Sunday, March 30, 2014

Global Education Highlights (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Connect, Collaborate, Go Global - Flat Connections Workshop Atlanta June 25-26, 2014

What are you doing in June? 

Do any of these apply to you as an educator? 
  • I am looking for inspiring professional development to participate in that will inform my teaching and learning next year
  • I really want to know what this 'global collaboration' is all about! 
  • My school is talking about the need to build global competency and make authentic working connections with other schools, but I have little idea of where to start!
  • I want to know how to become a connected educator using Web 2.0 tools and how to connect my students as well
  • I am attending ISTE 2014 and if I come in a couple of days earlier this will link in nicely
  • I really want to attend an action-based workshop and construct new ideas with other educators and build a learning experience for my students!
  • I have been reading 'Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to global collaboration one step at a time' and want to learn more from the author!
  • I have tried to take my class/school/district global but need to know more about connecting and collaboration - and I need to join a vibrant community that is already doing this!
I am excited to be connected to Alan Preis, IT Director at the Atlanta International School, Georgia, USA as well as Chair of the ECIS IT Committee. AIS will host for the Flat Connections Workshop 2014: Connect, Collaborate, Go Global in Atlanta and we are looking forward to welcoming educators and education leaders to this 2-day event, June 25-26.

Read details via this smore - embedded below as well. Put this on your calendar now!

Questions? Please email

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#TeacherTuesday - Kenya: Working to break the poverty-education cycle.

The #TeacherTuesday focus this week is on Kenya.

The UNESCO Education For All Report shares details about how poverty is a key factor in education - and in fact whether primary school children learn the basics. So, this may be obvious and a redundant statement, but readers of this blog are encouraged to learn more through this diagram that shows the impact of poverty on children of primary school age. Note especially that this age range for completion of primary school is 14-18, significantly older than in more developed countries.

 This chart shows Grade 8 students across both poor and wealthy countries.

Review also the statistics from a few years ago about the impact of poverty on girls in developing countries, including Kenya.

Kenyan teacher: Margaret

Let's take a closer look at Kenya, through the eyes of teacher Margaret, who teaches in a school in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. 

The following is in Margaret's words from a recent interview transcript.
“A normal size classroom is 20 foot by 25 foot, with dual desks where 3 or 4 children sit. They children are big so they have to squeeze on the desk. There are around 85 children in each class and we put them in groups of 9-12, quite large. It takes a long time to reach them all and look at their books if you spend 5 minutes on each child.
We have children of all abilities. We are quite supportive and responsive to the needs of children..... We get to about 80% of the children. Around 60% or 70% of the children in my school can read and write when they leave school. The children share books, 1 to 3 children per book. The government sends the books but they get destroyed in their bags and sometimes the children sell their books at 50 to 100 shillings to buy food in the slum. 100 shillings, it’s about US$1.5.
They sell them for their own food because they’re not getting enough at home. They get food at lunch at school but they sell their books to get their supper. The government policy says that children are admitted to the school anytime they come. Children go out campaigning to get other children to come to school. We don’t turn away any child. The leaders, the chief, government officials will look for children in the slum to bring them to school, especially those who have special needs. And the local leaders around here try to bring the children to school too. It’s not mandatory to have uniforms. So it’s free to come to school. The uniforms help give the school an identity, so you know where the children are from and where they go to school.
There is a poverty line between rich and poor. A child whose parents are working means the child is fed, they are literate, they are able to follow up on their child’s education and learning. Whereas the parents at the school where I teach, particularly since the government introduced free education, it was like the government took the burden off their shoulders and started caring for their children. They believe the government should give everything for the child’s education and they don’t need to do anything extra.
The feeding programme very much increases the children’s concentration. The children love the food and that’s what keeps them in school. If there’s no food, about 50% don’t come to school. It began in 2004 or 2005. Now we have feeding programmes, the literacy levels have gone up.
We also try to help some of the poor students to get scholarships and sponsors. It means 60-70% go to high school in comparison to about 20% before because of this and the feeding programme that means the children are in school all the time. They see doors open up if they finish school.
One of the reasons some of the students who live in poverty aren’t learning is because their parents did not learn. The slum is made up of parents who are illiterate. In the slum community I think the literate make up maybe 20%. There are 80% who did not go to school or if they did they did not have a very good education. They don’t see the value of education so they don’t follow up. There’s the conflict between the urban setting, the domestic violence, the urban poverty. Some children stay at home and are sick. They are used to the hard life. There are those who are doing odd jobs at home – carrying water for people, going looking for papers to sell – doing odd jobs in the slum over the weekend, fending for themselves.

