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Thousands march in Morocco to defend free education

Asia/ China/ 01.04.2019/ Source: /

Thousands of people marched on Sunday in the Moroccan capital Rabat to defend free education and show solidarity with protesting teachers.

Organized by the Moroccan Coalition for the Defense of Public Education, the march criticizes the government’s «scheme to terminate all public services.»

The march, joined by several leaders of leftist opposition parties, denounced a bill under discussion in parliament which calls for the gradual introduction of registration fees in public institutions of higher education and then in high schools.

Proposed by the government, the bill faces objection from many opposition parties, trade unions, NGOs and even parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party.

The demonstrators also showed their support to the demands of protesting teachers, including abolishment of regional contracts and full benefits and pensions like public servants.

Thousands of teachers, who have been protesting for months, also participated in the march.

The teachers, who marched earlier on Saturday in the main streets of the capital, tried to set up makeshift camp for the night ahead of Sunday’s march.

Notably, the police started using water cannons to disperse the teachers after several warnings.

In 2016, the Moroccan government granted the regional educational and training academies the right to hire teachers as part of a larger «regionalization reform.»

Many trade unions claimed that this move means submission to international lenders, who demanded the cut in the civil service paycheck.

So far, 70,000 teachers have been hired under the new contract system, including 15,000 at the training centers.

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Free education needs reconsidering: Egypt’s Education Minister

Africa/ Egypt/ 14.11.2018/By: Al-Masry Al-Youm/ Source:

Egyptian Education Minister Tarek Shawki said on Saturday that the issue of free education should not be left without discussion and requires reconsidering.

“People pay money to any place except the government, and the evidence is the money spent annually on private tuition lessons. For whom education should be free? Those who have two children or those who have 10 children?!” Shawki said.

The Education Minister’s remarks came during a meeting of a House of Representatives committee on Saturday, sparking a storm of controversy and speculation that the minister wants to abolish free education, a right enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Article 19 of Egypt’s constitution stipulates, “The State shall provide free education in the various stages in the State’s educational institutions according to the Law.”

The controversy prompted the minister to clarify his statements on Facebook.

Shawki explained that discussion regarding the economics of education is a necessary topic to be discussed in community dialogue.

“The free education provided for in the constitution was not realized properly. And the evidence is the expensive cost of lessons which poor and rich alike complain about. So the reality that education is expensive and not free,” the minister said.

“And therefore I see it normal to face this reality with study and research, while we said nothing about the abolition of constitutional entitlement at all and did not ask for this.”

“We invited MPs to study this reality which contradicts the Constitution and study the economics of education and how we will face the high cost now and in the future with better solutions to make use of what we spend on education to achieve real social justice and higher quality of Egyptian education,” Shawki said.

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Privatisation in education: private schools dominate national education

By Binod Ghimire

Sep 28, 2018-Two days after the federal parliament endorsed the Act on Compulsory and Free Education, Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation Nepal (PABSON) slammed the provisions in the new law that increases the share of scholarship they must offer students. The umbrella body of private schools has issued a deadline for the government to amend the provision or face protests.

Earlier this month, the new education law had increased the share of scholarship to 15 percent from the existing 10 percent through a unanimous vote in both the Houses of Parliament. The Ministry of Education, the line ministry which had drafted the Act, has yet to respond to PABSON’s threat to boycott the law.

Although the ministry has been monitoring the private schools and prepared an annual report on institutions that charge exorbitant fees, the government has not taken any action against a single private school that has violated the rules.

In 2011, the government had introduced 5 percent tax to the private schools, which was later revoked when PABSON refused to honour it. The organisation has also rejected the 2012 Supreme Court order imposing a moratorium on fee increment for three years. Education experts say that the organisation’s past behaviour and their continued dismissal of government regulations show how the private education sector has become increasingly powerful just as their numbers—both in terms of schools and student enrolment—continue to go up.

The government, which had nationalised all community and private schools in 1971, reversed its course nine years later in 1980 and even opened the door to for-profit schools for the first time. The expansion of private schools has been going on unabated since.

Today, private schools occupy about 19 percent of share in the country’s education system. A recent economic survey by the Ministry of Finance shows that out of the total 35,601 schools in the country, 6,566 are privately owned. In the last six years, there has been nearly 5 percent increase in the number of private schools across the country—and it continues to rise despite the country’s adoption of a new constitution that ensures free school education to every Nepali citizen.

