Thursday, November 5, 2015

Education: Choose Wisely

Education is the most powerful weapon you can choose to change the world,” stated the late Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela.  The question is whether we have chosen to do so and where that choice originates.
For instance, education is known to reduce the incidence of poverty; with each additional year of education a child receives translating to an additional 10% in personal income. 
If all children could read, poverty would be reduced by 191 million people.
However, it is only in those countries with the highest income and lowest corruption, where those additional years of education matter.
The following chart analyzes access to primary school education in 15 countries, with comparisons made by both per capita income and the 2014 Corruption Perception Index.
 Country   Population[i]     Income[ii]      2014 CPI[iii]      Number                                In Million           Poor Low                                         of Primary                                                          IncomeAge                                     Children Not                                                                                                                  School [iv                                                                                                           2009          2013
Globally                                                                                  5798337     5910544
Brasilia            205,022           50.9%           43/69             NR                 NR
Bolivia             11,410             71.6%              35/103           111528           272,823
China               1,372,540        77.6%            36/100           NR[v]           NR
Guatemala      16,176             69%                32/115           29142           289755
Great Britain  64,800           3.7%               78/14              11275           3829
Greece             10,787             5.0%              43/69              2787 (‘08)   1550 (‘10)
India                1,278,350       97.7%            38/85              1218431       1723585(‘12)
Iran                  78,700             64.3%           27/136             8322            90968
Japan[vi]        126,610           NR                 76/15               1627             3384
Netherlands[vii] 16,923       .3%                 83/8                3484            33663
Russia              146,610          19.2%             27/136            217543         146243
South Africa   54,956            52.9%            44/67              366511 (‘06) NR
Sudan             38,004             NR                11/173              NR                2692774 (‘12)
Thailand          65,725             58.4%          38/75              243883        NR
United States 321,995           5%                 74/73              1231167        1888429 
NR (No reporting)
Reflected in those numbers is the high incidence of child brides in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, including India, Iran, and the Sudan, with smaller incidence of child brides occurring in Guatemala, Thailand and elsewhere. Globally, over 700,000,000 girls are married before their 18th birthday with 37,000 child marriages taking place each and every day.  One in three girls in developing countries are married by age 18, with one in nine married by age 15[viii], and some married at the tender age of eight. 
Once married, if still being educated, they are expected to drop out.
By custom, child brides are expected to give birth within the first year[ix].  Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19[x].  If it’s a daughter, she has been born into a self-perpetuating cycle.
Countries with the highest child marriage rates have the lowest percentages of educated females. For instance, Niger has a child marriage rate of 75% which is correlated to only 6.6% of its woman between the ages of 20 and 24 having any secondary education[xi].  If the man should die or leave, as has happened to many child brides in conflict torn areas and with the refugee crisis, they are left without the education or job experience necessary to support themselves and their children.
Prejudice in the world of education extends beyond gender to race and ethnicity in many countries. By way of example, despite a 2009 law banning race discrimination, in Hong Kong, race and ethnicity are still barriers to education and, ultimately, to employment for its segregated minorities:
Hong Kong is home to 365,000 ethnic minority people, making up 6% of its total population. Communities of Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese and Filipinos have lived in Hong Kong for generations.
But the city still lacks a curriculum for children speaking Chinese as a second language, which would enable them to learn Cantonese, a requirement for many jobs and university places [xii].
Children lining up to buy books in Hong Kong[xiii]
Conversely, the numbers reflect that the investment made by more affluent families in the richest countries during a child’s pre-primary school years pays off.  Research shows that in highly developed countries, families expend a considerable portion of their income to provide for day care that is instructional in nature, extracurricular activities and technology.  The Economic and Social Research Council-funded project examined computer use in 2,000 families with one or more tablet computers - and found that 31% of under-fives had their own device, which they were using almost 20 hours each week[xiv].
Along with innovation, there are preschools, all equipped with computers, many with foreign language programs, some patterned after the Montessori Method, available to the more affluent.  In fact, working moms in the United States have been found to be working two jobs, with planning and then chauffeuring their children around to be almost as demanding as a second avocation, all to give their children that added advantage.
Bill and Melinda Gates, ardent providers of tablets and technology in some African countries, were optimistic when stating that “Life will get better, faster, because of the number of innovations reaching the poor will be greater than ever before”[xv].
