Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

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Deworming Campaign to Benefit 700,000 Schoolchildren in Haiti

Lunch @HAC This month the Haitian government will launch a national deworming campaign for schoolchildren, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of National Education, and the Foundation for Development and the Framework of the Haitian Family (FONDEFH).

The campaign will  benefit about 700,000 students who currently participate in WFP’s school feeding program. Children will receive tablets to deter intestinal worms, which rob undernourished children of necessary nutrients and inhibit their growth. Deworming involves providing each child with one deworming tablet per year to eradicate an active infection or prevent eggs from turning into an active infection.

In addition to deworming tablets, children will receive a vitamin nutritional supplement to improve overall health. The campaign will also attempt to raise awareness among students and teachers of the 2,000 participating schools to promote health, nutrition, and good eating habits.

WFP has helped provide a hot meal each day to 685,000 children in Haiti during 2012-2013 the school year. They currently serve school meals in 60 countries to around 22 million children.  WFP school meals are usually provided at breakfast or lunch, or as a high-energy snack. Some students also receive take-home rations to compensate families for the cost of sending children to school. In 2012, 1.3 million girls and 500,000 boys recieved take-home rations from WFP.

School feeding has been shown to improve students’ concentration and attendance rates while supporting local farmers and tackling malnutrition and family food insecurity. The program also benefits girls, who are often typically excluded from schooling, by providing an incentive for families to send their daughters to school.

“We have a proverb in Haiti”, explains Danielle Selicour, the headmistress of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “‘Sak vid pa kanpe’, which means an empty sack cannot stand up. By this we mean that when your stomach is empty you are not able to do anything. I have worked at this school for over 36 years and we have been receiving WFP school meals for as long as I can remember.  But it is not just the food that is important; it is also the health of the school children. The parents here are really happy because for the first time since the earthquake we are also giving deworming medications. This improves the children’s health as well as providing them with a hot meal at school.”

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Germany Adds Islam to its Curriculum in an Effort to Integrate Muslim Minority

Wrong time Wrong planet

Germany’s primary school curriculum for public schools now includes Islamic Studies, or Islamunterricht, in an effort to integrate the fast-growing Muslim minority, and counter extremist influence. Although Islam has been offered in the curriculum in certain school districts, such as Berlin, for some years now, the unique feature of the one in Hesse state is that it is administered entirely by state-trained instructors as opposed to those provided by community groups such as the Islamic Federation.
Unlike public K-12 schools in the United States that do not generally offer courses in religion, Germany’s curriculum has traditionally offered classes in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish religions. Islam is now Germany’s third most practiced religion, but Muslims have long felt marginalized from mainstream society, and have resented that Islam is not included in the religion courses offered in the public schools. The delay seems to have come from the many challenges in creating and implementing this curriculum, from planning logistics for training teachers to crafting a curriculum that would be acceptable to both the local Muslim communities as well as the government authorities.
Muslim immigrants, hailing from AfghanistanTurkey, Albania, and many other countries, have felt alienated and marginalized from mainstream society for decades. Many argue that it is a result of this alienation that German-born Muslims cannot fully identify with their German identity. Moreover, it leads them to be easily manipulated by groups that preach a hard-line version of Islam, such as Salafism or Wahhabism, further isolating them from mainstream society.  As the New York Times report states, “by offering young Muslims a basic introduction to Islam as early as first grade, emphasizing its teachings on tolerance and acceptance, the authorities hope to inoculate young people against more extreme religious views while also signaling state acceptance of their faith.”

Although the local Muslim community is responding positively to Hesse’s introduction of Islam classes in schools, there are mixed feelings among the native Germans as well as educators. Many are resentful of the large numbers of immigrant children in schools, and believe Islam is inherently incompatible with democracy or German practices. On the other hand, there are many who have been involved in pushing for the need for instruction in Islam, and believe “that for years we made the mistake of alienating people,” but “we are here together, we work together, and we educate our children together.”
It remains to be seen how many of Germany’s sixteen states will adopt Hesse’s novel system of instruction in Islam. Each state in Germany has the right to decide how to implement the instruction of non-compulsory religion or ethics.
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Free Education Program in Somalia Halted Amid Teacher Strikes

Hawa Abdi Centre for Internally Displaced SomalisThis past September, Somalia launched its Go 2 School Initiative, designed to provide a free education to  one million children in Somalia, where only four out of every ten children currently attend school and, of those attending, only 36% are girls.