I have so many memorable students. Oh my goodness! There is a very big number of children who have done well. I’m so excited about all the children in my head! That is my joy. I have one called Denis. We actually did what is called collective learning. He came to school and we had to move him to class 5, then to 6 and then to 7 and then we took him to class 8 and he did very well and he’s now in the university. He came from the slum.
The teachers had to contribute for his university fees. I’m telling you the teachers are lovely here. We do contribute if we can’t find sponsors who can help them. There are those who come back from the university to help us mark the books, and we use them as role models.
Teaching of languages is difficult when teaching the beginner. Swahili is the teaching language for grades 1-3, then we introduce English. But some in middle class did not come to class 1. So there are children who don’t know how to read at all. There are those who have stayed home for 2-3 years and then coming back to school. Other schools around refuse them, but we’ll take any child who comes. Any child who comes to school is admitted. There is a big difference between rural and urban school because they’re not densely populated. The way we do things in urban areas is different. In rural areas teacher to student ratio is 1-40, here is 1-70/100.

I came to this school on promotion in 2003. I was ready to become a senior teacher. I was promoted to become a deputy. I love slum children. All my life I’ve taught in the slum. I’m very comfortable in the slum! I grew up in a setting almost like slum. I normally give myself to them as an example. When you come from a slum, because my father was very poor, I know what it means to be sleeping hungry, struggling with education. My siblings and I have all succeeded because of education. Most of the teachers don’t come from good backgrounds. Most of us grew up in villages but in poverty. It was our ambition that with school you can better yourself because that is how we became teachers, so we tell them that everything is possible with an education.

I wake up at 4am, I get the bus in the morning and travel for 2 hours to my school. I have my regular duties to perform. I’m a class teacher of grade 6 with 85 children in a class. It starts at 8am, but we normally come early to mark the books. I also take care of the feeding programme so have to measure the food for the day. I have to mark my work. It’s normally a packed day. Today when you called I was issuing text books to all the different children. There is a lot of counting to be done and a lot of different activities.
We end at 3.10pm and then the children have prep until 5pm. Between 6 and 7pm we give an extra hour to some children that can’t do their homework at home because there’s no electricity or space at home. I leave at around 6.30pm. We have to make sure that we clear the compound. Sometimes leave at 7pm. Imagine!  But when I’m doing it I don’t mind. We work for the children. Five days a week.
We use phonetics, and ‘look and say’ methods, using pictures. We teach the syllabus. ‘Look and say’ methods with real objects and cards. The government sends money for exercise books. But the books get filled up before the government can give more so the parents chip in. If they can’t chip in, it’s a challenge. We have identified those who are extremely poor. When they run out, we order extra for them and give them books.
We provide sanitary for the girls because the school population is poor and because we want girls to come. Because of their maturity, the government gives sanitary towels every month. But sometimes their parents and older siblings take them from them.  There are now even higher numbers of girls than boys in my school! We’re very happy about it.
We are 20 female teachers and only 7 male teachers. Even the male teachers take care of the girls! More female teachers is normal in urban areas because females stay with their spouses in the cities. The males are the ones who talk with the boys, and the females with the girls and then we put them together. Female teachers supportive to boys and vice versa.
There are teacher training colleges - 60,000 shillings for a 3 year course. We have in service courses, workshops and seminars, on new trends in education. The training takes place during school hours – 3 week workshops - and then others take place in the holidays. We don’t close the school when we go for training, we rotate training.
There is no training for how to teach in slum schools! We’re given training to teach anywhere where there are children - not even in a school! Even if there is no school but there are children, you teach under a tree!
I’m supposed to supervise other teachers in their class, but I can’t do that as I have nooooo time but we give an induction to new teachers. I tell them to be responsive to slum children and supportive them and love them the way they are. If nothing else, this child is lucky. Because they’re dirty doesn’t mean they can’t learn! If you can make the child clean in the compound do it, if not, don’t’.
Sometimes the parent s come to the school drunk, so what do you do? We try to talk to the parents. We call them individually. Very few of them actually come to the school.
Class control depends on individual teachers. We try to advise new teachers on how to handle large classes. To put the children in groups so that they learn from each other. 
There is a persistent shortage of teachers. The government has its own way of doing things, but we are getting forgotten by policies. I am praying the government trains more teachers so we break the large classes into small classes of 50 so we produce the best children from the slum. So the numbers are manageable. I am praying the government can support us because we cannot teach our own children. There are some schools with more teachers in other parts of the towns. In the slums we have less teachers
In Kenya you are sent to wherever you are supposed to teach. According to the policy, we are trained to teach anywhere where there are children. We have never known why there are less teachers in the slums. We have never known what happens. We have tried to get teachers for a long time but we don’t get. We have about 5 schools around the slums and shortage of teachers all through.
I am a mother of four. Three boys and one girl. My kids are big now. My biggest, my girl, is now working in the USA, the second is a soldier in the defence forces, the third is in college and the last is in high school, form 2, in the western part of Kenya.
Apparently they didn’t want to become teachers (laughs). I shall be the last teacher in the family! I carry my bag, this work it keeps you busy, no, but it’s what I love. All my siblings are teachers by the way. We are four. And my grandfather was also a teacher! My parents really encouraged me to become a teacher. Because it is teachers - you know we were so poor – and we got a lot of help from teachers.
It was the teachers who brought us up. We were surrounded by teachers 90% of the time who were helping and helping so that’s how we grew up, with their help. Help with reading, my first shoes I was given by my class teacher to go to class 1. I remember a teacher telling us one time that we should never complain about hunger or poverty because that would stop us from getting an education. If we don’t have food today, we go to school and we get that food in abundance in the future.
There is a very big difference between then and now. At that time few girls were in school. When I did primary, out of 28 students, we were only 4 girls. Dropout rates were very high, and of girls even higher.”