As is reflected in the chart, the countries ranking high on the Corruption Perception Index are generally have the highest percentages of poor and low income families.  In poorer countries, UNICEF reports that almost ½ of all educational investment goes to the 10% most educated students.
“[R]ich kids have the privilege of finding themselves, of knowing who they are, of figuring out an identity, a narrative while they're in school contextualized with academic content. That's become a privilege and that should just be a right,” opined Jordan Shapiro[xvi].
Sudanese children carrying their blackboard to class.
How many teachers are needed to provide every child with a primary education?” is the question recently posed by UNESCO:
There exists many impediments to training the 2.7 million teachers needed today, let alone the 25.8 million teachers needed by 2030.  Our global society’s ability to come anywhere near approximating these numbers is de minimus, especially for those children most at risk.
Assuming a child makes it through a university-based teacher-training curriculum, there are additional odds working against both them and their students.
First, in some countries, the cost of financing[xvii] and obtaining a higher education has become, again, something the rich can easily aspire with not only the achievement and income gap between them and the middle and lower classes growing wider but, also an ever-increasing gap in overall life satisfaction[xviii]
Second, there is growing dissatisfaction in developed countries with increased benchmarks that must be met to prove their commitment and efficacy as teachers.  England, with one of the highest rates of education in the world, is facing a crisis amongst its teaching ranks:
More than half of England's teachers are thinking of leaving their jobs in the next two years, a survey for a teaching union suggests.  The survey, conducted by the National Union of Teachers, found 61% of those wanting to leave blamed workload and 57% desired a better work/life balance.
Two thirds of the 1,020 primary and secondary school teachers questioned felt morale in the profession had declined over the past five years.
The survey, undertaken with a representative sample of teachers, also suggested many were unhappy with some of the government's plans:
  • 76% said forcing schools that require improvement to become academies would damage education
  • 62% said the plans for 500 new free schools would also damage education
  • 54% were not confident the new baseline test for four-year-olds would provide valid information about a child's ability[xix]
The situation is no different in the United States:
[A]nywhere between 40 and 50 percent of teachers will leave the classroom within their first five years (that includes the nine and a half percent that leave before the end of their first year.) Certainly, all professions have turnover, and some shuffling out the door is good for bringing in young blood and fresh faces. But, turnover in teaching is about four percent higher than other professions [xxi].
If the countries regarded as leaders in education cannot retain their teachers, imagine the abysmal situation existing in the poorest countries.
John Hattie, Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University, Melbourne, Australia, directs the Science of Learning Research Centre, which works with over 7,000 schools worldwide.  Professor Hattie’s new paper, "What Doesn't Work In Education: The Politics Of Distraction," is a meta-analysis.
Professor Hattie made the alternative suggestions on five current educational trends regarded as being the “best practices”[xxii]:
  1. Achievement standards. With so many variables skewing results, Professor Hattie shuns achievement standards while favoring “a focus on growth and progress for each student, no matter where he or she starts.
  1. Achievement tests. High-performing schools and countries[xxiii]administer less achievement tests than the underprivileged  Therefore, achievement tests are only useful if the testing is such that it gives teachers “immediate, actionable feedback to improve teaching.
  1. School choice. Once the economic background of students at private schools is accounted for, they offer no significant advantages on average, and that charter schools show no measureable improvement in student performance.  “The alternative: teacher choice. Hattie argues that if parents had the right to select the best teacher in a given school, that could truly be empowering. It would also be challenging to implement.”
  1. Class size. Professor Hattie points out that in “…Japan and Korea[xxiv], two of the highest-performing education systems in the world, with average class sizes of 33. Russia is the outlier in the other direction, a below-average performer with average classes around 18. The alternative: Hattie says reducing class size can have a positive impact. That's if teachers are coached and supported to take advantage of it by actually changing the way they teach — to collaborate, offer personalized feedback and continuously measure their impact for improvement, for example.”
  1. More money. [A]ccording to Hattie: Countries that spend less than $40,000, which are all poor, tend to have much lower reading scores on the international PISA exam, and their performance correlates strongly with the money they spend. But for countries above that threshold, there is almost no relationship between money spent and results earned.”
