By Max Wrey, Alaco
It is a bold, ambitious plan, but Saudi Arabia’s blueprint for reducing its dependence on oil through economic diversification could struggle to get off the ground unless the country’s education system experiences a major overhaul.
‘Vision 2030’, the brainchild of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sets out a bewildering range of policies designed to transform the economy, with the accent very firmly on cutting back the bloated public sector to make way for private enterprise.
Prince Mohammed wants to create just shy of a half a million private sector jobs and sees non-oil revenues more than tripling from Sar163.5bn ($43.6bn) to Sar530bn by 2020. At the same time, he anticipates the government wage bill’s share of the budget dropping from 45 to 40 per cent, to Sar456bn. Read more
Education policymakers worldwide often make a pilgrimage of sorts to Finland and Singapore to learn about their high performing education systems. These states consistently do well in PISA tests, which are organised by the OECD every three years to measure and compare the competencies of 15-year-olds worldwide. There is no doubt that their achievements are impressive, but there is more to be said for examining places that are rapidly improving rather than those that are already highly effective. This week, CfBT Education Trust published a report exploring school reform in five world cities including three in emerging markets, where there has been rapid improvement in recent years.
Despite enormous diversity, the report has identified seven common trends that link educational success in each of these places. Strong leadership, commitment to reform and collaboration between schools are among the factors that have driven up standards. These cities have used education to break the link between poverty and attainment in a way that has not be done before and which could have profound implications for social mobility and their social and economic structures. Innovation and creativity have set new standards in these cities which could be applied in emerging markets across the world. Read more
By Vikas Pota, Varkey Foundation
By 2030, the economies of India and China together may contribute 65 per cent of global GDP and be home to the majority of the world’s working age population. India alone will possess the world’s biggest pool of potential employees.
But the giddy predictions of future growth seem more fragile when it is considered that this potential labour force is dependent on education systems that often fail to teach basic skills.
India has the largest number of illiterate adults of any country globally. Teacher absenteeism is the third highest in the world, and many teachers lack basic training. Some 12.8m young Indians enter the work force each year and, without adequate skills, will often struggle to find employment. Shanghai leads the rankings done by Pisa, the Programme for International Student Assessment, and has become a poster-child for education ministries around the word. But in rural China, many students still do not finish secondary school. Read more
By Jorge Mariscal of UBS Wealth Management
Over the past 20 years, 700m people have been lifted out of poverty in developing economies. This new middle class should grow another 60 per cent by 2020, increasing total consumption from $8tn to $13.5tn a year.
As the income gap with developed world peers narrows and aspirational consumer values converge, the emerging market middle class will be able and willing to pay for better education, health, housing, and infrastructure. These ‘public’ industries represent the most dynamic areas of the developing world – the new emerging markets to watch in 2015 and beyond.
Mass transit in Asia is an excellent example. The number of Asians living in megacities with more than 10m residents will double by 2025, the UN predicts. Meanwhile, vehicle ownership is doubling every five years amid rising incomes, while sharply rising carbon emissions are reducing air quality. Read more
“They’re coming up every morning, just like churches,” Peter Kari, a father of two living in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, says of the private schools mushrooming in his neighbourhood. “They die as they’re being born. You can wake up one morning and see a tin shack. The other night it was a pub. Today, it’s a school.”
A ride down one of the main roads in Kawangware offers evidence for Kari’s claim. Within five kilometres, there are at least fifteen visible signs for private schools, with names like ‘Brightest Star,’ ‘Top Shine,’ ‘Springs of Wisdom,’ and one (see photo) unfortunately misspelt ‘Havard.’ Read more
It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.
Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman
Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more
At the entrance to Shomaa Impressive School, a compound of 11 classrooms built from thin wooden boards in the Lagos slum of Makoko, prospective parents are greeted with a banner showing four children in graduation gowns and the motto “Raising future professionals”. Just as the message is crafted to appeal to the aspirational market traders and fish sellers who send their children to the nursery and primary school, the daily tuition fees averaging less than $1 a day are also tailored to their modest budgets.
Schools like Shomaa, which has around 100 students, are contributing to a boom in private education in Lagos and other cities in Africa.
