SEATTLE — A significant challenge for education in developing countries is that children are simply not learning enough, even when they are in school. For example, an estimated 250 million children are not learning basic reading and math skills, although half of them have spent at least four years in school. This is costing developing countries billions of dollars a year in wasted education funding.
The focus of the educational system, therefore, needs not only to bring more children into school but also to improve the quality of the educational system itself. Here are five ways to improve education in developing countries:
1. Reduce the Cost of Education
Several African countries have abolished their school fees. Each time, the move has triggered a large increase in primary school enrollment. For example, enrollment increased by 12 percent in Ghana, 18 percent in Kenya, 23 percent in Ethiopia and 51 percent in Malawi after the abolition of school fees.
2. School Lunch Programs
It’s been proven that malnourished children learn poorly. However, according to the World Food Programme in 2009, 66 million school children are hungry.
Providing food during school will alleviate these children’s hunger during class as well as encourage regular school attendance. School lunch programs have been shown to increase math scores, student concentration and general achievement. For example, providing iron-fortified vitamin pills to children in rural China, many of whom have anemia, had an immediate positive impact on learning.
3. Educating Parents
A parent’s investment in education is crucial for the success of their children. However, 759 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to improve both their living conditions and those of their children.
Providing parents with information on the value of education will be crucial to increasing and maintaining school enrollment. In Madagascar, for instance, this can be achieved for as little as $2.30 per child, and the benefits could equal 600 times the cost.
4. A New Educational Model
Investing in test scores and achievement is no longer a useful way to focus on education, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. A new educational model should combine traditional content with important financial, health and administrative skills.
Students should practice teamwork, leadership and critical thinking. They should also gain exposure to entrepreneurship projects such as identifying and exploiting market opportunities through business ideas such as community recycling. This shift away from standardized learning will prepare students to make a positive impact on the social and economic wellbeing of their communities.
5. Improved Resources for Teachers
Computer-assisted learning will inevitably improve education in developing countries and enhance the educational experience of both teachers and students. The computers should have age-appropriate learning software and a technically educated staff that knows how to maintain them.
These methods to improve education in developing countries will continue to encourage student enrollment, and most importantly, will ensure that children stay in school and learn more while they are there.
– Liliana Rehorn