On this last point, Mr. Shapiro was in firm agreement:
There is this fantasy that everyone is unengaged. This is not true. If you go into the best schools in the country, public or private, you are going to find super-engaged students. So this idea of lack of engagement has A LOT more to do with socioeconomic realities than with a problem in a way we teach.
Case in point, and during Dyslexia Awareness Month no less, is the 2007 Hindi movie, Taare Zameen Par[xxv], about a young stigmatized Dyslexic boy, lost in a system due to his learning differences, who became that super-engaged student when discovered by an extraordinary teacher, all without capital expenditure. 
About the Author
Cynthia M. Lardner holds a journalism degree, she is a licensed attorney and trained as a clinical (school and agency) therapist. Her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking understanding that everything and everyone is subject to change given the right circumstances; Standard Theory or Theory of Everything.
Ms. Lardner has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn, as well as accounts under the pseudonym of Deveroux Cleary, and is globally ranked in the top 1% of all account holders for her outreach and influence. 
Having just relocated to Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position that will fully utilize her collective skill set.
[i] “World Population Perspectives The 2015 Revision:  Key Findings and Advance Tables”,The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, pp 51-55, UN Publications, as found on the www at
[ii] “World Population by Income: How Many Live on How Much, and Where”, Pew Research Center, as found on the www at  (“The income groups are defined as follows: The poor live on $2 or less daily, low income on $2.01-10, middle income on $10.01-20, upper-middle income on $20.01-50, and high income on more than $50; figures expressed in 2011 purchasing power parities in 2011 prices.”).
[iii] Visualizing the Corruption Perception Index 2014, Transparency International, as found on the www at
[iv] “MetaData : Number of out-of-school children of primary school age”, Education, UNESCO, as found on the www at
[v] This is the same as China being the only country failing to report its child labor statistics to UNICEF despite holding one of the five permanent seats on the UNSC. 
See gen Lardner, Cynthia, “Corporatized Terrorism”, Game of Thrones, January 17, 2014, as found on the www at, and
[vi] Japan Overview, Center on International Education Benchmarking, as found on the www at and  (“Japan’s students work harder and learn more than students in almost any other country…Japan has relieved student pressure without decreasing student performance.
Japan is one of the most aggressively meritocratic countries in the world.  Access to opportunity is a function of merit, and, for much of what is on offer, merit is determined by one’s achievement in school as recorded by performance on exams.  That achievement is viewed by Japanese not as the result of inherited and unalterable intelligence, but rather as the result of effort.  If a student fails, that failure is perceived as not only the failure of the student but also of that students’ parents (especially the mother) and teachers. The Japanese place a high value on acceptance and support from the group of which one is a part, including one’s family and one’s school, so young Japanese work very hard to win the approval of their families and their teachers.  They take tough courses and work hard in school, partly to win the approval of the people closest to them and partly because they know that that is the only way they will get ahead at work and in society.
The Japanese curriculum is world famous.  Young Japanese are often expected to know more about another country’s history, economy and geography than the students in that country know.  The curriculum in mathematics and science is among the world’s most demanding.  Although the system is changing, it is still largely true that most employees can expect to spend their entire careers at one firm.  Because that is true, employers expect to provide continuing education and training to their employees through their entire career as they change jobs.  So they are less interested in how qualified the young applicant is for their first job than they are in that applicant’s “general intelligence,” roughly meaning their capacity to learn and to apply what they learn to real world problems as they arise.  Because of the meritocratic nature of the system, they judge that based on how the student has performed on his or her exams and the exams are based on the Japanese curriculum, highly detailed documents that are provided by way of closely followed guidance to the schools.  Many observers credit the quality of Japanese education to the quality of the Japanese curriculum, set by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), advised by the Central Council for Education.  The curriculum demands mastery of a great deal of information about the discipline (often acquired by rote learning) but it also demands a good deal of problem-solving ability (acquired by very different instructional methods).  Hence the ability of Japanese students to do very well both on curriculum-based tests like TIMSS and applications-based tests like PISA. The Japanese curriculum and Japanese instruction put a lot of emphasis on student mastery of the concepts underlying the disciplines.  They want the students to understand why something works the way it does, not just what procedure to follow, so that they can apply what they have learned in unfamiliar contexts.  Instruction focuses not on getting the right answer but on understanding why the answer is right.
