‘Cracking the code’ to end gender disparities in STEM

By Justine Sass, UNESCO

1Girls and women are significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions worldwide, a divide rooted in girls’ earliest days of socialization and schooling and one that a groundbreaking UNESCO report aims to address.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova officially launched the report “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM” at a three-day International Symposium and Policy Forum, attended by more than 300 delegates from over 70 countries, which concluded in Bangkok on Wednesday.  “[The STEM gender gap] disempowers girls and women and throws a shadow over entire societies, placing a break on progress to sustainable development. In this new age of limits, when every country is seeking new sources of dynamism, no one can afford to shunt aside 50 percent of its creativity … 50 percent of its innovation,” she said in her opening remarks.

The “Cracking the code” report highlights that tremendous strides have been made in narrowing the gender gap in education in recent decades. Millions of girls and women previously shut out of learning opportunities altogether now fully exercise their fundamental right to education and thrive in the pursuit. However, severe gender inequalities persist for those already in school. A major concern in many countries is limited educational pathways for girls and more specifically, lower participation and learning achievement of girls in STEM fields of study in many settings. Continue reading

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Samoa votes against reintroducing corporal punishment in schools

Corporal punishment was only banned in Samoan schools in 2013. Four years later, however, the issue was once again up for debate. Thankfully, a matter of days ago, Cabinet decided to uphold the ban. Amongst those who have questioned whether the ban on corporal punishment is correct was a leading education official who worried that the ban served to protect only the child’s rights and not those of the teacher.

Millions of children around the world suffer physical violence at school under the guise of discipline: over one-half of all children worldwide live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment, of which 45% live in South Asia. As of December 2014, 122 states had prohibited corporal punishment in schools; 76 had no such prohibitions.

1In Samoa, the debate centred on the prevalence of violence in schools, which cumulated in the government closing a high school connected to several violent fights between students. The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) shows the extent to which there is a culture of violence among students in the country. As the 2016 GEM Report showed, about 70% of adolescents in Samoa reported that they had been involved in a physical fight in the past 12 months, much higher than any other country that participated in the survey. Continue reading

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Promoting literacy in a multilingual society

By Paula Korsnakova, Senior Research and Liaison Advisor, IEA

Reflecting on the results of providing instruction in a language other than the one spoken at home

Did you know that apparently 66% of children in the world are raised to speak more than one language? Countries where more than one language is commonly spoken have demands for both linguistic and cultural diversity in their curricula.

Reading comprehension is perhaps the most critical foundation for improved attainment in most school subjects, including mathematics and science, supporting an improved and enhanced overall school experience.

iea policy briefA recent policy brief by Sarah Howie and Megan Chamberlain investigated the effect of instruction in a second language on reading performance in nine countries using the results of the 2011 round of IEA’s Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). This taken place in regular five-year cycles since 2001 at grade 4 level. The authors used information reported by students on whether they spoke the language of instruction (which is also the language of assessment) frequently at home (always or almost always) or not (sometimes or never). Such information is available for all countries that took part in PIRLS.

Using the same PIRLS data, the World Inequality Database on Education has shown the differences between students based on whether they were instructed and assessed in a language other than the one they speak at home. Continue reading

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Save The Date: The 2017/8 GEM Report is due out 24 October, 2017

The GEM Report team is pleased to announce that the 2017/8 Report, ‘Accountability in Education: Meeting our Commitments’ will be released on October 24, 2017. We can also reveal the Report’s front cover, which shows a girl protesting outside her school.

Front cover

This Report tracks the world’s progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its targets. It also shows how important and relevant accountability is in education. It reminds us that education is a shared responsibility and that we all have a role to play in contributing to SDG 4.

When accountability works, there are clear lines of responsibility and a roadmap for taking action when problems arise. When accountability is absent or weak, negligence and abuse can take hold. And when accountability is badly designed, there can be negative side effects that can put the achievement of our global goal at risk.

