Charitable Donation Advice
Charitable Donation Advice is a recurring education effort. We work hard for our money, and we want it to work hard for the world, too! So, we learn more about our favorite causes so that we make informed charitable donation that make an impact.
Improving Global Education
We’ve been working through the book “Poor Economics”, and we recently discussed education. Education is critical to ending extreme poverty, and studies show that each additional year of education increases earnings by 8%. But it’s not always obvious how to make sure everyone gets an education.
I’ll summarize their chapter on education, but I highly recommend reading the book for yourself. Poor economics has the potential to be incredibly boring, but the authors do a great job of making it fascinating. Each chapter is its own mystery, and they explore many potential explanations and complications before presenting their solutions. Often, I’ve found myself agreeing with their hypothesis only to find out why it’s wrong. I LOVE it!
Of course, the book’s theories are backed up with data and scientific studies. I’ll leave most of that out, only because it would be too difficult to cover them adequately in this short blog post.
Do we need to build more schools?
It’s a basic question that we should start out with. Are children not getting an education because there are no schools for them to attend?
The great news is that huge progress has been made in this area. In India, 95% of children live within one mile of a school. In sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment rates in primary schools increased from 54% to 74% and from 75% to 88% in East and South Asia.
While more work remains to be done, it’s clear that many more children have access to a school now than in the past.
Another question raises it’s head. What are children learning at school?
Problems with Quality
- On average, teachers in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru, and Uganda miss one of every 5 school days.
- In addition to being entirely absent, 50% of teachers in Indian public schools are not in front of a class when they should be because they are drinking tea, reading a newspaper, talking to a colleague, etc.
- In India 35% of children aged 7-14 could not read a simple first grade level paragraph and 60% couldn’t read a second grade level story.
Ok, so part of the battle is won. Schools are available. Students are attending. But the QUALITY of their education may not be very good.
What might be causing this?
The Power of Expectations
“Expectations about what education is supposed to deliver distort what parents demand, what schools deliver, and what children achieve”, write the authors.
Parents Picking Winners
Parents under estimate the impact of a little bit of education but over estimate the impact of a lot of education. They think that a couple years of primary education isn’t going to make much of a difference, but they expect that if their child graduates from high school or college then he/she will be very financially successful.
Since it costs a lot of time and money for a parent to send their child to school, it makes sense to pick the one child most likely succeed in school and put all of their resources into supporting that one child while his/her siblings get less or no education.
Teachers Picking Winners
Teachers have high expectations about what their teaching should accomplish. It should be difficult, elite, and prepare students for the highest exams. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Unfortunately, it’s paired with very low expectations for what their students can actually accomplish.
What’s the point in showing up for class, when they’re not going to learn anything anyway?? Or why bother improving one student’s reading skills when another student shows more promise?
Teachers, too, end up picking winners. The students they think are most likely to learn and succeed at the highest levels of education get the most attention, receive the most support, and, consequently, get the best education. And as we read earlier, the result is that the majority of students aren’t receiving any education at all even when they are attending school.
Parents Accepting Losers
Because parents themselves are inclined to pick winners and losers, they accept the judgements of the teachers. A parent who has economic resources and refuses to let their child fail can find alternative options, but otherwise, parents accept what feels natural and inevitable. This child just wasn’t a winner.
Students Accepting Their Loser Status
A student who expects school to be difficult will find school difficult. A student who thinks she’s stupid blames herself when she doesn’t understand what’s being taught. She’s just not a winner, so why bother paying attention or attend school at all?
So, What Do We Do?
Currently, education in the developing world operate by this model: “The children of the rich go to schools that not only teach more and teach better, but where they are treated with compassion and helped to reach their true potential. The poor end up in schools that make it very clear quite early that they are not wanted unless they show some exceptional gifts, and they are in effect expected to suffer in silence until they drop out.”
The authors suggest the following solutions
- Focus on basic skills and committing to the belief that every child can master them as long as the student AND the teacher expends enough effort.
- Provide effective, pedagogical training for teachers.
- Reorganize the curriculum and classrooms so that students can learn at their own pace and/or are arranged by ability level and not age.
- Educate parents on what to expect from teachers and the economic impact of education at all levels.
- Use technology. Qualified teachers are not always available, so technology can complement or substitute for teachers.
What we learned
When we consider donating to a charity who is working on global education, we will look to see what their plans are for addressing not just access to classrooms but the quality of the education the students will receive.