Posts Tagged ‘Schools Around the World’

Schools Around the World: Finland

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

In 2006, Finland placed first overall out of 57 countries in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, which tests a random sample of 15-year-olds from each country. The 2006 exam emphasized science; the 2000 and 2003 PISA tests emphasized reading and math skills respectively, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

One of the primary differences between the education systems in the United States and Finland is that Finland distributes finances evenly among its schools.

“We take kids who have the least access to educational opportunities at home and we typically give them the least access to educational opportunities at school as well,” Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and lead education advisor during President Obama’s presidential campaign, told Newsweek in a 2008 interview. In addition, Darling-Hammond pointed out that 22 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty—the “highest proportion of any industrialized country.”


Related Link Resources
The CIA World Factbook
The Globe and Mail
PISA 2006 Finland
Learning First
This is Finland

Schools Around the World: Gaza

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Nasser Ishtayeh/AP
Palestinian school children walk past a Palestinian flag at half staff in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, June 1, 2010.

Recently, Israel and Gaza have been in the headlines following Israel’s raid of ships trying to breach its blockade of the Gaza Strip, Bloomberg reports.

In 2006, the Islamic Hamas movement, regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and Israel, won parliamentary elections and overthrew the Fatah group loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel placed a blockade on Gaza the following year, and defended its decision by saying it is in “a state of armed conflict” with Hamas, Bloomberg notes.

The blockade has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of those in the region. Palestinians in Gaza must pass through checkpoints, abide by curfews and endure interrogations. For students, these “and other civil liberty violations impede access to classes as well as a conducive learning environment in them,” Stephen Lendman writes for the Palestine Chronicle. Along with items like jam, chocolate and fresh meat, writing implements, notebooks and newspapers are illegal to import, according to Lendman.


Schools Around the World: South Korea

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Lee Jin-man/AP

After a visit to South Korea in early 2009, President Barack Obama applauded its education system, noting that students in South Korea attend school for an entire month more than American students. Obama suggested that the U.S. should consider changes to a school calendar, “designed for when America was a nation of farmers,” in order to remain globally competitive, according to The Korea Times.

In 2007, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked South Korea first in reading scores, and fourth in math among all participating countries. According to the BBC, “South Korea has made rapid progress since 2000, says the report—with its pupils improving by the equivalent of a whole school year.”

Yet there are glaring flaws in the South Korean system. In May 2005, teens staged a protest in Seoul after five students were driven to suicide by academic pressures, The New York Times reported.

“Schools are driving us to endless competition, teaching us to step on our friends to succeed,” Shin Ji Hae, a 16-year-old girl, said in a speech before an approving crowd of students. “We are not studying machines. We are just teenagers.”


Related Link Resources
The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times
The Independent
U.S. Library of Congress
The Korea Times

Schools Around the World: Turkey

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who led Turkey to independence in 1923, enacted many country-wide reforms that he hoped would modernize Turkey, which was then known as the “sick man of Europe,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to separating “mosque and state,” and giving women the right to vote, Ataturk mandated that every child attend primary school, the Council reported. He also changed the script from Arabic to Latin, to facilitate Turks learning other European languages. Decades later, in 1997, Turkish Parliament passed a Basic Education Law and lengthened compulsory education from five to eight years, according to UNICEF.

In Turkey, schools are coeducational but boys have higher rates of enrollment and literacy than girls across all grades. Although a 2002 study showed increased enrollment of girls since the 1997 reforms, “[t]raditional reluctance to send or keep the girl child in school still persists in the lower income bracket and rural areas,” UNICEF reports. Gender differences in schooling are also more pronounced among certain ethnic groups. For example, “43% of Kurdish-speaking girls from the poorest households have fewer than two years’ education, while the national average is 6%,” according to The Guardian.


