Center for Education Innovations: This Week's News & Views

November 01, 2013Kimberly Josephson

This week at CEI

On the left, the CEI Global Team in Entebbe, Uganda. 

Last week, the CEI Global Team Summit was held in Uganda, with participation from our partners based in the U.S., Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Pakistan and India. At the Summit, the team reflected on the Center's accomplishments thus far and discussed future activities and priorities for CEI. The Summit, which lasted three days, included site visits to local innovators Dwelling Places and Educate!, as well as an innovator panel with representatives from Maendeleo Foundation, Varkey GEMS Foundation's Teacher Training Program, and Children’s Sure Houses.

Yesterday, Google announced the four winners of the Global Impact Award. Congratulations to Agastya, who will be using the Rs 3 crore prize (about US $500,000) to launch a network of motorbike labs and bring science education to 1,620 rural schools. Pratham Books, a finalist, additionally received Rs 1.5 crore to build an open platform for sharing and translating 20,000 books in 25 languages. 

The 2013 WISE Summit, “Reinventing Education for Life”, was held Tuesday through Thursday this week in Doha, Qatar and featured a number of diverse, interesting panel sessions and debates (you can replay some online). A number of CEI-profiled programs earned recognition for their innovative solutions. Congratulations to:


  • November 30 | D-Prize - Submit an application for D-Prize, a $20,000 award for social entrepreneurs with a plan to distribute solutions to fight poverty. Challenge areas include girls’ education, global health, energy, education, and governance.
  • November 30 | UNGEI Good Practice Fund - The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) seeks to identify well-documented, scalable or replicable programs with some proof of effectiveness to strengthen the evidence base for girls’ education. Interventions should work to improve girls’ participation, learning, and empowerment at the pre-primary, primary and/or post-primary/secondary level, including non-formal and alternative education. Proposals due by November 30.
  • December 20 | Pan African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education - The Saville Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2013 Pan African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education. Organizations applying must be based in Africa, entrepreneurial and creative, sustainable, and demonstrate a measurable impact on the community. Prizes include $10,000 for 1st place, $5,000 for 2nd and 3rd places, and 55 small awards for the best entry from each country.
  • January 15, 2014 | 2014 WISE Awards - The 2013 WISE Summit may have just ended, but the submission period for the 2014 WISE Awards is now open through mid-January. Six innovative education solutions will each be awarded US $20,000.
  • January 16, 2014 | Saving Brains Challenge - The Grand Challenges Canada Saving Brains initiative will provide seed funding and transition-to-scale funding for innovative interventions that nurture and protect early brain development in low- and middle-income countries. Proposals are due in mid-January.

Education News

A lesser-known crisis in Central African Republic (CAR) -  Years of political unrest culminated in violent conflict between government and rebel forces last December but many around the world are still unaware of the devastation this has caused, including severe human rights abuses, displacement of about 10% of the entire population, and the destruction or closure of hundreds of schools. The situation remains precarious for the country’s students and teachers as fear of violence continues to drive down attendance. UNICEF and partners recently conducted a survey across 11 regions to assess the state of education since the conflict erupted. Read a summary of the report.

Children should be in control of their own learning - 12-year old Paloma Noyola Bueno is a national star in Mexico after receiving the highest math score on the country’s standardized ENLACE exam. She and her classmates attend a poor school located next to a garbage dump in Matamoros along the Mexico-United States border. In 2011 her teacher Sergio Juárez Correa decided to challenge the status quo and experiment with a different teaching method: allow students to guide their own learning. The method, based on the work of Sugata Mitra, successfully transformed Finland’s education system in the 1990s. Though lacking one key component to Mitra’s theory - internet in the classroom - Paloma's entire grade performed above the national average in both Spanish and mathematics, with many students falling into the “Excellent” category.  In 2011, 45% and 31% of the grade had failed the math and Spanish sections, respectively, compared with only 7% and 3.5% in 2012. Read more

In Sri Lanka, it’s school or the gem mines - Even though child labor is officially illegal in Sri Lanka, more than 60,000 children are engaged in hazardous work practices to make ends meet. In the city of Ratnapura, children as young as 10 spend their days working in sapphire and ruby mines for 12 or more hours a day. Some children turn to work in order to support their families, often when education is no longer an option. Priyantha Ranasinghe, 14, began working after he failed his primary school exam. In many cases, parents are allegedly the ones who put pressure on children to drop out of school and work. The government has recently demonstrated increased efforts to crack down on child labor and claims it will fine or imprison “individuals found guilty of exploiting child labor.” 

What should education look like post-2015? - NORRAG’s (Network for international policies and cooperation in education and training) biannual digital newsletter released this month includes some 50 articles that provide a critical analysis of the education agenda post-2015, both on a global level and within national education systems. Articles feature:

  • Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC): Future progress looks uncertain as policymakers and global leaders are often too quick to congratulate the region on high enrollment and literacy rates (literacy rates are particularly a problem as they are self-reported) while the quality of education remains poor. Another article looks at the specific areas to emphasize post-2015, including universal early childhood education, k-12, and increased attention on skills training
  • Burma:  Thein Lwin from the National Network for Educational Reform argues that the country cannot begin to think about education goals after 2015; it needs to focus on development right now (including education and constitutional reform).
  • Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT): How can the education system develop when the entire region is so dependent on aid? The article looks specifically at the fragmented Vocational and Technical Education and Training (TVET) sector.
  • Early childhood development (ECD): An exploration into the debate on whether or not we need a global, standalone goal for ECD.

Point of Departure

A new policy brief shares findings following a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an unconditional cash transfer program in Western Kenya. Contrary to a frequent argument that, when given no stipulations, recipients would spend money on alcohol or tobacco, participants increased spending on food, health, and education. However, increased expenditure did not lead to a significant impact on health or education outcomes, such as school attendance. Read more

WEIGH IN: Is increased spending on a child’s education valuable, even if there is no measurable impact? How can cash transfer recipients spend their money effectively on education?

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