The rise and role of religious education in Afghanistan

By M Niaz Asadullah, Professor of Development Economics at the University of Malaya, Malaysia and Southeast Asia Lead of the Global Labor Organization (GLO).

Since the return of the Taliban to power, concerns are growing over girls’ education in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Many Taliban Ministers were educated in madrasas in neighboring Pakistan. It is likely, therefore, that the emphasis on Koranic education and Islamic teachings will rise up again in Afghanistan. Many are worried that secular schools will shut down. Girls may end up presented with a choice: sit at home or be sent to madrasas.

Credit: Arete/Ivan Armando Flores/UNESCO

But an emphasis on an education system compliant with the Shariah system does not necessarily mean an end to girls’ education.  Taliban leaders now recognize the need for girls’ schooling but insist on complete gender segregation. This is confirmed by a major shift among the leadership which recently announced that Afghan women deserve to be in universities just as men, even if only on the condition that university classrooms remain strictly single-sex and aided by same sex teachers. Their demands also include restrictions on dress codes or forced purdah practice and ban on women’s participation in sports. 

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Take part in the online consultation for the 2023 GEM Report on technology

As recognised in the Incheon Declaration, the achievement of SDG 4 is dependent on opportunities and challenges posed by technology, an emphasis that was deepened by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology appears in six out of the ten targets in the fourth Sustainable Development goal on education. These references are out of recognition that technology affects education through five distinct channels: input, means of delivery, skill, tools for planning, social and cultural context.

Credit: Faith Ojima Oguche/GEM Report/UNESCO

There are often bitter divisions in how the role of technology is viewed, however. These divisions are widening as the world of technology is evolving at breakneck speed.  The new concept note for the 2023 GEM Report, developed with the help of a think-piece by Mary Burns, details how the publication will explore these debates. Join our consultation online to provide feedback on this concept note, suggest relevant evidence for the theme or new areas of research to be explored.

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Keep education going in Afghanistan

By Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

In 2001, a six-year-old girl in Afghanistan could expect, despite the odds, to attend primary and secondary school, graduate from university, and pursue a profession.

These days might be over if the new order instates a system that institutionalizes discrimination against girls and women, and annuls commitments made over the past two decades to advance education. The consequences would be catastrophic for the people, the country and regional and global security.

Although the country still lags far behind its South Asian neighbours on all education indicators, the progress achieved over the past twenty years – starting nearly from scratch – is nothing short of remarkable. This is documented in trends assessment report published by UNESCO here.

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Build Forward Better: how to prepare now to respond more effectively to crises’ impact on education

By Bushra Zulfiqar, Global Education Director & Emma Wagner, Head of Education Policy & Advocacy, Save the Children

“Because we dream of a better future, because we want to succeed, we want your support to make our voices heard and our demands realised. Be with us to create a strong and effective generation.”

Mya, a girl from Lebanon

The education of hundreds of millions of children in 48 countries is at extreme or high risk of collapsing as factors such as climate change, lack of COVID-19 vaccines, displacement, attacks on schools and lack of digital connectivity are jeopardising their access to safe, inclusive and quality learning – unless action is taken now. Given the scale of the learning crisis that existed before the pandemic, it’s vital that we don’t limit our ambition to building ‘back’ to how things were. Now it’s imperative we Build Forward Better and differently.

Credit: Juozas Cernius/Save the Children

Even before the Covid-19 global education emergency, 258 million school-aged children – one child in six – were already denied their right to education. Now, even more children are impacted by the learning crisis. In low-income, fragile and conflict-affected countries, the pandemic has compounded the education inequalities and discrimination so many children face.

Almost two years since COVID-19 first disrupted schooling in parts of Southeast Asia, no national education system in the world is back to ‘normal’. In the face of huge challenges, children have demonstrated remarkable resilience and agency. But the pandemic has had a devastating impact on their learning and wellbeing. We estimate that, because of the economic effects of COVID-19 alone, at least 10–16 million children are at risk of not returning to school, with girls worst affected.

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Posted in Disaster preparedness, Early childhood care and education, emergencies, Equality, Equity, Out-of-school children, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Help us choose the winner of our 2021 cartoon contest

In June, we launched a cartoon contest in partnership with the Cartoon Movement related to the forthcoming 2021/2 GEM Report on non-state actors in education.  The competition was to draw the best cartoon depiction of the issues around school choice and the impact of non-state actors in access, equity and quality in education based on this brief.

The Cartoon Movement is a global platform for editorial cartoons and comics journalism with a community of over 500 cartoonists in more than 80 countries. Together with their expert eye, we have selected the top five submissions among all designs received and are running a public vote on Twitter and Facebook to see which you think should win the contest.  The cartoon with the most engagement on social media will win $500.

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Winners of the 2021/2 GEM Report photo competition on non-state actors in education

In March this year, we launched our annual photo competition on the theme of our forthcoming 2021/2 GEM Report on non-state actors. The brief was for photographers to submit original photographs that capture the many ways in which non-state actors are involved in education systems – providing education (private, NGO, faith-based or community schools); providing ancillary services (school meals, technology, assessments, tutoring); influencing education systems (equity implications; influence over national policies; resource mobilization); and the state role in the process (regulatory frameworks, accountability mechanisms). The winner was to be awarded $500 and the runners up $200 each.