This blog post is a contribution to Week 5 of #TeacherTuesday, a UNESCO and EFA initiative. I invite you to also read from my blog:
“Find out more about the TeacherTuesday campaign: read the blogs and join us for weekly tweetchats with the teachers”.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Global Education Highlights (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#TeacherTuesday - Syria: Displaced Learners in Zaatari Refugee Camp

According to the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, in that year 57 million children were not in school, having fallen from 60 million in 2008. Children in conflict-affected areas make up 22% of the world's primary school population yet they comprise 50% of the children who are denied an education - and this figure has risen from 42% in 2008.


There has been a decline in humanitarian aid in education and refugees often flee to neighbouring developing countries, putting strain on already weak education systems.
The EFA report also states, "Governments identified conflict as a major barrier towards getting all children into school when they signed the Dakar Framework for Action in 2000. They recognized that children in conflict- affected countries are robbed of an education not only because schools may be closed and teachers absent, but also because they are exposed to widespread rape and other sexual violence, targeted attacks on schools and other abuses. 

Mohammed is from Syria and now lives in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and has been there for 8 months. He has been teaching there for 4 months. These are his words about the conditions for schooling in this camp. 


“Our main problems are the shortage of text books, we need boards and markers.  There’s a big deal of coordination with foreigners. There are problems as teachers are dealing with children who have become aggressive because of the situation and the parents are not following up with their children in the school.

There is a lack of textbooks and stationary. Because the schools are run by the Jordanian Ministry of education the teachers must be Jordanian and the Syrian teachers are only assistants. It would be better if all the teachers were Syrian. All the children in the camp are Syrian. If teachers were Syrian too, we’d be of the same culture, and the children accept the Syrian teachers more than the Jordanian ones. But I praise the Jordanian people for their efforts in the school. The Syrian teachers also have lots of experience in teaching. I was teaching for 12 years in Syria and there are many teachers from Syria who have high qualifications and who are well educated, but they are marginalized in the camp. We should be using their expertise in teaching in the camp.

Save the Children had a recruitment for schools and I applied for the job four months ago and they hired me because of my experience and because I have my own university degree and have been teaching for 12 years. I passed the test with full marks.

I teach in school number 3 where there are two schools in one. A primary and secondary combined. Girls in the morning, boys in the afternoon. 800 students in primary from 1st to 4th grade and 400 students in secondary school from 5th – 11th grade.

