South Africa: Preparing students to compete in the job market

Photo_shape_portraitShape is the ninth teacher to participate in our Teacher Tuesday campaign. She works in a secondary school in Pretoria. Her 21 years as a teacher have given her many insights into the challenges and rewards of the job. As well as teaching the curriculum, she is passionate about giving her students the best chance possible of earning a good living, leading a full life and believing in themselves.

“I became a teacher because of my love and passion of children,” Shape says. “In South Africa you have to have a passion to be a teacher. Here it is not an easy job. In South Africa in most cases teachers are not seen as a people who can be rich, because the salary is not good. You never have money as a teacher! So we need to see it as a calling.”

Shape won an award for being the best teacher in her province in 2012, because of her dedication. She often works overtime to help her students succeed, and to ensure no-one falls behind. “I give extra lessons after others go home. I remain with year 12 to teach them again, to make sure that those who did not understand, later do understand everything. Some of them are still struggling, especially in terms of writing and pronunciation. My extra lessons help them catch up.”

Shape is especially determined to make sure her students are as ready as possible for the world they will meet when they leave school. In South Africa, more than in most countries, that means being able to compete for jobs: unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 is currently 49%, according to the latest figures.

“After grade 12, we need to prepare them to go to universities or colleges,” Shape says, “so I need to ensure they’re ready to face the outside world. Last year 127 applied for further studies, only 19 or so failed. Forty-five went to university; one was regarded as the best learner in the province.  He got 100% in his studies and 100% in his accounting. Forty-nine went to college.”

As we showed in the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Youth and skills: Putting education to work, schools must recognize that a fundamental purpose of education is to prepare young people for work. Especially at secondary education level, courses must provide skills that relate to gaps in the labour market.


One way to help young people learn practical problem-solving skills and practise crucial workplace skills is to link schooling with work-based programmes through internships and apprenticeships.

“We invite companies that are the same as the career the learners have chosen, to come to our school and talk to them,” Shape said. “They come to school and after we identify the children who can go to them and do some work to be familiar with the outside world. They go to work for a day as managers or whatever. When they come back they are able to tell us of the challenges, then the companies come again to give them more knowledge.”

The evidence in the EFA GMR 2012 showed that skills training can help young people break free of their disadvantages and poverty for good.

“We teach them business skills, we have business projects” Shape told us. “They learn how to write a business plan. We buy some products/stock and they sell them to other learners and teachers and take money. They need to learn how much money to take from people and how much to then save. People from banks come to assist them to open bank accounts so that they can save money.”

Finding and keeping work require a broad range of skills that can be transferred and adapted to different work needs and environments, such as problem-solving skills, communication skills, creativity, leadership, entrepreneurial skills and confidence. Such skills are nurtured to some extent outside the school environment. They can, however, be further developed through education and training.

After more than two decades as a teacher, and with a past record of having an 100% pass rate in the classroom, Shape knows that it is important to foster the self-confidence that is needed in the world of work: “The first week of grade 12 I have a motivational talk with them: this is your final year, this is what you must do, this is what you must expect, this is what you must know. Some of you will get jobs, some of you will go to university but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not about where you’re from. Ask yourself what is it you want to be, how am I going to change my family? You are the one who must reach out and change things.”

“Assure the learners they are important and they can make it. Then they start to feel very well. I want them to do better and I say ‘I know you can, I know you can.’ They start to believe in themselves.”

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Australia: Rich countries are also failing to ensure that the marginalized can learn

Photo_RussellRussell is the eighth teacher to participate in our Teacher Tuesday campaign. He works in a school in Inverell, a New South Wales country town in Australia. Of the 680 students in his school, 125 are Aboriginal. Four of the 30 teachers in the school are Aboriginal as well, including Russell, who is Gamilori.

“The challenges Aboriginal people face are still there today and we need to recognize these,” he told us.  These challenges result in the children often being on the back foot in school. “My first school was 98% Aboriginal and I had to speak Aboriginal English to give instructions to children because they didn’t quite understand. They hear the spoken language but they’re three steps behind before they start. They’re playing catch up from day one. I’d say you’d be lucky if 50% of your Aboriginal children had been to preschool.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Although learning gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous children in Australia are clearly visible in student assessments, they have not received sufficient policy attention, and so have persisted for a decade and a half. The latest EFA Global Monitoring Report shows that, in Australia, around two-thirds of indigenous students achieved the minimum benchmark in mathematics in grade 8 between 1994/95 and 2011, compared with 90% of their non-indigenous peers.

Poverty can also hold back learning. The latest EFA Global Monitoring Report shows that 96% of the richest in Australia will achieve the minimum standards, compared with only 80% of the poorest. “Poverty draws a line in the sand,” Russell said. “You’re on one side or the other. That’s why I don’t set homework on a computer as I know some still don’t have computers at home, and that’s disadvantaging them. I don’t mind how it comes back as long as it comes back!”

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Posted in Developed countries, Early childhood care and education, Ethnicity, Language, Rural areas, Secondary school, Teachers | 1 Comment

10 steps for solving the global learning crisis

Yesterday, at the Learning for All Symposium organised by the World Bank, global players came together to find some answers to two major questions: How can we solve the global learning crisis and how do we prepare young people for the 21st century marketplace? The second of these two questions was tackled in the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report: Putting education to work. The first was addressed in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report: Achieving quality for all.

This blog lays out the 10 strategies from that Report, which are based on the evidence of successful policies, programmes, strategies from a wide range of countries and educational environments. By implementing these reforms, countries can ensure that all children and young people, especially the disadvantaged, receive the good quality education they need to realize their potential and lead fulfilling lives.