The program was abruptly halted when teachers went on strike in January after not being paid, leaving children without schools once again. The teachers were promised a salary of $200 a month but had only received $300 since the program first launched in September, resulting in a strike impacting 50,000 primary school children at the 12 new schools established through the campaign.

This is not the first time the new program has faced challenges. The initiative, which aimed to enroll one million children in its first year, got off to a slow start after a lackluster marketing campaign. It also faced criticism from teachers after the government failed to deliver a national curriculum to be used as a basis for instruction. In addition, parents and teachers voiced safety concerns after the country’s al-Qaida militant group warned that the schools were legitimate targets for attack.

Despite the challenges, many agreed that the program was providing hope for the many Somali families that could not afford private school tuition. In June of 2013, the first national education conference was held in Mogadishu where the Somali prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon, promised that the government would give education the same priority as defense, asserting that  it was the constitutional right of each child to receive education free of charge.

The Go 2 School program was launched in September with much excitement at public ceremonies in Mogadishu, Garowe and Hargeisa. UNICEF continues to urge funders to support the Go 2 School campaign, while Maryan Qasim, former Minister for Human Services and Public Services in Somalia, urged teachers to have patience with the government and commence their teaching duties.

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Does Your Math Teaching Have SMARTS?

Launch PadTeaching is never easy but it can definitely be fun! When you’re having fun in the classroom, kids will have fun too and learn something in the process! So ditch your worksheets and give your math teaching SMARTS!

SMARTS is an easy acronym to help identify fun ways to engage kids with math!

Songs–Who doesn’t like a good tune? Songs can help students remember the steps of long division or learn to count by 10s. Songs shouldn’t be complicated or difficult to remember and are often set to familiar tunes. Try skip counting by 4s to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and you’ll see what I mean!

There are tons of free resources on the web but I love Songs for Teaching and TeacherTube. Other teachers are a great resource when trying to identify fun songs that work (and those that don’t) so turn to colleagues or online communities for teachers like Edutopia or Classroom 2.0. The key is to ditch boring drills and make learning catchy and fun! Research has shown that movement boosts academic performance so get your kids up and moving during songs to optimize fun and learning.

Manipulatives–Use whatever you have around you to make math meaningful! Count pencils to build one to one correspondence, cut sandwiches in quarters to demonstrate fractions and build various sized towers with blocks to teach measurement. Manipulatives help children “see” math and build meaning. Don’t fret if you don’t have access to fancy manipulatives from a learning store–pebbles work just as well as counting bears and you can create fraction tiles from sheets of paper.

Many teachers are afraid to introduce manipulatives because they fear children will fidget and lose focus. You can avoid this problem by establishing clear rules and expectations for Math Investigation and adhering to pre-established behavior plans. Most teachers are surprised to see that the children spend more time on task once manipulatives are introduced because they are engaged!

Art–Are you sensing a pattern of interdisciplinary connections here? Whenever possible, incorporate art projects into your math lessons. Have children create self portraits when studying symmetry, create beaded bracelets to reinforce patterns and draw pictures to illustrate word problems. My students only truly grasped the concept of area after creating pictures from paper mosaic “tiles”. We are trying to turn our children into budding mathematicians and encouraging them to create something always helps!

Recreation–We’re talking about games here! After you introduce a concept, give the children time to practice by playing games as an alternative to workbook practice. Students will have a blast while also getting the practice that they need! A card game of WAR can reinforce greater than/less than, Around the World with flash cards can reinforce math facts and a simple game of dice can reinforce probability. Try to incorporate games into your classroom whenever possible to increase engagement and promote learning!

Technology–Technology is a great tool to increase student engagement regardless of where your classroom is or what it looks like. For some, this may mean interactive white boards while for others this means access to a disposable camera. As more and more students are gaining access to technology in their classrooms, it is important for teachers to use these resources strategically, whether it be one tablet for an entire class or a classroom set of laptops.