The school doesn’t look like a school. I want a yard where children can play. We want our school to look like other schools. The principal is Jordanian. I want to do something better in the school, to have my name officially in the school because I am Syrian like the students.

There are 25-40 in each class at my school, school 2. In school 1, there are from 80-120 in classes because of its location in the camp, it’s in one is in the most densely populated area. This is why there are so many students. And it’s in the oldest area of Zaatari, which is a massive, massive place. It takes a couple of hours to walk across the camp.

All children are welcome to register for school and are encouraged through the ‘Back to School’ campaign with Save the Children. We go to their caravans and tents and ask if there are students out of school. We called their parents and encouraged them to register in the school.

The majority of children in the camp are in school though. There are 50,000 children in the camp in total. Half of them are school aged children and 20,000 are currently registered with a school.

Some have missed up to three school years. It’s important they are enrolled into school. We are engaging with the students through the curriculum, but we still need support for that. We have a plan for the whole school year. We have to use the Jordanian curriculum and it can be hard for the new students. There’s not a big difference between the two curriculums, as the last version of the Syrian curriculum was similar to the Jordanian one. The problem is not for us as teachers, the problem is for the children as the learning style is very different. In Syria we start with letters and then give the words, in Jordan they give the words first and then the letters.

We have received training how to teach the Jordanian curriculum. UNICEF also gave us a course on how to be a good teacher. They are training other teachers at the end of March. It’s a good course.

Every day the World Food Program distributes high nutrient biscuits to the school for the children and the teachers help hand them out.

Education is very important for children here. We are as Syrian teachers, role models for our students and try all the time to support them and give them attention because sometimes they drop out and we encourage them to stay at school.

We have extra lessons for the children and their parents about ethics and morals in order not to be bad people because of the situation.

Some of the children are still scared of school because they saw their schools being destroyed because of bombing and think the schools are like those in Syria. Some of them don’t come because they think they are not certified in Jordan but this is not true, they can all come. Some refuse to take the Jordanian curriculum and want their own Syrian curriculum. Sometimes some students don’t come to school because it’s very far away from their tent or caravan and are afraid to be targeted by the bad boys in the street.

Because I teach boys some of them are waiting for job to get money because they are very poor here and they want to help their families. They want to continue their education to be in the university in the future but I think they are not accepted in Jordanian universities but I am not sure. The younger ones are wanting to go to school because they love school.

In Syria now, some students are still going to school in the safe places but not all the towns are safe. But other schools like my old school is completely destroyed and nobody can go to school. Through the crisis if it’s safe the children can go but if it’s not safe, if there are shootings and bombings around the school they couldn’t go. Some of the schools were occupied by some of the fighting groups.

I kept going to school to release the tensions and to support the families there but many children didn’t come because of fear. To help the children we try to tell them that we must go on and all the time give them hope for the future. I got no support from anyone to carry on my teaching in that situation. There were no organizations there.

The teachers are there for the students but the majority don’t come as it’s not safe for them to reach the school and the number of students are very little, that’s why you can’t call it an education process.

I was teaching in my school until it was completely destroyed, then I move to another school. Once all schools in the area had been completely destroyed, then I left and came to Zaatari. The majority of teachers left Syria to come to Zaatari, but some have stayed doing humanitarian work for families there. And some keep teaching the students in villages.

My school was attacked at night time so neither the students nor teachers were there. They bombed the whole village that time and they destroyed the school because it was in the area.

Once they stopped paying me my salary in Syria, it was very hard for me. We had to look for bread and everything. We had to start working as volunteers to help families. Because the situation became so bad with the bombing and shooting, we advised everyone to leave and then we left after them.

When my salary ran out, my main work was to collect wheat for the families and to send it to the men to make flour so they could make their own bread. I wanted to try to help and support all the people in my village.

I have six boys.  They were attending school but they left Syria one year before me but I was able to keep constant contact with my family.  My boys were from 2nd to the 10th grade.  They all go to school again now.

Now I get some support. We receive items and can buy items with coupons. And Save the Children pay us 10 Jordanian pounds a day. Syrians aren’t legally allowed to work in Jordan so we work on a voluntary basis so we receive a stipend. It’s not a salary to live on. We don’t pay for rent, and children don’t pay for school and we have food rations. The coupons give us the basic food and to buy other things for the family.

