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  • The rise of ELearning in Africa

    The report is released at the annual eLearning Africa conference held at Namibia on June 2014.

    ELearning, the combination of education and technology is clearly seen as the powerful driver for growth in Africa. The major challenges for ELearning in Africa are good communications and connectivity. Following are a selection of eLearning news stories from across the continent, that reflect the growth of ICT.
    • The American University of Nigeria, situated in the conflict-riven North-East, opened a multimedia library containing the largest e-book collection in all Africa.
    • A vast number of Sahrawi refugees have been living in South-Western Algeria ever since Morocco occupied Western Sahara in 1975-6. The settlements have no internet, but now RESF (educational networks without borders) has found a way to connect them with the outside world – through video diaries shared between schoolchildren across the region, in the Canaries, Senegal and Algeria.
    • A group of 225 students have been equipped with smartphones and tablets and sent out to map the rugged terrains of Rwanda digitally. It’s as much a social as a scientific project: this new generation of investigative cartographers is hoping to record and analyse data on wildfires, water quality and deforestation.
    • In Kenya, Wikipedia began trialing an SMS short code service – allowing users to send requests for pages, which are then delivered by text message to even the most basic handset. Also, the Government is setting up free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, and the matatus (public minibuses) of Nairobi have onboard Internet and TV entertainment.
    • Edutainment is on the rise in Tanzania. The Femina HIP initiative teaches young people about HIV through magazines, TV, radio and road shows. A social enterprise, Ubongo is creating localised educational broadcasting to overcome the disadvantages inherent in the Western educational model.
    • In South Africa, a small group of technicians have found a way to grow the Internet from the bottom up, using the unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. Wi-Fi, commonly used to connect over short distances, can be extended over a few kilometers through portable routers. These “daisy chains” of routers can be used to create local networks at the grassroots level.
    • East Africa is set to be the scene of trials using drones to extend the Internet into unconnected rural areas.

  • Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all

    The report is commissioned by UNESCO as part of its Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
    © UNESCO 2014

    The report Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all makes it clear that the goal of achieving education for all by 2015, as was envisioned by 164 countries at the World Education Forum in 2000, cannot be achieved. It urges the governments to set clear, measurable targets and accelerate progress because education transforms lives. It reduces poverty and boosts jobs growth. It improves people’s chances of a healthier life. It raises people's social awareness.
    But a lack of attention to education quality and a failure to teach the marginalized have contributed to a learning crisis. Worldwide, 250 million children are not learning even basic literacy and numeracy skills. One requirement to solve this crisis is to have teachers who are trained, motivated and enjoy teaching, who can identify and support weak learners, and who are backed by well managed, adequately funded education systems.
    The report identifies the 10 most important teaching reforms that policy-makers should adopt to achieve equitable learning for all.

    • Countries need to activate policies to address the vast shortfall in teachers.
    • The best candidates should be attracted to teaching.
    • Teachers must be receive ongoing training, so they can meet the learning needs of all children.
    • Teacher educators and mentors must be well-trained, and have knowledge and experience of real classroom challenges.
    • The best teachers must be deployed to the areas where they are most needed.
    • The career and pay structure must be competitive, so the best teachers can be hired and retained.
    • Governments should improve governance policies to address the problems of teacher misconduct such as absenteeism, tutoring their students privately and violence in schools.
    • Teachers must be equipped with inclusive and flexible curriculum strategies designed to meet the learning needs of children from disadvantaged groups.
    • Classroom-based assessments should be developed to identify and help students at risk of not learning.
    • Countries should invest in collecting and analysing annual data about teachers and education programs.

    To end the learning crisis, all countries have to ensure that every child has access to a well-trained and motivated teacher.

  • Youth and Skills: Putting education to work

    The report is commissioned by UNESCO as part of its Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
    © UNESCO 2012

    The report 'Youth and Skills: Putting education to work' examines how skills development programs can be improved to boost people's opportunities for better jobs and lives.
    Many young people around the world — especially the disadvantaged — are leaving school without the skills they need to thrive in society and find decent jobs. If countries are to overcome the challenges they face, and grow and prosper, they need to develop a skilled workforce.
    This report identifies three main types of skills that young people need - foundation, transferable, and technical and vocational skills. Foundation skills include the literacy and numeracy skills. Transferable skills include the ability to solve problems, communicate ideas, be creative, and demonstrate leadership and entrepreneurial capabilities. Vocational skills refer to the technical know-how that many jobs require.
    The report recommends ten steps that should be taken in support of skills development for young people, that can be tailored to fit country-specific needs.

