USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Education and Universities

New Tool to Assess Literacy

A free electronic tool is now available to quickly and accurately measure the reading progress of young children in the developing world. An adaptation of USAID’s paper-based Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), the new tool called eEGRA runs in Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software, available free on most computers. The new tool was demonstrated for international literacy experts and policymakers March 13th, at the Washington offices of Education Development Center (EDC) which developed eEGRA.

eEGRA puts valid, reliable reading results into the hands of teachers. Photo Credit: Rojessa Tiamson-Saceda

One of the benefits of eEGRA is that results are available immediately after a student has completed a test, instantly providing the classroom teacher or headmaster with a snapshot of the student’s reading progress. By comparison, data from the paper test can take six months to analyze, and because it is developed at the national or district level, is rarely seen or used by teachers.

In addition, the electronic test automates time calculations and restricts data entry mistakes by eliminating the need to interpret hand-written scores. It also standardizes the delivery of test instructions via audio playback, ensuring all students receive the same information. Because it is in electronic format, eEGRA uses less paper and comes with the capability to back up and save data.

“We are already finding that eEGRA is revolutionizing how we assess the reading skills of young children,” said EDC Vice President Nancy Devine. “It allows teachers to identify whether students have developed key skills for their grade level, and this in turn allows them to identify what remediation efforts, if any, are required. eEGRA directly links assessment and classroom practice.”

First conceptualized in 2009, eEGRA was developed for an Excel platform in the spring of 2010, and then field tested in the Philippines. That field study established that eEGRA scores learners as accurately as its paper-based counterpart and the use of a laptop does not inhibit testing. eEGRA was first presented at USAID’s M4Ed4Dev conference in August 2010 and has been available free and in open-source format since that time. To date, it has been used by development partners to assess student learning in three countries, in three languages.

“We continue to refine the tool with new features and improved performance,” said EDC’s Helen Boyle. “Our ultimate goal is to put reliable, valid reading assessments into the hands of teachers around the globe, enabling them to deliver more effective instruction to their students.”

Click here to learn more or download and begin using the free assessment tool.

Launch of Pakistan’s National Reading Program

This week in Pakistan, I joined Ambassador Cameron Munter, Senior Minister Pir Mazhar-Ul-Haq of the Government of Sindh Education and Literacy Department and local leaders in launching a National Reading Program.

The program will help improve reading and math skills for nearly seven million children, mobilize communities to strengthen school management and support the development of three and a half million new readers. That means improving educational assessments so that schools and parents can clearly track student progress.  And it means strengthening teach professional development, so that teachers have the opportunity to grow, share their experiences and learn about new approaches.

This support will help Pakistan accelerate progress towards full primary enrollment, which it would not achieve until 2050 at its current pact. Today, seven million Pakistani children including four million girls are not enrolled.  And in Sindh, only 40 percent of children who have completed primary school can read a simple sentence in their native language.

Administrator Shaw at the launch of the National Reading Program in Karachi, Pakistan with Pakistani students. Photo Credit: USAID/Pakistan

The program would not have been possible without Pakistan’s groundbreaking effort to establish a National Education Policy, which provides a roadmap for ensuring every child receives a quality education. In 2010, Pakistan’s Constitution made education compulsory and required the government to provide education without cost to parents.  The provincial governments have also made fundamental reforms key to this effort, including providing scholarships for girls to attend middle school and sending teachers where they are needed most, even if it isn’t where they’d like to go.

We’ve also made key changes in our approach to education. Instead of measuring success by the number of children we help enroll or the number of teachers we train, we’re going to measure it by the number of children who can read and add by the time they leave school. And instead of measuring success based on anecdotes, we’re going to work with the government to ensure sophisticated monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that hold all of us accountable.

We’ve also launched All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge in Development to generate breakthroughs in childhood literacy, whether they are mobile apps that help measure student progress or affordable e-reads that bring the world’s libraries to mudbrick schools and rural villages. Before long, these cutting-edge proposals will help transform the way children learn from Pakistan to Ghana.

Building on a long-standing history of cooperation between our two peoples, we’re committed to helping the students of Pakistan, and easing their path as they become the world’s next generation of scientists, teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs.

