meet their responsibilities and pursue policy change. By exposing evidence and directing focus, they can set the agenda for the public and policy-makers. Continue reading

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How to respond to Apple’s renewed interest in education?

As you may have heard, Apple has extended its reach into education, holding its first education product launch since 2012, and announcing a lower cost iPad aimed at students and teachers. The new iPad has a stylus pen, several new apps and a large amount of free iCloud storage as well, costing just under $300. But how should the education community view the moves of such a big player into more schools?

apple blogThe 2017/8 GEM Report dedicated a chapter to remind us that the private sector’s foray into education is big business and carries with it responsibilities and the need for private actors to account for their actions. Edtech is vast and growing. The global educational technology market crossed $17.7 billion in revenue in 2017 and is expected to grow to $40.9 billion by 2022, according to Frost & Sullivan. The market is expected to grow by 20% per year in China and a joint report issued by Google and KPMG estimated that the online market in India would rise more than six times to almost $2 billion over the next four years.

The biggest players in EdTech are Google, Microsoft and Apple, which make up 83% of the market at the moment. Macs and iPads make up less than 20% of Apple’s product sales at present but the vast market potential in schools make them an avenue worth exploring for their sales team. Already, in 2016, Apple’s iPads and Macs accounted for about 18% of the laptops and tablets shipped to schools in the United States, according to Futuresource Consulting. Continue reading

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