    • The 200 million young people in low income countries who did not complete primary school must be given a second chance to acquire foundation skills.
    • By abolishing school fees, providing financial support, linking primary schools to secondary schools, providing a common core curriculum, and improving accessibility to the disadvantaged and rural students, countries must remove the barriers that limit access to education.
    • Secondary education must be in tune with the skills needs of the labor market.
    • Entrepreneurial skills must be fostered in youth. There must be apprenticeship systems that strengthen training, and access to funds to start businesses.
    • Rural youth must be given training in agricultural techniques that help them enhance their productivity.
    • Microfinance must be combined with basic skills training to raise youth from poverty and unemployment.
    • Targeted programs must address the needs of disadvantaged young women. Proving them with training, microfinance and stipends to begin with benefit them as well as their families.
    • The potential of ICT to deliver skills must be tapped into. Even basic technology such as radio can bring skills training to a larger number of youth.
    • Governments must coordinate the work of all those involved in skills training and associated programs. Planning can be improved by strengthening data collection and coordination.
    • Governments and aid donors must prioritize education, and mobilize additional funding to the training needs of disadvantaged youth.
  • Education in Areas of Conflict

    The report is commissioned by UNESCO as part of its Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
    © UNESCO 2011

    The report The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education explores the impact of armed conflicts on education. Conflict undermines prospects for boosting economic growth and reducing poverty, and reinforces inequalities, desperation and grievances that trap countries in cycles of violence.

    Over the decade to 2008, 35 countries experienced armed conflict. Of these, 30 were low income countries where on an average, the duration of the violence was 12 years. In these countries, 28 million children of primary school age were out of school, 42% of the world total. Only 79% of young people were literate, compared with 93% in other low income countries. Civilian infrastructure and schools often become targets of violence. Public funds and aid resources are diverted from education into military spending. The youth in these regions are not provided the skills needed to escape poverty and unemployment. Over 60% of the population in many conflict areas are under 25 years of age, and their economic despair further fuels the conflict. In some cases, the wrong type of education is given, reinforcing social divisions and intolerance that lead to war.

    The report identifies four systemic failures and sets out an agenda for rectifying each.
    Failures of protection: Governments should work with the UN to strengthen the systems that monitor and report on human rights violations affecting education, support national plans aimed at stopping those violations and impose targeted sanctions on offenders.
    Failures of provision: The vital role of education during conflict-related emergencies must be recognized. The financing for humanitarian pooled funds should be increased to cover shortfalls in education financing. Current systems for assessing the education needs of conflict-affected communities should be strengthened.
    Failures of reconstruction: Donors need to break down the artificial divide between humanitarian and long-term aid. More development assistance should be channeled through national pooled funds. More flexible rules must be introduced to facilitate support for conflict-affected states.
    Failures of peacebuilding: Governments and donors need to prioritize the development of inclusive education systems, with policy on language, curriculum and decentralization informed by an assessment of the potential impact on long-standing grievances. Schools should be seen first and foremost as places for imparting the most vital of skills: tolerance, mutual respect and the ability to live peacefully with others.

  • Closing the gap between classroom and workplace

    McKinsey report: Education to employment
    Mona Mourshed, Diana Farrell and Dominic Barton
    January 2013

    Current education system is incapable of building employability skills in students and has led to the paradoxical problem of youth unemployment and labor shortage. According to the findings of the McKinsey report, only 31% of employers are successful in getting the required talent. More than 90% employers train new workers in job-specific skills and 84% train for general skills. The report recommends the collaboration of employers and education providers to offer job training for students in college. The education-to-employment journey must be treated as a continuum in which employers commit to hire youth before they are enrolled in a program to build their skills. Prehiring youth, training them for specialized skills with a guarantee for a job is an efficient approach to engage early with youth to cultivate their interest and develop the required skills. Agreements such as non-poaching deals boost employers’ willingness to collaborate. Employers must help to design curricula and offer their employees as faculty to ensure quality of the educational content. Education-to-employment programs must be expanded in a large-scale cost-effective manner, so that they are affordable for millions of youth. Coupling technology and a highly standardized curriculum supplement faculty and spread consistent instruction at a modest cost.

  • Innovations in Education Technology

    Brookings Report: Education Technology Success Stories

    Darrell M. West and Joshua Bleiberg
    March 2013

    Advances in technology are enabling dramatic changes in education content, delivery, and accessibility. Education technologies are evolving beyond lecture and group work to games, simulations, and augmented reality. Software is creating environments where students can direct the creation of their own knowledge with nearly invisible prompts from teachers.

    Robot Assisted Language Learning (RALL)
    In South Korea as in many developing nations, it is difficult to attract qualified English teachers to remote islands or rural areas. Korean researchers developed two robots to serve as English teaching assistants. The robots, MERO and Engkey work through advanced speech recognition software to understand and correct speaker errors. The robots also use the socially correct facial expression making the conversations more authentic. The students enjoyed the user-friendly robots and also reported increased motivation for learning English. The success of MERO and Engkey in South Korea demonstrates how robots can have a positive impact on language learning that requires repetition and memorization.

    Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
    In an online environment the cost for a one million-student class is not far off from a one hundred-student class. MOOCs rely on inexpensive open source technologies and provide a platform for world class professors to teach their research with people all over the world. The opportunity to communicate with a nearly unlimited pool of people will accelerate the transfer of knowledge. Universities can use MOOCs to clear the enrollment logjams for entry-level survey courses.

    Minecraft is a popular game with several features that can be used as an effective teaching tool. The game is a facsimile of Earth with its bountiful resources and laws of nature. It is open-ended with no defined narrative or game play objectives. Players approach the game similar to the way children play with Legos or blocks. The simplicity and familiarity of the game transforms itself into a dynamic classroom, allowing individuals of varying skill levels including elementary school and graduate students to learn from the game. A community of teachers and educators has created a dedicated Minecraft teaching wiki including lesson plans and research. Minecraft enables students to engage in their virtual environment, and gain trustworthy information through their own exploration. Learners enjoy the freedom to explore and take risks within a structured environment.

    Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT)
    CAT asks normatively better questions than paper based tests and adapts the test items to the student’s skill level. If the test taker answers a question correctly then the next question is more difficult and if he or she answers an item incorrectly then the next question is easier. Test scores have greater reliability when the difficulty of the item closely mirrors the knowledge of the student. CAT is less expensive and takes less time to complete, compared to traditional test formats. CAT facilitates the inclusion of confidence-boosting test items that reduce anxiety in students. Computers can easily convert text to speech, speech to text, and magnify test items. Simple accommodations could allow many special education students to participate in the same accountability systems as general education students. This saves resources but more importantly treats all students with the same standard.

    Stealth Assessments
    Stealth assessments embed formative assessments into games. They capture different data than high stakes assessment because the students’ behavior changes when engaged in a game as opposed to when focused explicitly on an assessment. Games engage the player in a narrative and the player becomes part of the storytelling. Playing games motivates students to push further even when encountering challenges. Valerie Shute, a Professor at Florida State, developed the first stealth assessment and captured data unobtrusively from popular video games such as Oblivion. She analyzed player actions in the game for evidence of novelty, efficiency, problem solving skills and other competencies. Large sets of data collected about student learning helps teachers to improve and individualize instruction.

  • Credentials tied to jobs and earnings

    Report of U.S. Census Bureau: Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials

    Stephanie Ewert and Robert Kominski
    January 2014

    College degree is not the only ticket to obtain good-paying jobs. Educational credentials are new routes for job placement, earnings and career advancement. In addition to traditional schooling, people earn professional certifications and licenses by participating in noncredit courses, job training and apprenticeship to improve their skills. Alternative credentials are awarded by government, educational institutions, company and nonprofit organizations for program completion or mastery of skill, like nursing, cosmetology or mechanics diploma. The key findings from the report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials: 2012 show that alternative credentials have great value in the labor market.

    - Two groups - people with less than high school completion and professional degree holders - earned significantly more with an alternative credential.
    - 96% of adults with a professional certificate or license got it for work-related reasons and reported that it can be used to get a job with any employer in the field.
    - The median monthly earnings for someone with a professional certification or license was $4,167 compared $3,110 for someone without any alternative credential.
    - About 25 percent or 50 million adults in the United States have a professional certification, license, or educational certificate. If the 11.2 million people with an alternative credential who had completed less than high school in regular education were recategorized as those with “more than high school”, there would be an almost 5 percent increase in the share of Americans with higher education and skills levels.
    - 71% of people in technical occupations hold an alternate credential.

  • Higher education in Central America

    Equity in tertiary education in Central America : An Overview
    Sajitha Bashir, Javier Luque
    The World Bank, Latin America and the Caribbean Region, Human Development Department, August 2012

    This paper analyzes the evolution in socio-economic and ethnic disparities in tertiary education attainment, participation, and completion and labor market outcomes in the six countries of Central America. Wide differentials in salaries linked to socio-economic background can signal differences in the quality of tertiary education or prior educational experiences. The main obstacle to accessing tertiary education for poor students is the failure to either start or complete secondary education, suggesting different priorities for different countries in addressing long-term constraints. However, problems also arise within tertiary education, as in all countries the average tertiary education completion rate is below 50 percent, with even lower rates for students from low-income families and indigenous backgrounds.

    The paper concludes that many of the countries currently lack the policies, instruments, and institutional mechanisms to promote greater equity in tertiary education. This paper is part of a larger effort by the World Bank to provide open access to its research and make a contribution to development policy discussions around the world.

  • Improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe

    Report to the European Commission on Improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions
    June 2013
    © European Union, 2013

    Europe needs to become more outward-looking, more innovative, and to put itself on a sustainable footing for the future. It needs more creative, flexible and entrepreneurial young people who are equipped for the challenges of today’s ever changing work environment. The EU has agreed that at least 40 % of young people in the EU should have a university-level qualification by 2020. The quality of teaching and learning should be at the core of the higher education reform agenda – with a focus on curricula that deliver relevant, up-to date knowledge and skills, knowledge which is globally connected, which is useable in the labour market, and which forms a basis for graduates’ on-going learning.
    The essential challenge for the higher education sector is to comprehensively professionalise its teaching cohort as teachers. In this report, the High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education has mapped out pathways for improving quality in teaching and learning. It recommends that:

    • Public authorities should ensure the existence of a sustainable, well-funded framework to support higher education institutions’ efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
    • Every institution should develop and implement a strategy for the support and on-going improvement of the quality of teaching and learning, devoting the necessary level of human and financial resources to the task, and integrating this priority in its overall mission, giving teaching due parity with research.
    • Institutions should encourage, welcome, and take account of student feedback which could detect problems in the teaching and learning environment early on and lead to faster, more effective improvements.
    • All staff teaching in higher education institutions in 2020 should have received certified pedagogical training. Continuous professional education as teachers should become a requirement for teachers in the higher education sector.
    • Academic staff entrance, progression and promotion decisions should take account of an assessment of teaching performance alongside other factors.
    • Heads of institutions and institutional leaders should recognise and reward higher education teachers who make a significant contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning, whether through their practice, or through their research into teaching and learning.
    • Curricula should be developed and monitored through dialogue and partnerships among teaching staff, students, graduates and labour market actors, drawing on new methods of teaching and learning, so that students acquire relevant skills that enhance their employability.
    • Student performance in learning activities should be assessed against clear and agreed learning outcomes, developed in partnership by all faculty members involved in their delivery.
    • Institutions and national policy makers in partnership with students should establish counselling, guidance, mentoring and tracking systems to support students into higher education, and on their way to graduation and beyond.
    • Institutions should introduce and promote cross-, trans- and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, helping students develop their breadth of understanding and entrepreneurial and innovative mind-sets.
    • Institutions should support their teachers so they develop the skills for online and other forms of teaching and learning opened up by the digital era, and should exploit the opportunities presented by technology to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
    • Institutions should develop and implement holistic internationalisation strategies as an integral part of their overall mission and functions. Increased mobility of student and staff, international dimension of curricula, international experience of faculty, with a sufficient command of English and a second foreign language and intercultural competences, transnational delivery of courses and degrees, and international alliances should become indispensable components of higher education in Europe and beyond.
    • The European Union should support the implementation of these recommendations.
    • The European Union should support the establishment of a European Academy for Teaching and Learning led by stakeholders, and inspired by the good practices reflected in this report.
    • Researchers should be given the opportunity to gain professional teaching qualifications and be supported in teaching activities alongside their research.
    • Member States are encouraged to prioritise initiatives to support the development of pedagogical skills, the design and implementation of programmes relevant to social and labour market needs, and the strengthening of partnerships between higher education, business and the research sector.
  • The Employability of Graduates: The Employers’ Perspective

    The Employability of Higher Education Graduates: The Employers’ Perspective
    © European Union, 2013
    Martin Humburg, Rolf van der Velden, Annelore Verhagen
    October 2013

    The report studies 900 employers in nine European countries and provides the following conclusions:

    • Professional expertise is paramount. Professional expertise (subject-specific knowledge and expert thinking) is the most important skills set that affects graduates’ employability.
    • Interpersonal skills are becoming more and more important. The conjoint analyses show that interpersonal skills (communication skills, teamwork skills et cetera) are almost as important as professional expertise.
    • Work experience gets graduates the job interview. Relevant work experience is important for graduates’ chances to get invited to a job interview.
    • Some room for specialisation: innovative/creative and commercial/entrepreneurial skills. Employers indicate that in an organisation or in a team it might be enough to have just one or two persons who are strong in innovative/creative skills or commercial/entrepreneurial skills, so here there is clear room for specialisation among graduates.
    • Strategic/organisational skills are needed for long-term career opportunities. When it comes to graduates’ long-term career opportunities, strategic/organisational skills are viewed positively and are linked to development in the role.
    • International orientation is a plus. Employers appreciate foreign experience.
    • General academic skills are well developed. Employers expect graduates to have sufficient general academic skills.
    • No difference in what is needed for short-term employability and long-term employability. The skills that are needed to ensure short-term employability are no different from the skills that are needed to increase employability in the long run.
    • Underperformance comes at great cost for employers as well as graduates. The costs related to underperformance of graduates is much higher than the possible benefits associated with above average performance.
    • Time is precious, so spend it well. Identifying certain skill needs does not imply that all these skills need to be developed in the same way in higher education.


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