U.S. – Afghan Women’s Council – Celebrating 10 Years of Progress

This week we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the U.S. – Afghan Women’s Council (USAWC). Created during the Bush Administration, the Council has stimulated an extraordinary array of public-private partnerships to elevate the status of Afghan women and girls. As I listened to commemorative remarks by Secretary Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush, I recalled my own visit to Afghanistan in December 2011.

While in Kabul, I had the enormous pleasure of speaking with a group of female students and recent university graduates currently working in USAID-supported internships. These women are among the first generation of girls who were educated in post-Taliban Afghanistan; many of them represented the astonishing 25% of Kabul University female graduates.

Similarly inspiring was my visit to the American University of Afghanistan (AUAf), where a beautiful campus hosts a student body that is approximately 22% female, enrolled in undergraduate programs such as Business, IT, and Political Science.  There’s also been a dramatic increase in female enrollment.  While the Senior class is only 6% female, the Freshman class is over half.  Even more heartening is the 36% of women now enrolled in a college prep program.

The American University of Afghanistan is one of many critical efforts USAID has proudly supported as a U.S. – Afghan Women’s Council partner. The Agency’s assistance has actually supported myriad efforts of the Council. In addition to AUAf, USAID has worked with the Ministry of Education, the International School of Kabul and the Women’s Teacher Training Institute. But support has not been limited to the education sector. In partnership with USAWC partners, USAID has developed and implemented programs for children, women’s leadership, women’s entrepreneurship and women’s health care.

The results of the U.S. Government’s support for Afghanistan’s women are visible and impressive. Programs like the REACH are offering midwifery training have helped lower child and maternal mortality rates by over 20%  in the last ten years; over 3000 midwives have been trained, about half of them with U.S. support. Additionally, I’m thrilled to say that today over three million Afghan girls are in school; almost no girls were being educated while the Taliban were in power.

The US-Afghan Women’s Council should be applauded. It has delivered concrete results for development while maintaining crucial support in the U.S. for the needs of Afghan women. The Council has stimulated a dazzling set of projects and programs involving an impressive set of partners from the private sector, foundations and NGOs committed to ensuring expanded opportunities for women in Afghanistan..   As we mark a decade of progress through the Council, I’m reminded of Secretary Clinton’s remarks on Wednesday when she said, “The women of Afghanistan are a valuable and irreplaceable resource, and their rights must be protected, and their opportunities for them to contribute must be preserved.”

Game Changing Innovations through New Relationships with Universities

Applications Now Open in Unprecedented Opportunity to Collaborate and Push the Innovation Bar

USAID-related science programs assist in expanding training for women. Photo Credit: Zahur Ramji (AKDN)

We are proud to announce the Higher Education Solutions Network Request for Applications (RFA), which invites higher education institutions to compete to join USAID as new strategic, long-term partners to have a greater impact on development through creative partnerships. From USAID’s start 50 years ago, partnering with universities and research organizations has been part of the Agency’s vision.  Over the years we have worked with partners on sector-specific projects, but today we are pursuing an unprecedented relationship with academic institutions as part of our effort to open the field to a broader range of actors and leverage the assets available through science and technology. USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network program aims to engage students and faculty and catalyze the enthusiasm on campuses for international development, making it easier to turn advocacy and ideas on campus into action and results in the field.

We are launching the Higher Education Solutions Network in order to reconnect over the long-term with universities and academic institutions for three reasons:

  • We aim to leverage their research assets to provide evidence and analysis that can feed into USAID policy
  • We want to test and scale new models for development which includes developing and creating new technologies.
  • We aim to foster an ecosystem where multi-disciplinary approaches are promoted.

We’d like to work with universities and higher education institutions to understand how students can be empowered to shift from saying, “What’s your major?” to “What’s the problem you want to solve?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Harnessing Science, Technology, and Innovation To Promote Global Development

Originally posted on the White House blog

Today at the White House, senior Administration officials announced a series of new initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges.  Answering President Obama’s call to harness science technology, and innovation to spark global development, the Administration announced initiatives from across the government to generate new development solutions.  Announcements include new partnerships with universities; greater use of scientific breakthroughs through expedited technology transfer of federally-funded inventions; a program to reward inventors who use their patented technologies to address humanitarian needs; and initiatives to leverage advances in Internet and communications technologies to provide new development tools.