On a typical day here, in the morning I get the bread for my family. I wake up at 5.30am. I spend some time with my family. The school start at 11.30am. It ends at 4 pm. There’s a break when I go home for a rest. Then I go to the street and talk to the families about their needs because we want to take the messages from the street, and to hear about their issues. At night I prepare the coming lessons for students. It takes two hours for me every night. Then I spend some time with my family.

I advise other teachers arriving to teach like me to be honest. They are dealing with special cases who faced many bad experiences in the crisis and saw many bad things and bad pictures with their own eyes. They have to consider the situation when they teach their children at school.

I wish that people keep supporting us here in the camp. The support by organisations like UNICEF and Save the Children in the camp is going very well but we still need more support. I hope we get back to Syria and if it lasts longer than I expect, I hope the standard of the school get better here so that it’s good for our children."

All photos credited to Alaa Malhas

This blog post is a contribution to Week 3 of #TeacherTuesday, a UNESCO and EFA initiative.
I invite you to also read from my blog:
“Find out more about the TeacherTuesday campaign: read the blogs and join us for weekly tweetchats with the teachers”. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Global Education Highlights (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit Mumbai 2014 - Sharing and Reflecting

Just over two weeks ago I was in Mumbai at ASB Unplugged 2014 co-running the Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit with Sharon Peters and Karishma Galani. The design and development for this summit came from two main influences: the successful Flat Classroom Workshops in 2010 and 2012 at ASB Unplugged, and the service learning work Sharon had been doing in Africa and India in conjunction with the goals and objectives the American School of Bombay to take this to the next level. In this case, after initial joint discussion, the next level was to run a summit where students and teachers could come together to explore social entrepreneurship and, in the context of a city such as Mumbai, work in a challenge-based capacity for 3 days to create and share new ideas for global implementation.

The Process
Integral to the success of this summit was the design cycle and design thinking based on the Henry Ford Learning Institute.

Suzie Boss opened the summit for us - and was an inspiration - encouraging everyone to consider problems that adults still have yet to solve, and delivered three challenges:
1. Prepare to CARE
2. Prepare to DARE
3. Prepare to SHARE

In mixed classroom teams (6 classrooms from China and India - local and international schools), as well as one teacher team, participants were introduced to the design thinking process through a simple 'wallet' making activity. This was very hands on and utilized the 'maker space' recently set up at ASB.

After a Reality tour of Dharavi Slum in Mumbai and further input from Rikin Gandhi at Digital Green teams started the brainstorming and 'defining' process where they had to come up with a problem and start to formulate a solution.

Ideas were shared around the room and teams honed in on how to present these through verbal pitching using simple images and key words (after some explanation of where to find creative Commons images).

After pitching on a rotation basis and receiving feedback from other educators and students teams then worked on their 'Media Marketing Plan' that included creating a digital story around their idea and focusing on social media as a tool to promote and market.
Final presentations included their multimedia material as well as a verbal clarification of their business plan and intentions to gain support in the future. Esteemed judges from organisations in Mumbai, including Suzie Boss, determined the best ideas and presentations.

Use of Technology
Although not as technology-infused as past Flat Classroom workshops at ASB sharing of resources was done through a closed Facebook group - in conjunction with a Facebook Page. Students were at liberty to use any tool they needed to communicate and create their multimedia presentation. They had access to laptops and other digital tools.

Student Leadership Team
ASB, under the direction of Sharon and Karishma, prepared a capable student leadership team who prepared a lot of the material to lead the summit teams through the design thinking process. They capably supported all teams and kept the summit upbeat and moving towards a conclusion. They are to be commended and congratulated on taking on this role.

Examples of summit team proposals

This summit was a valuable experience for both teachers and students:
  • It showed the power of developing empathy for social entrepreneurship thorugh direct experience and contact with NGO's and non-profit organisations, and learning from their experience and enthusiasm.
  • It showed the value of joining both teacher teams and student teams in the one summit - to work alongside each other in a collaborative learning environment
  • It reinforced the need for technology tools to connect participants and to provide a vehicle for communication and sharing
  • It raised awareness and boosted confidence in the area of not only identifying global issues but being able to provide viable solutions, and design these solutions through a carefully led process
This style of summit is relatively new to schools and it does have a positive place in learning and global education, including community and service and the IB CAS programmes around the world.