A pupil at Shomaa Impressive School, Makoko, Lagos. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman
“Anyone who says that Africa is missing the Millennium Development Goals is missing the point.” You might expect such a tart statement about a canonical organising principle of development policy to come from one of the aid industry’s many curmudgeonly sceptics.
That it came instead from Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian economist who helped create the United Nations MDGs in the first place, raises questions whether propagating a single set of targets to drive government policy across the entire developing and emerging world is worth doing at all. The “sustainable development goals”, successors to the MDGs, are currently being developed, but the unfortunate signs are that they will be yet more complex and yet less meaningful than the originals.
You might be awkward in the spotlight and less than attractive but that need not stop you from becoming a television star, according to a burgeoning industry that has sprung up in Seoul to train and groom would-be TV announcers.
Korea’s three major broadcasting companies hire only three to five announcers a year, typically to host news or entertainment shows. The jobs are in high demand – a recent opening at the SBS network attracted 2,000 applicants – reflecting the prestige of the country’s successful entertainment industry, as well as an increasingly tough jobs market for young graduates. Read more
Poland has the EU’s best growth record in the last five years, but there is a growing awareness that keeping growth high is going to be increasingly difficult in the future – which is why two recent reports on corruption and educational achievements make such good news. Read more
Brazil and Turkey, long the laggards of the OECD’s triennial Pisa student tests, still lag behind the rich countries of the world when it comes to education.
But look at the improvement in the results over the past decade and a different picture emerges. In a trend that is almost unnoticed amid all the carping at poor standards, the young in both countries are much brighter and much cannier in maths, science and reading. Read more
If a county’s future wealth and influence can be assessed by its American-educated intellectual elite, then China is well set.
In less than a decade, the number of Chinese studying in the US has quadrupled, from a little over 60,000 in 2004, to almost 240,000 in 2013, a report from the Institution for International Education shows. China now accounts for almost one in every three international students in the US, a historic high for any country. Read more
Ru xiang sui su – when entering the village, follow its customs. So runs the Chinese proverb. Ever since China entered the global village in 1979, it has followed one global custom with particular enthusiasm: learning the English language.
This week, however, it began to follow it less enthusiastically. The English language section of the gaokao, China’s national university entrance exam, was downsized. The move will delight many – but what about the country’s Rmb30bn ($5bn) English teaching industry? Read more
A three-week teachers’ strike in Oman suggests that the genie of unrest is out of the bottle in this unassuming corner of the oil-rich Gulf.
The strike has affected up to three quarters of Oman’s roughly 1,000 schools, where open dissent is becoming a regular occurrence since the strategic sultanate had its own outburst of Arab spring-inspired unrest in March 2011. Read more
Education in Brazil has been one of the hottest sectors for private equity wheeler dealers in recent years. Little surprise, then, that some are looking to cash out now.
The latest is GAEC Educação, which on Friday filed plans to raise as much as R$626m ($282m) through an initial public offering. Read more
Investors may not look at school attainment rates very often but perhaps they ought to. Study the indicators and you see that – in terms of education at least – Sri Lanka far outshines the rest of south Asia.
The country is far from paradise. Sri Lankans hunger for a lasting peace after a long and painful civil war; sections of the Tamil minority still complain of repression. But the country’s record in education at least holds out some hope. Read more
Indian education desperately needs improvement. As the government is looking to raise the pupil-teacher ratio in government schools (as part of the Right to Education Act), even the poor are sending their children to fee-paying schools.
Perhaps India can get better value for money out of their teachers? A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that low cost, untrained contract teachers are no less productive that the formal option. Is there a solution here for a debt-laden public sector? Read more
China’s parents will do anything to help their child succeed in life – and at this time of year, that means attending to even the most miniscule details of their sleep and evacuation patterns to guarantee maximum success in college entrance exams (gaokao) in the first week of June.
Parents throughout China are booking hotels and restaurants near every exam venue, to make sure their child can study until the very last minute on exam day, and eat nutritious meals nearby that will not send him out of the examination halls with the kind of bowel complaint that could consume precious exam minutes. Read more