Virtual manipulatives can be used to demonstrate place value, spreadsheets can be used to organize and display data and cameras can be used to photograph angles in the community. Incorporating technology helps prepare our students for success outside the classroom and opens the door to a growing library of open education resources available online.

Stories— Make math relatable for your students by placing problems in context through word problems, real life applications or picture books. Become a storyteller and encourage your students to tell stories about math through writing or illustration. Math read alouds can help introduce a math topic, math journals can be used to reflect on learning, and imaginative play can reinforce math in our everyday lives. Set up a grocery store in your classroom and watch math learning come to life!

The goal of teaching SMARTS is to keep math instruction captivating, lively and relevant in your classroom. What tricks do you use to keep math engaging and fun for your students?

Creative Commons Love: Save the Children on Flickr

A Creative Approach to Counter Bullying in a School in Iran

School children in Bam

A teacher in Iran shaved his head to show solidarity to a student who was being bullied after losing hair due to an illness.

Ali Mohammadian, a teacher at Sheikh Shaltoot’s elementary school in the Kurdistan Province of Marivan in western Iran, noticed that his eight-year-old student, Mahan Rahimi “had become isolated after going bald.” Mohammadian stated, “ smiled had disappeared from his face and I was concerned about his class performance.” He decided to become bald, and posted a photo of himself with Mahan on Facebook, captioned, “our heads are sensitive to hair.” Not only did his post go viral, but soon after, his entire class of over 20 students also decided to shave their heads and show solidarity, rather than hostility, toward their classmate.

Since his gesture in early January, Mohammadian has not only become a hero amongst the Iranian public, he has also received praise from President Hassan Rouhani, and was invited by Education Minister Ali Ashar Fani for a formal thank-you. Moreover, the Iranian government has agreed to financially support Mahan’s treatment, which doctors say is due to an immune disorder.

In the United States, 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying in their school, and it is found that adults intervene 4 percent of the time according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Indeed, it is a struggle for any teacher, no matter the location, to effectively counter bullying given the demands of the job. Juggling large class sizes, achievement targets, and administrative responsibilities, addressing bullying is often at the bottom of the priority list. The case of Mohammadian, who has 23 years of teaching experience, shows how a small gesture can go a long way. It transformed the culture of his classroom, and “Mahan’s classmates have…become supportive of him and a smile is back on face.”

Creative Commons Love: Unicef Iran on flickr

Can a Modern University Build Bridges to Historically Isolated North Korea?

North Korea — Pyongyang

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) is the first university in North Korea founded and run by foreigners, mainly from the United States, China, and South Korea, offering a Western Education. Inaugurated in 2010, PUST has selected young men from North Korea’s most prominent and influential families “to equip them with the skills to help modernise the impoverished country and engage with the international community.” In a country that has a long history of isolation and animosity toward the West, and the U.S. in particular, the university is a sign of hope for a North Korea that is more engaged in the global community. On the other hand, there are concerns that the university promotes unconditional support for a notoriously oppressive regime guilty of numerous human rights violations.

Similar to any other educational institution in North Korea, patriotism is a hallmark of PUST. Every morning, the students chant, “Our supreme commander Kim Jong-un, we will defend him with our lives.” Every classroom is also decorated with the photos of North Korea’s dictators, whom students are taught to blindly revere.

Dr. James Chin-Kyung Kim, the founder and president, is a Korean-American who raised most of the 20 million euros needed to establish the university – mostly from Christian charities. He was commissioned to do so by the current regime in North Korea. Many of the faculty are from the West, and are sponsored by Christian charities. In a country where internet and media are heavily monitored and students have never heard even of Michael Jackson, interacting with foreigners is a novelty. Some students expressed apprehension in the beginning, “but…now believe American people are different from the US,” and are eager to learn about other cultures and languages.

As a unique and potentially revolutionary institution in North Korea, PUST is a symbol of hope of integration and progress. As Greg Scarlatoiu from Committee for Human Rights in North Korea stated, however, “the key question is whether the university is trying those young Koreans most likely to change the country in a positive way, or those most likely to perpetuate the current regime.”