1 Fill teacher gaps
On current trends, some countries will not even be able to meet their primary school teacher needs by 2030. The challenge is even greater for other levels of education. Thus, countries need to activate policies that begin to address the vast shortfall.

At this primary school in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, there are 174 learners in one class. Many children don’t turn up to school because the learning conditions are so poor.

 Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson

Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson

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Posted in Basic education, Developing countries, Donors, Learning, Literacy, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Quality of education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bangladesh: Innovative solutions to improve education for the disadvantaged

mosammatMosammat is the seventh participating teacher in our Teacher Tuesday campaign. Bangladesh is hit by flooding every monsoon season making access to school hard for those living in the affected areas. Mosammat describes what it is like teaching on a solar-powered floating school.

Mosammat Reba Khatun is 40 years old and lives in a small riverside village in Bangladesh. For the past ten years she has been teaching Bengali, Maths and English on Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha’s floating school on the Gumani river in the Pabna district in northwest Bangladesh. In total, the school teaches 90 students between six and nine years old. Almost two-thirds of the pupils are girls.

The floating school works in the remote river basin where access to education is hard, particularly during the monsoon season. From late June to October one third of the country goes underwater, making access to basic services very difficult. “It is the main reason for school drop outs in rural Bangladesh” Mosammat said. Were it not for innovative inventions such as this floating school, many of these children would find accessing education impossible.

The school collects children from their homes, teaches them on board and returns them at the end of the session. Mosammat describes the boat’s architect’s philosophy as ”if the children couldn’t come to school, then the school should come to them”.

The teaching can be very challenging,” she continues, “as we are working with children from landless, extremely poor families vulnerable to natural disasters. Their parents mostly work as day laborers and have irregular family income. The children under age 5 are malnourished and infant mortality rate is high. Girls are not allowed to move around freely.  We meet with the parents monthly to encourage them to send their children to school regularly”. As a result, she tells us, “the rate of early marriage is reduced”.

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Posted in Asia, Disaster preparedness, Poverty, Teachers, technology, Training | 6 Comments

Over the last decade, 17 million more children are learning in sub-Saharan Africa

Pauline Rose, Director, 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report; Professor of International Education, University of Cambridge

New research revealed at the UK launch event of the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/4 shows that there has been a 45% increase in the number of children learning in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000.

Sub-Saharan Africa often hits the headlines for the wrong reasons – and this is just as much the case in education as in other areas. Failure of schooling to keep pace with population growth means that the region is now responsible for more than half of the 57 million children out of school. And the EFA Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) 2013/4 estimates that only two out of five children in the region reach grade 4 and learn the basics. As a result, almost 80 million of the 250 million not learning live in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is not all bad news, however, as the EFA Global Monitoring Report revealed at the UK launch event hosted by the Institute of Education in London today. The tremendous progress that has been made in getting more children into school in many African countries, in part due to the abolition of school fees, means that there are in fact considerably more children who are learning the basics than a decade ago: new evidence from the EFA Global Monitoring Report estimates that 17 million more children are now learning in sub-Saharan Africa. This represents an impressive 45% increase in the numbers learning.



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250 million children not learning – but has there been any progress?  

By Chris Berry, Education Head of Profession at the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

The 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, to be launched in the United Kingdom on April 7, makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of global education progress. DFID and the UK government follow these reports closely.

One of the headlines in this year’s report is: “around 250 million children either fail to make it to grade 4 or do not reach the minimum level of learning”. This is shocking news.

Having already spent billions of dollars since 2000, not only has the global community failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but it has also contributed to a situation where there are millions of children in school and not learning.


Where did this figure of 250 million come from?

The technical note by the EFA Global Monitoring Report team that underpins the figure uses an approach to anchoring proposed in a paper by Nadir Altinok. The note is based on a composite of children who do not complete grade 4 and results obtained in sample based learning achievement surveys such as SACMEQ and PIRLS.

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Posted in Africa, Basic education, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Quality of education | 2 Comments

Introducing the new director of EFA Global Monitoring Report: Dr Aaron Benavot


We’re pleased to announce that Dr. Aaron Benavot is the new director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Dr Benavot brings decades of experience in global education policy and comparative research to the Report team, including four years as a senior policy analyst for the Report. Most recently, he has been professor in the School of Education at the University at Albany-SUNY. He will take up his new position at UNESCO’s headquarters in May 2014.

Dr Benavot is stepping into the role of director at an important time. The EFA Global Monitoring Report team has completed 11 extensively researched reports on Education for All. On the back of this experience, it has a central role in assisting in the framing and specification of new global education goals and their indicators up until 2015 and beyond.

Dr Benavot will begin by leading the preparation of the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report, for which an open consultation is now in process. This next Report will assess how successful the EFA movement has been since its conception, and identify policies that have boosted progress towards the EFA goals. This assessment will provide evidence-based lessons for the framing of post-2015 education goals and strategies.

Previously, as senior policy analyst for the EFA Global Monitoring Report, Dr Benavot contributed to the development and drafting of four Reports: Literacy for Life (2006), Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education (2007), Education for All by 2015: Will We Make It? (2008) and Overcoming Inequality: Why Governance Matters (2009).

Dr Benavot has also published extensively on educational policy and practice, focusing on the evolution of basic education, post-2015 education policies, as well as the linkages between education, economic development and political democratization.

We hope you will join us in welcoming him to the post. Dr Benavot’s extensive comparative education scholarship and wealth of experience in international education policy-making will be hugely valuable for the EFA Global Monitoring Report in the lead up to 2015 and beyond.

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