“I thought the government, through the Compulsory and Free Education Act, would take some measures towards containing the growth of private schools and promoting the public schools,” said Binaya Kusiyat, a professor at the Tribhuvan University and an independent researcher. “Allowing private schools to function as they have been for all these years is making a mockery of the socialism-oriented constitution.”

Kusiyat said his study shows that the entire school education can be made free even if the government allocates the budget as per its global commitment. Currently, the education sector receives around Rs125 billion annually, which is just 10 percent of national budget against the global commitment of 20 percent. It is an international benchmark to allocate 20 percent of country’s national budget or around 6 percent of the GDP for the education sector.

Education experts say it is ironic that capitalist countries have a minimal presence of the private schools while a country like Nepal, which is led by a socialist or a communist party, has become a fertile ground for commercialising education.

According to a 2015  report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which compiles educational data from a majority of nations across the globe each year, less than 9 percent students from the United States attend private schools. The number is even lower in New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom, where the share of private schools is just 6 percent.

Countries like Finland, Norway, and Singapore, whose school education is considered among the best in the world, have about three percent private schools.

“The number of students going to private schools is decreasing in capitalist countries but it’s exactly opposite in ours,” Kedar Bhakta Mathema, education expert and former vice-chancellor of the Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “We were very optimistic that the country would change. But the present developments do not give us much hope.” Mathema said there is no enthusiasm in the governing officials to improve the public education system, which means they are directly and indirectly promoting the private sector.

Mathema also alluded to the fact that there is little chance the government will take any strong measures to control the haphazard expansion of private schools because many political leaders—and their families—are involved in running these schools. Around 45 members of the second Constituent Assembly were directly involved in running private schools or colleges. In the current federal parliament, there are about two dozen lawmakers who own and run private education institutions.

Earlier this year, Man Prasad Wagle, an education expert and professor at the Kathmandu University, presented a report suggesting that the government should gradually phase out private schools while facilitating a shift towards technical education or university education. The suggestion made public in April said the phasing out process should start from the first grade, which will take 12 years to end the private sectors’ presence in the education sector.

Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel, who comes from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said the government is not in a position to take ownership of the entire education system because it simply does not have the budget.

“We cannot ignore the contribution of the private sector,” Pokharel told the Post during an interaction last week. “Both private and public schools can go hand in hand and complement each other.”


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Bumpy kickoff to Sierra Leone’s free education program


Some two million children in Sierra Leone went back to school on Monday in a key test of the country’s landmark free education programme for primary and high school students.

It was a key election pledge of President Julius Maada Bio, who took office in early April. Bio has said he will donate three months of his salary to the scheme, which covers school fees and supplies.

Schools were packed on Monday and some pupils were unable to get in due to a lack of space.

“We turned down 30 percent of the kids seeking admission at our school due to lack of sitting accommodation. We will not exceed the teacher-pupil ratio of 50 per class,” said Florence Kuyembeh, principal of a girls’ secondary school in the capital Freetown.

But outside, one mother was in tears after her child was turned away for lack of places.

“I’m very disappointed with the free education (scheme). The school failed to admit my kid to the school of her choice due to lack of space,” Safiatu Sesay told AFP.

And others had concerns about just how much of the costs the government was actually going to cover.

“We are happy for the free quality education but the government had promised during the election to provide our children with books, uniform, shoes and school buses but they only paid for school fees,” another parent called Idrissa Kamara told AFP.

Last week, Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa said the government had paid the fees for 1.1 million children in nearly 3,500 schools and would be picking up the tab for another 158,000 pupils.

Despite vast mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries and half of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate, according to a UNESCO2015 report.

It is trying to recover from the social and economic fallout from a long civil war, and more recently, an outbreak of Ebola which killed 4,000 people between 2014 and 2016.

But its economy remains fragile and corruption is widespread.

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India: Plans for free education from KG to PG by Adityanath


Resumen: El gobierno de Yogi Adityanath en Uttar Pradesh está planeando una educación gratuita de «KG a PG» a partir del próximo año. El viceprimer ministro Dinesh Sharma, quien también es el ministro de educación secundaria y superior, ha establecido un comité para determinar las modalidades. «Queremos que un niño que ingresa en KG (jardín de infantes) debe recibir educación hasta el nivel de PG (postgrado) sin ningún cargo. Una gran cantidad de estudiantes se retiran debido a consideraciones monetarias «, dijo el diputado CM. El Dr. Sharma dijo que esto sería aplicable para todas las escuelas y facultades del gobierno. «Esto también atraerá a más estudiantes a las escuelas del gobierno y automáticamente conducirá a una mejora en los estándares de las escuelas», dijo.