Related Link Resources
Council on Foreign Relations: Turkey for High School Teachers
The Library of Congress: Country Studies: Turkey
The Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development
Al- Noor: The Challenges of Education in Turkey: A Viewpoint

Schools Around the World: France

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
Nationwide strikes in France hobbled public services from transport to schools, Tuesday, March 23, 2010.

The headlines have been full of news on the unemployment rate in France; above 10 percent, France has an even higher unemployment rate than the United States. How has the recession affected education in France?

As early as November 2008, thousands of people protested against education reform plans, especially plans to cut thousands of teaching jobs, Euronews reported.

By January 2009, the economic crisis had forced the French government to make job cuts, and announce reform plans for primary and secondary education. In response, thousands of teachers went on a one-day national strike. Job cuts were at the top of strikers’ list of grievances, along with “the end of teaching hours on Saturday mornings, which means they have less time to do their work,” The Guardian reported.

Massive job cuts in the education sector will certainly sound familiar to educators in the United States. But what about an emphasis on food and culture? This may be where the French education system differs most profoundly from the American system.

“While the country is cutting public programs and civil-servant jobs to try to slash a debt of about $2.1 trillion, no one has dared to mention touching the money spent on school lunches,” Vivienne Walt wrote for Time magazine in February.


Related Link Resources
Discover France
SnoValley Star
The Guardian
The New York Times

Schools Around the World: Chile

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Santiago Llanquin/AP
Students are detained by riot police officers during a demonstration to demand reforms in the Chilean education system in Santiago, Wednesday, May 13, 2009.

In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chile was pulling “out of its first recession in ten years,” and needed to make improvements in income distribution, market competition and education, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). OECD charged that the quality of public education at the primary and secondary levels needed work in order to help Chilean children “reach OECD standards in learning outcomes.”

Encyclopedia Britannica provides an overview of the education system in Chile.

In 2008, Andrea Arango, a research associate with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, outlined “The Failings of Chile’s Education System: Institutionalized Inequality and a Preference for the Affluent.” According to Arango’s report, the Chilean government favors the privatization of education in the country. As a result, only wealthier students have access to quality education. Meanwhile, the system “offers inherently unequal opportunities for students from low-income families, who consistently experience sub-standard educational achievements as a result of an ongoing bias in favor of privatization measures.”

Following Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake, however, Chile may be hard-pressed to improve its economy or its education system. An estimated 2 million Chileans—one-eighth of the entire population—have been affected by the earthquake, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Tuesday.

Aid began to pour into Chile after the country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, asked for help. Though most countries have responded with medical personnel and supplies, drinking water, electrical generators, mobile bridges and other essentials, the European Union said it would send “‘an assessing mission’ to look at damage to hospitals, schools and other facilities,” Catherine Ashton, an E.U. foreign policy chief, told AFP.

At a time when rescuers are frantically searching for survivors, it’s too soon to account for all the missing, injured and dead, or properly assess the full extent of the damage to buildings such as schools. Unlike Haiti, which suffered widespread structural damage due to a lack of building codes, in Chile, “building codes are strict,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Still, Bachelet estimates that one million buildings have been damaged, while Education Minister Monica Jimenez told AP that several “[k]ey structures in Santiago” were badly damaged.

Public schools were set to reopen on Monday, after summer vacation, but now are scheduled to reopen on March 8.

Related Link Resources
The Salt Lake Tribune
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Encyclopedia Britannica
The Wall Street Journal

Schools Around the World: Kenya

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Sayyid Azim/AP
Some of the hundreds of parents and children line up to register at the Buru Buru 1 Primary School in Nairobi on the first day of the year Monday, Jan. 6, 2003, eager to capitalize on the electoral promise of free primary education made by newly-inaugurated President Mwai Kibaki.

Last week, we spoke with Alex Grossi, a young man who helped start the Kenya School Libraries Program, a nonprofit that collects books for libraries in Kenya’s schools.

Education in Kenya has been in the headlines quite a bit recently. On Monday, tennis star Serena Williams arrived in Kenya to open her second Serena Williams Secondary School, this one in Eastern Province, Kenya. Williams is a global ambassador for Hewlett Packard and has been on several charitable missions to the region.