We are very pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s annual photo competition is Distance learning in crisis by Stephen Douglas, taken in Kambia, Sierra Leone. Stephen is an award-winning Canadian journalist working in Sierra Leone.  His photo shows the importance of family engagement in education, particularly  in the context of COVID-19 school closures.

“Listening to, and participating in, the daily interactive “Reading on the Waves” radio program has been a whole-family undertaking for the Kamaras,” he explained. “The family literacy initiative funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada and implemented jointly by CODE, Farm Radio International and the Association of Language and Literacy Educators (Sierra Leone) has helped to sustain learning during COVID-19 school closures in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”

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Reflections on the COVID-19 second wave in India

By Chandni Jain and Priyadarshani Joshi, GEM Report

Far worse than the first one, the second wave of Covid-19 in India devastated the country, and made national and international headlines. Neighbouring countries especially Nepal – with which it shares an open border – also saw a spiralling in the number of cases and deaths. After a post-first wave lull in cases, a slew of political and religious events with mass gatherings were organized. The combination of a slow vaccination rollout, deadly virus mutations, and a rise in misinformation exposed the frailty of the country’s health, social and governance infrastructures. This slew of developments led to an unprecedented situation – at its peak, there were over 400,000 cases per day in India, the highest record in any country.

Figure 1: Unprecedented escalation of daily Covid-19 cases during the second wave in India since the start of the pandemic (Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 Data, 2021)

Estimates from the first wave were already showing that the pandemic disproportionately affects the poor. Since the pandemic began in 2020, the number of people with incomes of $2 or less a day is estimated to have increased by 75 million in India. This means that India alone will account for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty in 2020. This will only rise with the second wave.

This crisis has exposed the lack of system resilience, especially harming the poor, and the short and long-term education effects will be devastating. It has also highlighted the challenge of misinformation and the importance of critical thinking skills (for young people and adults) if we are ever to return to a ‘new normal’.

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A new Global Youth Development Index shows improvement in the state of 1.8 billion young people around the world

By the GEM Report’s new Youth Representative on its Advisory Board and Chair of the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA), Musarrat Maisha Reza

Musarrat Maisha Reza

Developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Global Youth Development Index Report launched this International Youth Day measures the state of health and wellbeing, education, employment, equality and inclusion, political participation, and security for more than 1.8 billion young people across 181 countries. It informs policymakers about young people’s needs and opportunities and provides policy-oriented recommendations. It also acts as a data advocacy tool, highlighting the importance of gathering statistics on key youth indicators to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. I am very pleased to be a part of it.

The latest edition of the Youth Development Index (YDI) ranks youth development in 181 countries. It is a composite index of 27 indicators that measures youth development across 6 domains tracked over the period 2010–2018: Health and Wellbeing, Education, Employment and Opportunity, Political and Civic Participation, Equality and Inclusion and Peace and Security. This year’s index shows advances in 5 of the 6 domains over the period.

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A changing climate, a need for action: supporting education for children uprooted by climate change

By Anja Nielsen, Senior Policy Adviser for Education and Youth, UK Committee for UNICEF

The release of AR 6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, the contribution to Assessment Report 6 from Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a sober reminder of the urgent need for climate action – one brought into stark relief by recent disasters. From extreme heatwaves on the west coast of the United States to famine-causing droughts in Madagascar to deadly floods in China, these past few weeks have shown the devastating impacts of weather-related disasters. Climate change is already tied to many of these events, and, as the climate crisis deepens, disasters are only likely to increase and intensify. Sadly, climate change-related migration and displacement is a critical but often overlooked aspect of this crisis.

Designed by Mukah Ispahani, Blanca Quiñonez and Sophia Paez for UNICEF/Voices of Youth.

Already, millions of families are displaced by weather-related events every year. Last year saw 9.8 million weather-related internal displacements of children, or over 26,000 displacements every day. With every move comes the possibility of disruption to education – and a matched urgency to build stronger systems that protect this right.

This last clause is critical. We can and must act now to mitigate the impacts of climate change and displacement. Extensive experience and knowledge already exist on factors that affect and support education for children on the move, such as the 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement but also evidence gathered through decades of education programming in situations of conflict-related displacement. Disaster risk reduction practices are already in place around the world, providing ample best practice to draw from. Translating this knowledge to build resilience will be critical to prevent the very worst impacts of climate change-related displacement on education.

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China clamps down on private tutoring

Just as parents in China were gearing up to send their children to expensive summer education programmes, new rules released on July 30 have banned for-profit private tutoring and introduced further restrictions.

The new regulations are going to put additional scrutiny on the country’s tutoring business reportedly worth $120 billion, with an eye on improving affordability and quality of life.

All institutions offering tutoring have to be registered and no new licences will be granted. After-school tutoring aimed at passing the gaokao, the notoriously tough university entrance exam, is banned over weekends, public holidays and school vacations. All tutoring and education services firms are banned from raising money. Foreign curricula and hiring foreigners to teach remotely are banned as well.

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