Luego, el viceprimer ministro también está tomando medidas para regularizar la sesión académica en todas las escuelas, institutos y universidades del gobierno.

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is planning free education from “KG to PG” from next year.

Deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, who is also the secondary and higher education minister, has set up a committee to work out the modalities.

“We want that a child who takes admission in KG (kindergarten) should get education up to the PG (post-graduate) level without any charges. A large number of students drop out because of monetary considerations,” the deputy CM said.

Dr Sharma said that this would be applicable for all government schools and colleges. “This will also attract more students to government schools and will automatically lead to an improvement in the standards of the schools”, he said.

Then deputy chief minister is also taking steps to regularise the academic session in all government schools, colleges and universities.


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United States: Schools kill creativity – education expert

United States / March 26, 2018/Newshub

Resumen: El experto en educación, Sir Ken Robinson, quiere revolucionar la forma en que funciona la educación, diciendo que el sistema actual prioriza una definición estrecha del intelecto.

Education expert Sir Ken Robinson wants to revolutionise how education works, saying the current system prioritises a narrow definition of intellect.

«There was a time that being educated meant you could speak Latin. Then there was a time that it meant having gone to university. I’m trying to get people to think differently.»

Sir Ken, a professor at the University of Warwick, says education systems worldwide have become overly focused on a narrow kind of ability that we call «academic work».

«What happens is we often confuse academic ability with intelligence more generally and I think that’s something we really need to revisit.»

Sir Ken has given a TED Talk on the subject, titled ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ viewed over 50 million times online.

He says being educated should mean understanding the world around you and how it came to be the way it is.

«Being educated means being literate in a cultural sense.»

He says that while subjects such as science and math are important, equally important subjects such as art and music and drama are being pushed out, to children’s detriment.

«I think it’s important that everyone practices the sciences in a creative and inquisitive way but I think it’s equally important for them to practice the arts».

When discussing standardised testing, Sir Ken says the evidence everywhere is that they don’t work. He says an emphasis on grades has caused us to «los a sense of the vitality of education and how it ought to work».

«We aren’t manufacturing sprockets. These are people. Young people whose education has a crucial bearing on the life they lead and whether or not they discover the possibilities that lie in themselves.»

He says education should be more personal to the individual student but acknowledges that there should be a broadly agreed framework for the curriculum.

«What personalisation means in this case is making sure that teaching is differentiated to the different talents and rates of learning of individual children. Teaching isn’t just a process of transmission, it’s a relationship.»

Sir Ken thinks that teaching is as much about knowing how to engage students as it is about being an expert in your field.

«My contention is that creativity is as important in education as literacy and should be given the same status.»


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The reality of free education for all in Ghana

Asia/Ghana/ 26.02.2018/ By:

Since gaining independence in 1957, Ghana has focused on improving access to education and achieving universal enrolment.

Primary education became free in 1961 and the 1980s saw major reforms swept through the education system, including restructuring primary and secondary education and introducing vocational classes.

In September 2017, the Ghanaian government made secondary education free, with President Nana Akufo-Addo reportedly saying: «There will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science centre fees, no computer laboratory fees, no examination fees, no utility fees. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals.»

The benefits of the Ghanian government’s focus on education are reflected in the country’s rising literacy rate. According to UNESCO statistics from 2010, the literacy rate among 15-24-year-olds is 85.72 percent, compared with 34.89 percent in those aged 65 or older.

Despite these measures, many children, particularly those living in rural areas, struggle to stay in school.

Economic necessity forces children to drop out of school in search of work, and girls are often charged with looking after younger siblings and helping with domestic work.

NGOs are attempting to address these issues at the community level and ensure every child has access to education.

Johnson Ayonka is the director of the Grassroots Transparency Initiative at WillWay Africa, an NGO that supports low-income communities in health, education and economic empowerment.

Jo Hallett works with Ghana School Aid and Let’s Read Ghana to provide grants to schools in rural communities and support the teaching of English in the far north of the country.

Al Jazeera spoke with Ayonka and Hallett about the realities of getting an education in Ghana today.