On Tuesday, reported on Kenya Dream, a class project at Cupertino High School. Students there adopted the Nthimbiri Secondary School in Kenya three years ago, with the aim of raising $100,000 for the school. So far, the students have raised $50,000.

In January, Ashley Seager reported for The Guardian on a new program to bring education to nomadic groups in Kenya. “My view is that people should not have to choose between their lifestyle and an education,” Mohamed Elmi, the minister for northern Kenya, told Seager. Now, 91 mobile schools have opened in the country, mostly in the north and east. Children begin lessons at 5:30 in the morning, study for a few hours, and then tend to grazing animals or gather water for the village. They may study again in the evening.


Related Link Resources
The Nation
The Guardian
Africa Renewal
East Africa Living Encyclopedia

Schools Around the World: India

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Saurabh Das/AP
In this Jan. 19, 2010, photo, a teacher helps children as they learn to use computers at a private school in New Delhi, India. Private education in New Delhi was once a luxury reserved for the upper class. But with government-run schools largely a shambles and the rapidly growing Indian middle class suddenly flush with cash, the demand for private schools has exploded.

The 2008 movie “Slumdog Millionaire” brought attention to the plight of children living in the slums of Mumbai like no other film has. In an economically struggling country with a caste system that makes education difficult to obtain for the poor and lower classes, what is the state of primary and secondary education in India today?

According to a 2005 paper prepared for the National Center on Education and the Economy, India has the second largest education system in the world, after China. In 2004, estimates put 32 percent of India’s population of more than one billion under the age of 15, creating a huge burden on institutions to meet the demand for education.

Even though primary and middle school education is mandatory in India, only 50 percent of children between six and fourteen attend school, the book, “India: A Country Study,” reports. According to figures quoted in the National Center on Education and the Economy paper, males in India finish an average of just 2.9 years of schooling and females only 1.8 years.

Several factors make obtaining a public education in India a challenge. Indian law prohibits children from working in factories, but it does allow children to work in restaurants, households, cottage industries or in agriculture, according to “India: A Country Study.” School attendance varies widely by region and gender, and the quality of instruction varies depending on region and whether the school is a state-supported public school or a fee-based private school.

The caste system still plays a role in India’s primary school system today. As the National Center on Education and the Economy explains, traditional Hindu education catered to the needs of Brahmin boys who were taught by Brahmin teachers; Brahmin is the highest caste group in India. “[E]ven today, the vast majority of students making it through middle school to high school continue to be from high-level castes and middle- to upper class families living in urban areas.”

The Web site Educational Videos provides a glimpse of early education in India, while Explore offers photos from a variety of Indian schools and organizations for children.

Related Link Resources
National Center on Education and the Economy
India: A Country Study
Educational Videos

Schools Around the World: Iran

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP
A group of girls attend the first day of school in Tehran.

Feb. 11 marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran—and an opportunity for more unrest in the country. Following the controversial presidential election in June, the opposition Green Movement has been at constant odds with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Feb. 2, the Financial Times reported that Iran’s fundamentalists charge the Green Movement with being “restricted to the educated middle class,” and failing “to convince the poorer sections of society to back the unrest.”

In response, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, leader of the Green Movement, is trying to soften the group’s radical message and extend its reach.

“The fate of the movement should be tied up to the fate of all walks of life, in particular the two groups which are in charge of economy and education, meaning labourers and teachers,” Moussavi said in an interview on his Web site, Kaleme, according to the Financial Times.

How have Iran’s teachers and students fared since the disputed election? In September 2009, Shervin Malekzadeh of Time Magazine spoke with teachers on the first day of class in Iran. “For many, school will be the first time to confront in a formal social setting what has happened to the country,” Malekzadeh wrote. He also cautioned that “there can be no moving on, not yet, because what has happened is not over.”