In an increasingly globalized world, the Obama Administration recognizes that global development is vital to national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative.  One of the cornerstones of our global development policy is a commitment to investments in game-changing innovations with the potential to solve long-standing development challenges in health, food security, environmental sustainability, and broad-based economic growth.  Innovation can play a key role in building a stable, inclusive global economy with new sources of prosperity, advancing democracy and human rights, and helping us to increase the ranks of prosperous, capable, and democratic states that can be our partners in the decades to come.

Administrator Raj Shah announced that USAID is launching a new partnership with universities and research institutes to define and solve large development challenges.  USAID also announced new commitments to increased utilization of electronic and mobile payments to save on costs and increase financial access; a new effort to make assistance to other governments in telecommunications development more efficient; a new “app store” for development to spur humanitarian apps and software; and new commitments to mobile education technology as part of USAID’s All Children Reading grand challenge for development.

Read the rest of this entry »

Photo of the Week

The Empowerment through Literacy Education Access Project (E-LEAP) helps adult Maasai women learn basic Swahili literacy skills, which allows them to have greater access to essential skills. Currently funded through our Education Sector, this program partners with Mwedo (Maasai women development organization) and began in 2007 with 150 Maasai women. Currently, E-LEAP has empowered over 2000 Maasai women. The program extends beyond basic Swahili literacy skills and trains the women in business skills, HIV education, and land rights. Photo credit: Megan Johnson/USAID

Indigenous Internship Program Trains Peru’s Young Adults

Darwin Mori Barbaran was born one of 10 to a school teacher and a jewelry artisan deep in the Peruvian jungle. When he was a child, both of his parents died in tragic accidents.  He was forced to confront the grim realities of the hinterlands at a young age –the tough physical labor life there would require as well as  the paltry opportunities for those who stay in the campo. As a result, he decided to do all he could to break out of the recurring cycle of poverty.

A life as a farmer, logger, weaver or a carpenter was really not interesting to him. Unlike many of his peers, he was grappling with profound questions, such as how societies develop, how governments can be more efficient with lesser resources, and how to create and sustainably run environmentally-friendly, legal businesses.

One bright, sunny afternoon, Mori’s life was forever changed by an announcement on the radio. Listening to his favorite station that broadcasts in the Shipibo indigenous language, he heard that the Peruvian government created a scholarship program for indigenous students from the Amazon to attend public universities in the capital city.

Initially, he was nervous. He would have to speak Spanish and dress in a different fashion. He would live in the chaotic city of Lima. But ultimately, he decided to pursue the scholarship. After a rigorous application process and a tense waiting period, the good news arrived: he had been accepted.

As predicted, Mori faced serious obstacles upon arriving in Lima. He was forced to share a room with four roommates, often times having to schedule sleeping in shifts, so the two mattresses would suffice for all. He picked up two jobs: one at the university library working as the bag check clerk, and the other making necklaces and another popular kind of jewelry called shakiras – a skill he learned from his mother. While some were able to take summer classes and get ahead in their studies, Mori could not, as the S/. 250 (approximately $85) per class was simply out of his budget. After nine years of struggling against the odds, and after many academic ups-and-downs, Mori graduated with a B.A. in Economics.

Recently, he began working at USAID/Peru under the mission’s Afro-Peruvian and Indigenous Internship Program. This program, founded in 2009, works to increase the number of quality professional and educational opportunities available to Peru’s Afro-Peruvian and indigenous populations. The effort aims to train recent graduates who could become their country’s next generation of leaders by providing hands-on development experience and an understanding of the U.S. Government.

Read the rest of this entry »

Improving Teachers’ Pay, Investing in the Future

The end of 2010 was marked by teachers’ strikes in Kyrgyzstan, as the nation’s educators took to the streets to protest their miserable wages.  The average monthly salary was $75 despite the fact that, by Kyrgyz law, the minimum teacher’s salary should be no less than the average national salary of $144 per month. International assessments have shown that low teacher pay and low motivation correspond with poor student achievement. It became clear to the Kyrgyz government that drastic measures were needed to increase the status and salary of teachers in order to improve the quality of education.

The Ministry of Education and Science asked USAID for help. USAID had already been supporting the Ministry to improve teaching practices and reform how schools are financed and managed. Together, they devised a new model for paying teachers. The model increases teachers’ salaries to be in line with legislation, introduces performance incentives to attract young teachers and motivates all teachers to produce results. New salaries consist of three parts: a base salary for teaching and out-of-classroom work, which includes lesson preparation; pay adjustments for rural and mountainous regions; and bonuses of up to 10% to be paid based on performance. On average, monthly salaries now range from $150-$185.