Students in Japanese schools do not skip grades nor are they held back. All students are expected to master the demanding curriculum, going forward. There is no tracking or streaming in Japanese schools. Homeroom teachers often follow their students through the grades.
[vii] The drastic increase in the Netherlands can only be attributed to assimilating the recent influx of immigrants and asylum seekers.
See also The Netherlands Overview, 2009, Center on International Education Benchmarking, as found on the www at  (“The Netherlands provides multiple educational pathways in vocational and general education to ensure that its graduates can meet workforce needs.
Though education is compulsory for students from the ages of 5 to 16, 99% of four-year-olds attend school in the Netherlands.  There are no defined school catchment areas in the Netherlands, so parents may enroll their children in any primary school they wish…
 The secondary school system in the Netherlands is organized very differently than the primary sector.  Whereas primary school students can go to any school they like, students can only go to secondary schools that will accept them, and the secondary schools can establish their own entrance requirements.  In general, the decision as to where students will apply is made on the recommendation of the primary school teachers and is based partly on the student’s performance on the primary school leaving exams developed by the National Institute for Educational Measurement (Cito).  These exams are not mandated by the state, but they are produced under the auspices of the state and are taken by the vast majority of the students (92%) because most secondary schools require them.  The structure of the secondary system is defined by the state. There are three main streams in the secondary education system, and, within these streams, there are further divisions.  Roughly speaking, the three streams are the academic or university prep track, the general track, and the vocational track.  There are separate schools within the second and third of these streams, typically corresponding to the occupations that students wish to enter and the mix of theoretical and practical studies they want to pursue.  Each of these streams also culminates in examinations which result in qualifications to go on to further education or to begin a career, for those who succeed.”).
[viii] In more affluent countries, the mean marrying age ranges from 25 to 49 years of age, long enough  to not only complete college but to begin a career.
 [ix] Maternal deaths number 70,000 each year for girls between 15 and 19 years of age.
[x] It’s no coincidence that UNICEF reports that ¼ of girls in the 15 to 19 year old age bracket have been victims of domestic violence and that ½ of all adolescent girls believe that a husband is justified in hitting his partner.
[xi] To learn more about child brides, visit Girls Not Brides, as found on the www at (“In many countries, child marriage is prohibited, but existing laws are often not enforced or provide exceptions for parental consent or traditional and customary laws. Child marriage reinforces gender inequality and violates human rights. Tolerating any injustice makes it easier for others to exist.).
[xii] Castle, Jody-Lan, “Hong Kong minorities 'marginalised' in school”, October 7, 2015, BBC News, as found on www at   
See also Meredith, Robbie, “Equality Commission reports inequality in NI education”. October 7, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at (“The Equality Commission says inequality in education has worsened in Northern Ireland since 2007 in a report, they highlight continuing, persistent underachievement by working-class Protestant children, and wider male underachievement in education. They also say that "prejudice-based bullying is a persistent problem". They say the inequalities "have worsened”).
[xiii] Castle, Jody-Lan, Id.
[xiv] Coughlan, Sean, “Tablet computers 'widely used by under-fives'”, October 6, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at (A University of Sheffield study revealed the “…widespread use of tablet computers among toddlers, averaging an hour and 19 minutes on weekdays and slightly longer at weekends…Most were able to use touchscreens to control the computer and were using them to play games, watch television, films and online videos.).
 [xvi] Westervelt, Eric, “The Future Of Education: Truths, Lies And Wishful Thinking”, May 12, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www at
[xvii] Kamenetz, Anya, “Like Fares On A Plane, College Tuition Bills Vary Widely”, October 5, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www at“This evenhandedness at public institutions may be a boon, especially to families making more than the median income, but less than $100,000 a year, who have been less able to take advantage of either Pell Grants or education tax credits.).
[xviii] Kamenetz, Anya, “$50,000 In Student Loans? You Probably Don't Think College Was Worth It”, September 29, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www at (According to a recent Gallup poll, only 2 percent of college graduates with $20,000 to $40,000 in undergraduate loans said they were "thriving." Among recent graduates who received their degrees in 2006 or later…only 38 percent "strongly agreed" that college was worth it.).