The Iranian Students’ News Agency provides photos of Iranian students and teachers in the school setting, and the British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organization for education and cultural relations, links to an overview of the education system in Iran.

But as Malekzadeh points out, “Without access to the daily lives of teachers and their students, studies on Iranian schooling have proven to reveal more about their authors and our shifting preconceptions of Iran than any sort of reality on the ground.”

Malekzadeh contends that the “country’s public schools face many of the same challenges as U.S. schools”: urban schools that are overcrowded and operate in shifts in order to serve too many students, teachers that are underpaid and demoralized by a constricted curriculum and students that are stifled by a lack of creativity and constant testing.

There seems to be more than these woes plaguing Iran’s schools, however. In 2007, part of a girls’ school collapsed, killing a 12-year-old and injuring five others, Shirzad Abdollahi reported for Payvand Iran News. Many of Iran’s schools are old and in disrepair; in Tehran, Abdollahi writes, “seven out of ten schools are more than 35 years old,” and “[f]acilities at girls’ schools are especially flawed, with poor provision for sports and recreation.”

Still, Iran’s political unrest may be the most immediate threat to its schools right now. In November 2009, the Associated Press reported that “Islamic religious authorities have begun tightening their grip on Iranian public schools.” Officials announced plans to place a cleric in every school, while Ahmadinejad “criticized Western influence in school curriculum.”

For a look at how politics shaped one Iranian girl’s childhood during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, read “Persepolis.” The autobiographical novel, written by Marjane Satrapi, uses stark black-and-white illustrations to tell her story of living in Tehran from ages 10 to 14.

Related Link Resources
Financial Times
Iranian Students News Agency
British Council
Payvand Iran News

Schools Around the World: Haiti

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz/AP
Children play soccer in front of a collapsed school Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010, in Leogane, Haiti, after the devastating earthquake two weeks ago.

Just two days after Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement calling for assistance in rebuilding education in Haiti.

“Education is at the core of Haiti’s recovery and is the key to Haiti’s development,” Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, said. “We are determined to mobilize support for temporary emergency educational facilities and for reconstruction. I also urge academia to show solidarity. Universities in the region and beyond should make every effort to take in Haitian students.”

According to a Council on Foreign Relations interview with Mark Schneider, former Peace Corps director during the Clinton administration and senior vice president of the International Crisis Group, the state of public education in Haiti was grim even before the earthquake. Forty percent of kids weren’t enrolled in school prior to the quake, and 80 percent of those that were enrolled were attending private schools that required tuition, “and those schools weren’t very good,” Schneider said.

On Thursday, Ray Rivera reported for The New York Times that “5,000 to 8,000 schools were affected by the earthquake,” displacing as many as 1.8 million children. Though education officials there said that schools not affected by the quake will reopen for the first time on Feb. 1, it remains unclear how many students and teachers will return.

John Henry Telemaque, assistant coordinator for education for President René Préval’s emergency disaster committee, said that up to 97 percent of Port-Au-Prince’s schools alone had been leveled in the earthquake.

“The schools were built without anti seismic systems,” Telemaque said. “In Haiti most of the schools were built with heavy cement block to withstand hurricanes.” (The heavy cement block style of construction is evident in these photos of Haitian schools on the Visual Geography Web site. The site is a project of two photographers and is “dedicated to those studying and teaching about the world.”)

Schneider emphasized that reconstructing Haiti, including its schools, will take decades. “Let’s take the Ministry of Education: What you need to do now is not just put back the same bricks. You need to build a new education policy in Haiti,” he said.

“You need to have a commitment to a public school education system that offers a decent education to the kids in Haiti,” Schneider elaborated. “So you need to have education experts from around the world come and partner with the new Ministry of Education in Haiti.”

Looking to help Haiti? San Francisco Chronicle has a Haiti donation list with information on how each organization is reaching out to Haiti.

Related Link Resources
Council on Foreign Relations
The New York Times
Visual Geography
San Francisco Chronicle