Creative Commons Love: Stephan

In Pakistan, a Hero Gives His Life for His Classmates’ Right to Education

Pakistan Disaster Relief On January 6th, a student named Aitzaz Hasan, 15, prevented a suicide bomber from attacking his school, saving the lives of nearly 2,000 of his fellow students. It is reported that the suicide bomber was aged 20 to 25, and approached the school dressed in uniform. A student spotted a detonator on him and ran, but Hasan confronted the assailant who set off the bomb, killing both of them on the spot.

The Government High School Ibrahimzai was the only one in the Shia-dominated area. In fact, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group, took responsibility for the attack, indicating that it was motivated by sectarian differences between the dominant Sunni sect of Islam and the minority Shia group. Suicide bombings are on the rise all over the world, and have increased from an annual average of 35 in the 1980s to an average of 98 in 2003. The frequency of these attacks have increased particularly in Pakistan due to years of violence and war in neighboring Afghanistan, which have pushed a generation of immigrants toward extremism.

Sectarian violence, extremism, and political instability create monumental challenges for children in Pakistan, and the case of Hasan and his classmates is only one example. Hasan’s bravery and his community’s recognition shows that the majority of people in Pakistan today are fighting a battle for basic rights, such as education. The principal of the school stated, “the attack targeted education and I am surprised neither the federal nor the provincial government functionary has visited the family. Their silence is condemnable.” The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) declared a global bravery award for Hasan. It was also later reported that Hasan would be given the “Sitara-e-Shujaat,” which is Pakistan’s highest award for bravery.

Hasan is seen as a hero and martyr among his classmates and community. His grieving father stated, “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children.”

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Deepening Ties Between Morocco and Gulf States Provide Opportunity for Education Reform

Qatar recently pledged $1.25 billion in aid to Morocco, joining a group of other Arabian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, who have promised a total of $5 billion in aid to Morocco by 2017. The aid pledges are an indication of continuing cultural affinities between Morocco and the Gulf, as well as a bet on Morocco’s economic future. Morocco’s recovery from the 2008 economic crisis has been slow, and has also suffered from the recent crises in the Eurozone, its biggest trading partner.

Morocco is now in great need of foreign aid, having cut public spending by 25 per cent in its most recent budget. Naturally, spending on education, which made up about 14 per cent of public expenditures in 2010, will fall along with public spending. Hopes are that the aid can be used to address Morocco’s areas of need, which include “price stability, public debt reduction, strengthening the financial system, infrastructure improvement, educational reform,” according to the World Bank.

Morocco’s education system is in need of reform. There is a growing disparity in access to education in urban and rural areas, and among boys and girls. Morocco recently unveiled a four-year plan to increase access to education for women, but the divide is still pronounced. Jeffery Waite of the World Bank summarized the state of Morocco’s education system in May, after announcing a $100 million loan to the country: “Although much has been achieved in expanding access to schooling, further reforms are needed to improve the outcomes of education [in Morocco], notably its quality and the overall performance of the sector.”

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Bolivia Launches Communications Satellite to Bring Education to Rural Areas

Bolivia is proposing unique solutions to the disparity in education access between its urban and rural populations. Late last year President Evo Morales introduced the launch of Bolivia’s first telecommunications satellite, the Tupac Katari. The satellite was launched in order to ensure access to mobile phones for the entire country—but it may have a different use as well. Bolivia plans to use the satellite to broadcast classes taught in La Paz to students in the outlying areas of the country.

School band in Coroico. Had an annoying habit of practising loudly early in the morning.Bolivia suffers from some of the lowest school enrollments in all of the Caribbean and Latin America, with a 2011 gross primary school enrollment of 94.5 per cent, compared to an average 112.9 per cent elsewhere in the region. The satellite aims to combat these numbers, as well as a lack of infrastructure that prohibits many students in rural areas from having access to education. The satellite is another step in Bolivia’s efforts to modernize their education, infrastructure and medicine. The Tupac Katari will become operational in April of this year.

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