Al Jazeera: What effect has the recent removal of secondary school fees had on both children and schools?

Johnson Ayonka: It has had an impact, but because the national government is inefficient, the money from the central government doesn’t always get to the communities. In the very poor communities, there is the wider problem of poverty that’s forcing people to drop out, despite education being free and some schools are still charging fees because the money from the government didn’t get to them.

Even though the intention behind the policy was good, the government was not well prepared to implement it to the fullest. They also tried to implement it from the centre, instead of from the local area and the money was not made available in advance. It was sort of «putting the cart before the horse», instead of the money being there before the policy, the policy comes and then the money.

The policy is OK, the students have enrolled because they know that they’ll get free education, but after that, we find out that nothing effective takes place because what is needed is not there because of bureaucracy and inefficiency.

Al Jazeera: What are the barriers still preventing access to education today?

Jo Hallett: In the last few years, there has also been quite a push on more school buildings and a big push on enrolment and I think that [the Ghanaian government has] done very well on getting the vast majority of children into school, [but] there are huge barriers to accessing education. There’s a serious lack of trained teachers. In many of the schools we go into, the majority of the staff are volunteers or student teachers.

There’s a lack of finance for schools in general, so although the children are there, the buildings are not there, although overall they have improved, lots of schools have either very poor buildings or no buildings at all; they call it «under the tree» so classes are taught under a tree. There’s a lack of equipment and a lack of books and resources, the training of teachers, finance of all sorts and that needs to be addressed.

Often the teachers don’t get paid for several months because the District Education doesn’t have the finance to pay them and, therefore, there’s a lack of commitment on their part to some extent. Class sizes also vary enormously. A good teacher can manage quite a big class but sometimes it’s overwhelming: you go into a classroom and there are 70 pupils in there and one teacher who may not be trained, who’s trying to manage them and it’s impossible really, it’s really difficult.

There’s a lack of finance for schools in general, so although the children are there, the buildings are not there … lots of schools have either very poor buildings or no buildings at all.

Al Jazeera: How are rural communities affected?

Hallett: In many rural areas, the families are involved in subsistence farming or illegal mining and, with farming, the children get pulled out of school for harvest and sewing.

Another really significant thing that we see is the complete lack of spoken English in the rural areas. In school, after the first couple of years, the education is in English. There are 52 languages in Ghana, but the common language, and the language of government, [and] the language they’re expected to learn in is English.

If you live in a town, the chances are that you will see English sometimes and hear it, but out in the rural areas where we go in the far north, they speak a language called Guruni, which is spoken in a very small area, and it’s not written down at all so there aren’t any signposts or posters so [children] don’t have text in the environment, either in their own language or in English.

Al Jazeera: Do girls face additional challenges to entering education?

Ayonka: At the primary level the gender gap is small, it’s very, very small, and that indicates that a lot of progress has been made in the education of girls. But as girls mature into their teenage years, they face a lot of challenges because there’s a lot of gender disparity in terms of who should do house chores, so girls suffer more.

When you get closer to higher levels of education, even though the gap has reduced over the years, it’s still there because cultural factors come into play and there are issues of early marriage and families spending more on boys than on girls.

We need something to address that gap because it will relieve the economic aspects of education and leave the responsibility to the government so that families don’t have to decide: «Are we going to educate the boy and leave the girl out? Or are we going to educate both?»

Al Jazeera: What steps should the government take now?

Ayonka: What we see recently from the government is that a lot of policies and actions are done in isolation. Let’s say you see an area where there’s a high instance of teenage pregnancy and you don’t also make arrangements for the education authorities to work with the healthcare authorities and social workers; even though there’s free education, you are still going to get low enrolment because there is no coordination.

Another problem is the issue of access to the education infrastructure, there’s free education on paper but the schools are few, especially in the rural areas. You can say you want to give free education to people but if you don’t give them physical access to the schools by building more schools, then you still don’t have free education … I think communities need to be empowered to build their own schools, to recruit their own teachers, monitor the teachers and make sure that the standard of education is high.

There’s a big gap between what is happening at the government level and what is happening at the community level.

Hallett: There needs to be a bigger commitment to funding and a raising of the status of teachers. [The government] has done some really good things, some of the curriculum books are excellent, but they also need to have a bit of money and resources to back up that commitment, but I do think Ghana is trying hard.

Kayayo: Ghana's Living Shopping Baskets



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