SEATTLE — Many organizations are working toward solutions to challenge the world’s education gap that leaves around 263 million children out of school, perpetuating poverty and targeting students in low-income communities. For Teach for All, education necessities leadership. With partner organizations in 44 countries, the initiative aims to foster a network of dedicated teachers to break down their own countries’ barriers to educating all children.
Challenging educational inequality is at the forefront of Teach for All’s mission, with education as a direct combatant to poverty. Attaining basic reading skills for students in low-income countries could lift 171 million people, 12 percent of all impoverished people, out of poverty.
With this in mind, Teach for All set out to combat this global issue, placing 14,000 teachers in high-need areas and educating more than 900,000 students since its foundation in 2007.
This begs the question: what tools is Teach for All using for success? A Brookings study found that it lies in leadership. Although the network approaches education with a global lens, it generates learning from the ground up. Graduates from their own country, who know the barriers facing education, teach for two years in high-need schools.
After leaving the program, an average of 73 percent of educators go back to teaching in under-served communities to create a future generation of leaders in education.
The narrative that “each network partner is different from the next” runs deep in the organization’s model. A 2016 Brookings study explains that while network partners “pursue the same approach, each partner organization customizes their strategic approach based on its country’s needs.” All partners are unified under the same mission, but guaranteed what the report names as “local autonomy,” which many see as a cornerstone message of the organization’s success.
This allows CEOs to combat their own countries’ particular barriers to education. The founder of Teach for Afghanistan, Rahmatullah Arman, is a prime example. He made sure his program does not favor male teachers in order to provide a positive role model for students since gender inequality in education is a longstanding challenge in the country.
Elements of the program garnered the criticism of Teach for America. Many voices within the teaching community argue that the program places ill-prepared young graduates in schools where they are not prepared to teach, disrupting the traditional education environment and displacing qualified veteran teachers.
Other voices such as the Harvard Crimson say otherwise, arguing that the approach to teaching “fills a needed role.”
Despite the criticism, multiple studies show that Teach for All’s approach to education is generating positive results for students around the world. A 2010 study found that participants of the Enseña Chile program improved math, Spanish and social abilities more than students in other programs. A different study on Teach for America found that students gained an extra 2.6 months of learning with Teach for America’s educators than with others.
Studies on Teach First of the United Kingdom and Teach for Nepal tell the same story.
With approximately five organizations joining the global network each year, many think the education formula will see success in other countries, particularly in Africa, where only Teach for Ghana and Teach for Nigeria have taken root. Co-founder Wendy Kopp says that although she envisions a network of 100 countries, this growth ultimately will have to begin inside the network itself.
The network expects to grow because it relies on “a healthy marriage between an entrepreneurial leader and an equally entrepreneurial organization,” according to the organization’s vice president.
With the hopes of expanding its network, Teach for All calls into question many underlying debates about education: how should the global need for education be addressed, and by what entity? Regardless of the answers, the expanding network of educators relies on a unique approach to education that has already benefited nearly one million children.
– Cleo Krejci