[xix] Richardson, Hannah, “More than 50% of teachers in England 'plan to quit in next two years'”, October 4, 2015, as found on the www at ("Meanwhile, nearly one million more pupils are coming into the system over the next decade. The government's solution so far has been to build free schools, often where there are surplus places, and to allow class sizes to grow.”).  See also “Morgan: Schools must offer working-day childcare”, October 6, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at (“Parents in England are to be given the right to request that schools provide childcare for the full working day during term-time and in the holidays, says Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.”).
[xx] Id.
[xxi] Riggs, Liz, “Why Do Teachers Quit? And why do they stay?”, October 18, 2013, The Atlantic, as found on the www at
[xxii] Kamenetz, Anya, 5 Big Ideas That Don't Work In Education”, August 13, 2015, NPR News, as found on the www at the years, he has scrutinized — and ranked — 1,200 different meta-analyses looking at all types of interventions, ranging from increased parental involvement to ADHD medications to longer school days to performance pay for teachers, as well as other factors affecting education, like socioeconomic status. He has examined studies covering a combined 250 million students around the world.
In his ranking, socioeconomic status has an effect size of 0.57, meaning that a student growing up in poverty may be expected to perform roughly a year and a half behind an otherwise similar student growing up more wealthy.).
[xxiii] Oimek, Adam, “Is Education Reform A Pipe Dream?”, October 4, 2015, as found on the www at (“As Freddie de Boer asked:
Can we attract thousands upon thousands of young teachers, reliably, in mass and at scale, throughout the country, at adequate numbers and in requisite consistency, with constant replacement of the endless dropouts, while eliminating tenure, and without being able to achieve the kind of tax hikes necessary to actually offer meaningful increases in teacher pay?
 I’m guessing… no.3.”).
[xxiv] System and School Organization, South Korea, Center on International Education Benchmarking, as found on the www at (“South Korea spends $7,652 per student, as compared to the OECD average of $8,868. However, this represents 7.6% of South Korea’s GDP spent on education, as compared to the OECD average of 6.1%. This is the third-highest percent of GDP spent on education among OECD countries, after Iceland and Denmark.).
[xxv]  Taare Zameen Par [2007], published December 1, 2012, as found on the www at  The entire film can be viewed without charge and in both English and Spanish on YouTube. 
(“SYNOPSIS:  Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) is an eight-year-old boy who dislikes school and fails every test or exam. He finds all subjects difficult, and is belittled by his teachers and classmates. But Ishaan's internal world is rich with wonders that he is unable to convey to others, magical lands filled with colour and animated animals. He is an artist whose talent is unrecognised…
After receiving a particularly poor academic report, Ishaan's parents send him to a boarding school. There he sinks into a state of fear and depression, despite being befriended by Rajan (Tanay Chheda), physically disabled and one of the top students in his class.
Ishaan's situation changes when a new art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), joins the school's faculty. An instructor at the Tulips School for young children with developmental disabilities, Nikumbh's teaching style is markedly different from that of his strict predecessor, and he quickly observes that Ishaan is unhappy and contributes little to class activities. He reviews Ishaan's work and concludes that his academic shortcomings are indicative of dyslexia.
On his day off, Nikumbh visits Ishaan's parents and asks if he can see more of their son's work. He is stunned by the sophistication of one of Ishaan's paintings, and tells his parents that Ishaan is a bright child who processes information differently from other children in his class, but Ishaan's father is suspicious that the explanation is simply an excuse for his son's poor performance...Nikumbh describes dyslexia to them and explains that it is not a sign of low intelligence. He tells them he can provide extra tutoring that will help Ishaan, highlighting the boy's artistic ability evident in his many paintings and other creative works…
Towards the end of the school year Nikumbh organises an art fair for the staff and students. The competition is judged by artist Lalita Lajmi. Ishaan, with his strikingly creative style, is declared the winner and Nikumbh, who paints Ishaan's portrait, the runner-up. The principal announces that Nikumbh has been hired as the school's permanent art teacher. When Ishaan's parents meet his teachers on the last day of school they are left speechless by the transformation they see in him. Overcome with emotion, Ishaan's father thanks Nikumbh. As Ishaan is getting into the car to leave with his parents, he turns around and runs toward Nikumbh. The film ends with a freeze frame shot of Nikumbh tossing Ishaan into the air”).

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