The new remuneration system started in May 2011. It has already found broad support across the country and especially amongst teachers, who returned to their schools even before the system was formally launched. “Since the day the Government’s Decree on the new teacher remuneration was published, three young teachers have come to me asking to work at our school,” said the Aralsky school principal in Chui region with satisfaction. It is hoped that higher wages will bring back former teachers, many of whom are homemakers, work in the bazaars or have left Kyrgyzstan.  There remains a critical shortage of teachers – 3,160 more are needed this school year just to fill the current classrooms.

Read the rest of this entry »

International Education Week: Partnering to Improve World Literacy

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

Today, the global community faces an economic crisis that has many people around the world feeling tenuous about the future. World leaders are grappling with how to handle rising debt and shrinking funds. Yet despite this uncertainty, one thing is certain: education is still the light shining on our path that shows us the way forward. Education, now more than ever, is critical to eliminating gender inequity, reducing starvation, sustaining our planet, and restoring world peace.

As countries improve the education of their citizens, they experience huge multiplier effects: better health, growing economies, and reduced poverty. The data show us that a child born to an educated mother is two times more likely to survive to age 5 . . . that educated mothers are fifty percent more likely to immunize their children and three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS. Every year that a child spends in school increases his or her future productivity by 10-30%.

When we think of how much a country gains in terms of goods and services by investing in 6, 12, or even 14 years of education for its workforce, how can we all not make that investment?

As part of this investment, I am pleased to announce today that the U.S. Department of Education will be joining USAID, World Vision and AustraliaAID in the All Children Reading initiative as well. As a new partner, we will collaborate with the founding partners as they work to dramatically improve world literacy. We are joining this work because we also believe that enhancing the education of all people, both at home and abroad, is a path to solving our world’s economic, social, and health problems.

The All Children Reading Challenge’s focus on improving literacy could not come at a better time. If education is the answer, then literacy is the foundation upon which we must build our countries’ well being. Not only are reading and writing critical to learning all other subjects, but literacy is what enables people to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship. Literacy opens doors to better living conditions, improved health, and expanded opportunities. It empowers people to build more secure futures for their families.

To get serious about literacy, we have to realize that the challenges of achieving an educated citizenry cut across geographical and political boundaries. Educators everywhere, including in the U.S., are concerned about the growing achievement gaps that exist for the poorest of our children, including those with learning disabilities and speakers of other languages.

Working together and collaborating to solve our common problems is critical. In our global economy, the tired old “survival of the fittest” philosophy that pits countries against one another no longer applies. Instead, we have to recognize that the battle is not between our countries, but with complacency.

I look forward to seeing what innovative programs and practices come out of this All Children Reading Challenge. I couldn’t be happier to see these organizations make an investment in the literacy of the children of the world, and I am hopeful that we in the U.S. will learn some innovative strategies that can make a difference for us here.

International Education Week: Somali Soap Opera Teaches Young People to Take Control of Their Finances

A young woman in Somalia. Photo Credit: USAID/Somalia

A young woman in Somalia who has benefited from the program. Photo Credit: USAID/Somalia

Somali youth are learning from the USAID sponsored soap opera Dab iyo Dahab that being good at math is not the same as knowing how to manage a household budget or run a business. In English, the title means “Fire and Gold.”

The innovative collaboration between USAID and the Education Development Center (EDC) proves positive things do happen for youth when technology, education, and culture come together.

Fire and Gold, created by young Somalis in the EDC team, is a soap opera that weaves the traditional Somali art of story-telling with interactive audio instruction, educating young people how to manage their finances. Currently, 1,850 Somali youth are learning financial literacy skills through the program.

Fatima, a young woman from Hargeisa, Somaliland, said of her training, “I succeeded to be recruited as an administrative assistant as a result of the USAID and EDC program.”

The lessons are broadcast through low-cost MP3-enabled devices that deliver high quality audio education on demand. Somali youth are like any other young people, and technology – in this case, MP3 devices – is very popular. Learning to be financially literate, it turns out, is also in high demand.

The MP3 device chosen, the Nokia 5310 cell phone, is capable of supporting a listening group of 30 students through a docking station without compromising learning and audio quality.

Read the rest of this entry »

Page 9 of 16:« First« 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 »Last »