LONDON—Improving education equity for all children is not an insurmountable problem, as several projects in relatively poor areas around the globe have shown, experts said at a global education conference this week.
Four disadvantaged regions in China and the Slovak Republic have managed to educate children to the same level as more affluent regions of their countries, said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
They managed to do this by sending top teachers to the areas concerned.
“China and the Slovak Republic get the most talented teachers into the most challenging schools” by telling teachers, “If you want to advance your career, you need to go to an underperforming school.”Andreas Schleicher Director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
“This shows we can address the issue, though in many countries schools in affluent areas just exaggerate the difference,” said Schleicher, who spoke on a panel called “Equity and Resources in Education” during the Education World Forum 2022.
“China and the Slovak Republic get the most talented teachers into the most challenging schools,” he said. “Then they can have it in their career record that they turned round an underperforming school.”
Throwing additional money at underperforming schools usually did not achieve results, Schleicher said. What made a difference was telling good teachers, “If you want to advance your career, you need to go to an underperforming school.”
On the same panel, Amel Karboul, chief executive officer of the Education Outcomes Fund, an independent trust fund hosted by Unicef, discussed what her organisation had been doing in the same field.
Karboul, a former minister of tourism in Tunisia, said the fund asked donors to support projects on the basis of results achieved.
She said two-thirds of labour market programmes for students did not lead to a job. When her fund proposed a results-based investment programme, people said, “Why would an organisation wait three, four or seven years to see if they can get their investment back?” But they agreed, she said.
“They said, ‘Why do we have to have marginalised kids, why can’t we have normal kids?’ I said, ‘Succeed with the most marginalised and you know how to educate everybody.’”Amel Karboul Chief executive officer of the Education Outcomes Fund
Karboul described how she persuaded organisations like the Union Bank of Switzerland, the Korean International Cooperation Agency and the Bank of America to support a project for the most marginalised children in Sierra Leone and Ghana.
“They said, ‘Why do we have to have marginalised kids, why can’t we have normal kids?’ I said, ‘Succeed with the most marginalised and you know how to educate everybody.’”
Greater Access to Schools in Djibouti
Taking part in the same debate, Moustapha Mohamed Mahamoud, Djibouti’s minister of educational and vocational training, said more than 60 percent of children with disabilities in his country used not to go to school. Their parents could not see the point and schools were not equipped to receive them.
But there was a will to improve. Djibouti now has a ten-year programme to train teachers of special-needs children, Mahamoud said. It is integrating children with lighter disabilities into standard schools and creating special schools for the blind and deaf.
The country is also taking steps to ensure that girls in remote areas are going to school because they had previously not been doing so.
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The Education World Forum is a conference for ministers of education and skills from around the globe. This year’s forum was held May 22 to 25 in London. Formerly an annual event, the forum was postponed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. (See a related article, “Schools Should Not Have Been Closed During the Pandemic, World Bank Official Says”.)
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