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

November 26, 2013Kimberly Josephson

This Week at CEI

CEI East Africa held a successful workshop last week (see photo on left) around the theme of Organization Development (OD) to provide reflection on organizations’ strengths and weaknesses as a guide to achieving their goals and strategies. The agenda included sessions on governance and leadership, organizational management, financial management, and external relations and sustainability. In total, 16 representatives attended, from programs either featured on CEI or currently engaged in the profiling process.



  • LAST CALL.... November 30 | Youth Advocacy Group (YAG) for the UN Global Education First Initiative - If you’re between the ages of 15 and 28 and have leadership and advocacy experience in your community, consider applying to be one of 15 representatives for the 2014 Youth Advocacy Group (YAG).
  • LAST CALL... 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.
  • LAST CALL... November 30 | UNGEI Good Practice Fund - The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) seeks to identify well-documented, scalable or replicable programs to strengthen the evidence base for girls’ education.
  • December 15 | Skills for a Better Life e-Contest - UNESCO Bangkok is asking young people and teachers in the Asia-Pacific region to share their ideas (via video or essay) that aid in the development of 21st century skills like critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Winners will receive a digital video recorder or e-book reader.
  • 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. Prizes include $10,000 for 1st place, $5,000 for 2nd and 3rd places, and 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.


Education News

The educated and employed seek out MOOCs, not the poor - MOOCs are all the rage these days, but they may not be quite the solution to global education and development that many seem to think. A July 2013 study by the University of Pennsylvania surveyed nearly 35,000 participants in 200 countries and territories enrolled in the university’s 24 different courses on Coursera (the second largest number of classes on the platform after Stanford University, comprising 20% of Coursera’s total enrollment). Surprising results reveal that a disproportionate number already have a college degree and are employed. This demographic trend is apparent across participants from developed economies, the BRICS nations, and other low- and middle-income countries. In developing countries, half of participants are employed full-time, more than 60% are male, and about 80% already have post-secondary degrees. The reason for this disparity? The low quality of basic education and poor access to technology in developing countries are probably keeping the poor away from MOOCs, according to the author of the report. Read a summary of the findings.

Changing the grading system so Tanzanian students pass - In Tanzania, secondary education is broken up into two phases: 4 years of ordinary levels (forms 1-4) and 2 years of advanced levels (forms 5 and 6). In order to move on to advanced levels, students must pass a national exam in form 4. Last year, two-thirds of secondary students failed these exams, a result so disturbing that the national government began an investigation into what caused the poor performance. Stakeholders around the country blame the decline on a number of factors, including a lack of classroom materials, poor teacher salaries and training, and a confusing, decentralized system of management. Instead of addressing these issues, the government recently created a new grading system that lowers the minimum passing score. Teachers and school administrators have criticized the government’s response, claiming the change will encourage laziness and promote students who are not ready for more advanced studies. An allAfrica article, however, describes the new system as more in line with how higher education is run in the country, where students’ final grades incorporate continuous assessments in addition to final exams. 

Most child-friendly nations in Africa enroll children in school - The African Child Policy Forum released a report on the state of child wellbeing in Africa, bringing some good news: primary school enrollment for girls has skyrocketed across the continent over the last decade. The report analyzed how child-friendly African governments were by measuring their provision of basic services for children, child protection laws and policies, and promotion of child participation in decisions that affect them. It found African governments to be increasingly child-friendly, with primary education now free in all but five African countries. Ethiopia and Angola have made the biggest leaps by doubling girls' primary enrollment rates (from 41 to 83%, and 35 to 78%, respectively) between 2000 and 2011. Secondary enrollment has also made enormous gains, but still lags far behind with only 26% of girls now enrolled. The report ranked the most child-friendly nations, with Mauritius, South Africa, and Tunisia occupying the top spots and Chad at 52nd. 


Point of Departure

“Reimaging India” is a McKinsey & Company series of publications and interviews with world experts to explore the economic potential of “Asia’s next superpower.” This month, an interview with MIT Sloan School of Management professor Yasheng Huang (see video below) addressed education as a core issue holding India back.

"If India doesn’t fix the problem of education—primary-education, first-tier education—they are going to undermine their success in the high-tech sector. The reason is very simple. The tertiary education requires a long pipeline of college-ready students. If you don’t fix your primary education, if you don’t fix your high school, primary school, you’re going to have a very narrow pipeline."

WEIGH IN: How should India “fix” education? What innovative solutions are currently tackling this?

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