Books are essential to solving the global learning crisis

By Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Head of Education Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children and Chair of the Global Book Alliance


The Global Book Alliance is committed to supporting the creation of at least 50 culturally and linguistically appropriate children’s book titles for each year of literacy development in 500 languages.

A new coalition of governments, international agencies, NGOs and the private sector has launched this week with the aim of closing the children’s book gap.

In school but not learning

Last year, the UNESCO Institute for Statistic published alarming new estimates of the number of children that aren’t achieving the basics in reading and maths.

It showed that 387 million children of primary school age do not achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading. Disturbingly two-thirds of these children, some 262 million, are in school. There is now a broad consensus that this is a tragic waste of both human potential and financial resources.

Having identified the problem, we need to act and implement evidence-based measures that we know will improve learning. Continue reading

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Youth leaders assemble at the UN for the SDGs

The ingenuity, resolve and enthusiasm of young leaders is vital for sustainable development. Over 1000 youth leaders from over 100 countries gathered at the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations on February 12-14. The theme, Innovation and Collaboration for the Sustainable World, invited youth from around the globe to develop creative solutions to shape a better world and help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The global education goal, SDG 4, was front and center of many of the discussions during this assembly. The youth version of the Global Education Monitoring Report was distributed widely to the participants, and they were called on to lend their voices to ensure that governments uphold the right to education for all citizens.

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Priyadarshani Joshi led a panel discussion on the 2017/8 GEM Report on accountability. She was joined by Munira Khalif, 2017-2018 United States Youth Observer to the United Nations, and Chris Gannon, Vice President of the United States Student Association, who shared their motivations for engaging with education issues. They discussed their perspectives on the important role youth and students can play in holding governments accountable for providing inclusive, equitable quality education for all. Continue reading

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Children taught in their mother language are more likely to develop literacy skills

mother language dayToday, on International Mother Language Day, which is focused on the importance of linguistic diversity for sustainable development, it is important to remember what difference being taught in your mother tongue can make to one’s ability to learn.

Choices over the language of instruction can have a huge impact on learning outcomes

In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority of students, probably as many as 85%, are not taught in the language they speak at home. New evidence in the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report shows that 69% of adults with five years of schooling in education systems privileging indigenous languages could read an entire sentence, compared to 41% in colonial or mixed language systems – a gap of 28 mld 1percentage points. After controlling for individual characteristics, such as age, religion and place of residence, the estimated effect on literacy outcomes was even larger at 40 percentage points.

Country examples back the story up. In Ethiopia, students began to be educated in their mother tongue in 1994. This increased the education attainment level by half a year and the probability that students would be able to read an entire sentence by 40%.

Continue reading

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Comprehensive sexuality education and the global vision for the education agenda

By Sanet L. Steenkamp, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Namibia

sexuality education blog 2

Image: UNESCO Windhoek

The core responsibility of education systems is imparting the fundamental building blocks of learning, namely the ‘3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet national education authorities are increasingly recognizing that while their core responsibility remains crucial, they must also reach beyond it.

Education systems are being called upon to not only help our children learn essential knowledge and skills to navigate an increasingly complex and inter-connected world, but also protect them from inaccurate information driven by myths and value-laden taboos, or harmful social and cultural norms, such as those surrounding gender and power in inter-personal relationships.

Fulfilling this responsibility means empowering young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes for them to be able to make healthy decisions in all aspects of their lives – including their sexual and reproductive health. In Namibia, great emphasis has been placed on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as an important component in achieving this goal. Continue reading

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How far does media coverage of international large-scale assessment help hold governments to account for their education commitments?

By Mary Hamilton, Lancaster University, UK and Co-Director of the Lab for International Assessment Studies   

A key rationale for carrying out international comparative surveys of skills such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is that the findings can positively influence policy and therefore educational outcomes. Such claims implicate the media as part of a chain of influence. The argument runs that the media publicise the findings, which influence public opinion and in turn this puts pressure on politicians to respond. The media can also compare past successes, failures and improvements through a running commentary on trends in the test scores.

However, the impact of media on educational policy is assumed but not widely researched. My colleagues and I have followed media coverage of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in France, Japan and the United Kingdom as well as in Greece, New Zealand, Singapore and Slovenia, which took part in the second wave of (PIAAC-2).

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While we can envisage positive roles for the media in policy formation, in practice journalists are often blamed for partial and sensational coverage of international survey findings. Researchers and agencies voice frustration at this, searching for ways to prevent misinterpretation of data and poor commentary. Our research suggests that we need a better, more sympathetic understanding of the constraints under which journalists work along with willingness to share responsibility for the ways in which data from international assessments are translated in the public sphere.  Continue reading

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The importance of learning from data on education, migration and displacement

By Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report, and Francesca Borgonovi, Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills, OECD

06/01/2009. Rohingya Rufugees of Kutupalong Camp in Bangladesh.

Migration and displacement are complex phenomena which play an important role in – but can also pose challenges to – development. These phenomena also pose particularly important challenges for education and training systems. Firstly, they can rapidly increase the number of people that require education services, thus challenging both richer countries, which until now had been adjusting to shrinking student populations, and poorer countries, where provision is already stretched, especially in remote areas or slums where migrants and refugees often converge.

Secondly, migration and displacement make classrooms more diverse. This means that the range of strategies teachers need to deploy increases in order to cater for a student population with larger differences in background characteristics, such as the language they speak at home.

Thirdly, education is an important means through which migration and displacement can be managed since school often acts as societies’ main instrument for transmitting the social and cultural codes that forge a community spirit. Continue reading

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What next for the Global Partnership for Education after a transformative replenishment?

By David Archer

gpe blog 1The Global Partnership for Education replenishment event, co-hosted by President Macron and President Macky Sall on 2nd February in Senegal, was a landmark moment for education financing. Over $2 billion were pledged by donors for the GPE’s core fund to support developing countries with credible education sector plans over the coming years. More dramatically, over $30 billion was pledged by developing country Presidents and Ministers to their own citizens – increasing projected budgets for education from $80 billion to $110 billion. This should mark a turning point in how we all conceive the GPE and its potential in the coming years.

The partnership of donors, developing countries and strong civil society representation is a key strength of GPE and it is the inter-dependency of these that has helped GPE make a breakthrough. Too often in the past, aid funding has displaced domestic spending in the education sector, as in other sectors. A few years ago, one government that will remain nameless cut its spending on education from 17% of the budget down to 14%` and then approached GPE for a grant of $100 million to fill the gap. This ends up doing more harm than good – replacing sustainable domestic funding with short term and unpredictable aid. GPE responded by making it an absolute requirement that developing county governments maintain or increase their own spending (towards or beyond a benchmark of 20% of national budgets) to be eligible for GPE support.

In the previous replenishment of GPE in 2014, developing countries made their own pledges for the first time and promised to increase spending by $26 billion. This was bold but lacked credibility as the pledges lacked baselines and the formats in which they were presented made it almost impossible to track. ActionAid, working with the Global Campaign for Education, reviewed the progress of these pledges to the extent possible and found they fell short in many ways. We used this to make the case for more credible domestic pledges in the future. The secretariat of the Global Partnership for Education has now done systematic work to ensure that the pledges made on 2nd February 2018 all have clear baselines, are formulated in a clear way and can indeed be tracked. Continue reading

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