The 2017/8 GEM Report will be launched at two major events being held in Nairobi, Kenya, and Brasilia, Brazil. As with every annual GEM Report, the 2017/8 report will also be launched in over 60 countries at national events involving Ministers, academics, civil society, donor partners, and youth. There will also be a live-stream for those wanting to follow the events online. You can stay abreast of launch events around the world by visiting the Events page. Continue reading

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Good news: Chile is going to cover climate change in its curriculum

At the end of last month, the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, said that climate change w1ould become an obligatory subject for students to learn in the third and fourth grades of secondary school in history and science classes.

The President said, while making the announcement:  “We are confident of the effects that this policy can have in the long term for future generations. Environmental education is an opportunity for pedagogical innovation that can transform educational establishments into living spaces for learning”

Incorporating climate change education into curriculum was one of the themes investigated in the 2016 GEM Report: Educatio2n for people and planet. Our analysis of national curriculum frameworks from over 78 countries over the 2005-2015 period highlighted that only 40% mentioned climate change in their curricula. We also analysed the extent to which textbooks emphasise environmental issues across the world. Our research found that only half of secondary textbooks covered issues of environmental protection or damage.

Not including climate change issues in the curriculum takes its toll. According to the 2015 PISA assessment, only 70% of 15 year olds achieved a minimum proficiency level on major ideas and theories on the earth, space and eco-systems. In Chile, 65% reached that level. In Brazil and Peru, meanwhile, less than half did, showing that Bachelet’s example is surely one to follow. Continue reading

Posted in Citizenship, Climate change, curriculum, Environment, sdg, sdgs, Sustainable development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Poor quality learning assessments are crumbling under the weight of the decisions they inform

571_Rachel O_croppedBy Rachel Outhred, Education Consultant, Oxford Policy Management

Much of the recent international discussion regarding the measurement of learning outcomes globally has been driven by the need to monitor Sustainable Development Goal 4‘to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all’. Such learning assessments, as will be shown in the next GEM Report due out in October of this year, are one of many types of mechanisms being used to hold different actors to account if progress towards SDG4 is dragging its feet. However, against the backdrop of increased threats to aid funding in countries such as the UK, and the prevalent use of ‘pay by results’ in development programming (such as the £344 million Girls’ Education Challenge Fund), the stakes involved in measuring learning outcomes are being raised.

The need to measure learning outcomes well in development programming is rarely seen as overly contentious until we start to drill down into the practicalities. In practice, value for money concerns, the need for rapid data to inform policy and a simple lack of technical know-how often result in unreliable or invalid learning measures.

oxford blog 1For example, in a recent systematic review of the assessment of language and literacy skills for children in developing countries between 1990 and 2014, Sonali Nag and her team of researchers found that the reporting of reliability and validity for assessments in developing countries is very rare. Over 70 percent of the studies rated as having ‘Moderate’ and ‘High’ methodological rigour did not even report on test reliability. Moreover, studies that did report reliability included levels as low as 0.23 on Cronbach’s alpha – a common measure of internal test reliability that ranges between 0 and 1, with anything below 0.5 considered as unacceptable. Finally, few of the studies reviewed used methodologies that can ensure tests are capturing a child’s true performance, rather than capturing the quality of the assessment items themselves. Continue reading

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Liberia’s children deserve the best education

By: Dr. Saaim W. Naame, Dean of Education at the University of Liberia.

Liberia pupilOver the last twenty years, the people of Africa’s first modern republic, Liberia, have been through two civil wars and a major virus epidemic. The wars caused the death and displacement of more than a million people. The Ebola epidemic only ended two years ago. Our turbulent history is one of the reasons why 85% of our population now live below the international poverty line. Despite these major challenges, we are committed to giving our children a better future. The foundation of that must be a better education.

For decades, our education system had been failing, notably in 2013 every single candidate failed the admission test to the University of Liberia, 25,000 students. As President Sirleaf said: ‘Rapid change required a departure from traditional structures’. We are significantly behind most other countries in the region on most education statistics. In Liberia, 42% of primary aged children are currently out of school and it is even higher for the poorest. More than half of young adults are illiterate. Over two-thirds of girls do not have basic reading skills.  

All this must change now, and the change must be large scale and sustainable. Continue reading

Posted in accountability, Africa, Equality, Equity, Primary school, private schools, private sector, privatisation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments