The GEM Report at the 2017 CIES Annual Conference


cies-jpegThe GEM Report is pleased to be participating at the 2017 Comparative and International Education Conference Society’s 61st Annual Conference next week. Please join us at the below events, and/or take part in our online discussions using @GEMReport and #CIES2017.

Sunday, March 5

11:45 – 18:00:  Workshop: Education in fragile and post-conflict situations: creating conflict-sensitive and peace-promoting materials for Early Grade Reading and beyond. Aaron Benavot, Director (Presenter)

 15:00 – 18:00: Workshop: On the move: The relationship between the movement of individuals and families within and across borders and education. An input into the 2018 GEM Report. William Smith, Senior Policy Analyst (Organizer), Aaron Benavot, Director, Nicole Bella, Senior Statistician

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Learning to protest with words

Thus far 2017 has been a year of protests, sprouting up in response to shifts in political tides. But, given the rifts in ideological and political viewpoints currently creating divisions within countries, it is notable that these shifts have not developed into widespread civil unrest. One reason for this, which this blog explains, is that the ‘losing’ sides in two of the biggest political upheavals – the 2016 UK referendum and US election – both had education on their sides.

Education: the political divider

As the Guardian newspaper put it “In the year of Trump and Brexit, education has become the greatest divide of all” splitting voters into two very distinct camps. Trends show that individuals with higher education levels voted for the UK to remain in the EU in the referendum last year and were less likely to cast their votes for Trump in the last US election.

Considerable research exists to back this statement up. Pew Research showed that preferences in the presidential election were clearly marked by those who did, and those who did not, have a college degree – much more so than in every presidential election since 1980.


Guardian data, meanwhile, broke down the EU referendum results in the UK by local authority areas, showing that education was the biggest driver against Brexit. The results indicate that the greater the proportion of residents with a higher education, the more likely a local authority was to vote remain. Only Scotland was an exception to the rule, where people voted to remain in the EU no matter their education level. The data was pulled together by analyzing six key demographic measures for each voting area and mapped against the referendum results in each location. Continue reading

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The challenge of Target 4.7 in fragile and low-resource contexts

By Margaret Sinclair (Technical Adviser, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict Programme, Education Above All Foundation) and Jean Bernard (Senior Partner, Spectacle Learning Media)

p7-reader-coverGiven current challenges of conflict, insecurity and environmental collapse, we must put maximum effort into Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.7: education to promote responsible and global citizenship, a culture of peace, gender equality, human rights, respect for cultural diversity and sustainable lifestyles. Achieving Target 4.7 presents challenges in every society. This blog specifically addresses the challenges in fragile and low-income countries, and the possibilities for collaborative development of effective approaches and guidance in respect of textbooks and other education materials.

The role of textbooks

A practical and relatively low-cost proposal for ensuring Target 4.7 gains traction in low-resourced classrooms is to provide thematic trainings on the key values in the Target to writers engaged in the production or revision of textbooks and other education materials for core school subjects. This training activity can be added to ongoing or planned writing projects as a means of creating immediate momentum as well as included in future budgets for longer term textbook development cycles.

We do not suggest incorporating a set of sophisticated experiential classroom activities of the type used in more affluent settings. While perhaps useful in the schools frequented by more advantaged children in the capital of almost any country, such approaches will not work in schools in most other settings. We need to work with interested countries to develop and test principles that work under wide-ranging classroom conditions and are easy for teachers to implement without extensive additional training. We suggest that these principles could be adapted from the requirement for social and emotional learning (SEL) to be ‘SAFE’: sequenced, active, focused and explicit. Continue reading

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Closing the circle: Teaching gender issues to teachers

1Last week the French supreme council for gender equality published a report on the imperative to keep mainstreaming gender equality issues in teacher preparation programs and to make knowledge and skills in these areas required for teacher graduation. “Making teachers and education the drivers of learning and equality” the report is called. “School presents an image of society”, the press release from the Council told us, “it is affected by and can reproduce social inequalities linked to social origins or gender. To change attitudes and break down gender stereotypes, equality in education must begin at an early age.”

This change is needed even in France, showing that gender parity in school does not translate into gender equality. Teachers have been shown still to interact more with boys (56%) than with girls (44%). In textbooks, the importance of women is still downplayed, with women continuing to appear in traditional roles: they represent 40% of people shown in textbooks for the preparatory class for primary school, and 70% of those who are cooking and cleaning, while only making up 3% of those carrying out a job in science. This can impact the types of career trajectories boys and girls end up taking: among students scoring 10 on average in their final exam (out of 20), only 27% of girls, but 41% of boys will choose to study science. Continue reading

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Boko Haram won’t win

By Zannah Mustapha, founder of Future Prowess


Today, a conference is being held to look at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in north-1eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. I live this crisis every day. I have seen a thousand orphans who have lost both their mothers and their fathers to the violent conflict fought every day between soldiers and Boko Haram Islamists. The children and victims of the religious crises are suffering in silence, often victims of post-traumatic stress, with many having watched their parents being killed just because they were taught in a western school.

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Still learning about early learning in Ethiopia

By Jack Rossiter, Young Lives, Ethiopia

The potential of O-Class in Ethiopia


Credit: Young Lives

In 2017, the research study I work for, Young Lives, released its first early learning publication: Scaling up Early Learning in Ethiopia: Exploring the Potential of O-Class [O-Class is a one-year pre-primary program, delivered by primary schools, organized for children before they enter Grade 1]. That paper concludes with a caution from a South African early learning specialist:

“’We shouldn’t put a bad [Reception Year] onto a primary school system facing many challenges simply because we have the money to roll it out’.”

While the evidence points to the potential of investing in early childhood, when it comes to delivering on that potential in a low-resource setting, there are many different routes to take in the design of ECCE, many of which, if not careful, can result in ‘bad reception years’ being tagged onto an already stretched primary education cycle. As the working paper notes, “at worst, mediocre ECCE programmes will not compensate for mediocre school systems; and children (especially poor children) will be the losers, and the promise of investment in ECCE scale-up will not be realised.”

The working paper explores the role for ECCE programmes in strengthening education systems to build sustainable futures using Ethiopia as a case study. It reports on Ethiopia’s remarkable progress in increasing access and enrolment in ECCE and investigates the challenge faced in delivering the potential of well-planned, quality programmes to scale. To understand this challenge, we must step beyond national enrolment statistics – and the working paper does just that. Continue reading

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Multilingual teaching does more than just improve learning

imld2017_0The most widely read GEM Report publication is our paper last year on language policy in education. Why? Because there are about 6,500 languages spoken in the world today, and, as we showed in that study, a staggering 40% of the global population are learning in a language they don’t understand.

It doesn’t need explaining perhaps, that being taught by a teacher in a language you don’t speak at home will negatively impact your school performance and test results, but it continues to be a hotly contested topic around the world – as recent headlines from Argentina, India and Uganda illustrate.

Politics and ideology are two reasons the issue is contested, but cost is another. Multilingual teaching, the training needed to support it, and the revision of existing learning materials result in a hefty bill. This is why we should loudly celebrate when countries do make the leap to multilingual schools: The Ministry of Education in Malaysia made such an announcement after the GEM Report’s policy paper was released last year. Referencing our recommendation for children to receive at least six years of education in a language they understand, they announced they would be making 300 schools bilingual. Continue reading

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