Q&A: Education and life skills

Why World Vision? In today’s Q&A, Linda Hiebert, senior director for education and life skills development with World Vision International, delves into World Vision’s work in education and our new model, aimed at ensuring quality education for children for life.

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1. How does our work with education tie into our child sponsorship program?

Child sponsorship is a primary contributor to World Vision’s programs. It funds key programs in education, as well as health and child protection, and is designed to achieve child well-being in these areas. The community-based child sponsorship approach gives us the opportunity to monitor the well-being of children through enrollment and sponsorship activities.

2. What are some of the barriers that children face to getting a good education?

Some barriers are geographic: children in remote parts of the world don’t have schools nearby. Native language can also be a barrier, when instruction is in a region’s majority language, but some children only speak a minority language. Other barriers like class size have to do with the schools — in northern Uganda and Malawi there are classes with more than 200 children in one classroom. Some schools are not properly equipped, and some teachers are inadequately trained or absent from the classroom.

There are social barriers as well, like intergenerational poverty: if parents didn’t go to school, often they don’t encourage their children to go. Sometimes parents can’t afford school fees, uniforms, or supplies. In some parts of the world, children with disabilities are labeled as incapable of learning and kept out of school. Gender roles can also be a barrier: in some African countries, boys are taken out of school to farm, and many girls must stay home to watch after the family. Also for girls, early marriage will take them out of school before graduation.

Finally, violence and illness are strong barriers to education. When families feel that their daughters are unsafe going to and from school, they won’t let them go, and in many parts of the world violence both inside and outside of school makes education impossible. And illnesses like HIV and malaria keep children sick at home instead of in school.

3. Why is education so important to community development?

Education and life skills is a platform to ensure a well-functioning and developing society. Basic education in reading, writing, and arithmetic helps children function in society. Developing life skills is essential for becoming a productive citizen.

Children in Thailand are paying close attention to what their teacher is teaching. (Photo: Paiwan Benjakul/World Vision)


4. I understand that World Vision is changing the way we work in Education around the world. What’s the current model that we’re moving away from, and why do we need to make this change?

World Vision can better assure that children are actually learning and not just attending school by re-balancing our approach from focusing on access to education to achieving child-learning outcomes.

To illustrate this need: in Mali, Pakistan, and Peru, more than 70 percent of children in primary grades cannot read at grade level. In sub-Saharan African countries, children with five years of education still have a 40 percent chance of being illiterate. In the rural provinces of Kenya, only 15 percent of grade two students can comprehend what they’ve read. And in Malawi, at the beginning of grade two, 95 percent of students were classified as non-readers.

Through a targeted three-year program, World Vision will refocus its investment in education on achieving results in literacy, numeracy, and life skills. We will still focus on access where necessary, but we are moving toward programs that focus on helping children learn. We need to make this change because there’s a worldwide crisis where children are in school, but not learning.

Several factors contribute to this crisis.

– a lack of teachers: in Niger there’s only one teacher for every 1,300 children!

– lack of support for teachers: half of all teachers in Africa have little or no training.

– instructional time is frequently wasted: less than half of classroom time is used for learning.

– not enough books: in Mali, 75 percent of students in grade two did not have textbooks.

– problematic language: dismissing children’s native languages makes teaching reading difficult.

5. How will we measure that it's successful?

The measurement will be that children are functionally literate by age 11.  Functional literacy means that the child can recognize each word, read it aloud in a sentence, and distill its meaning. We also plan on improving numeracy and rolling out tools to support this. Finally, we will contribute to improving life skills. Survey tools will help measure life skills. Cognitive, social, and communication skills are some of the skills these surveys measure.

6. World Vision’s aspiration for education is that "children are educated for life." What does this mean, and how do we measure success in this area?

Children are educated for life is the second aspiration. Here are four outcomes we are working toward:

– children can read, write, and use numeracy skills.

– children make good judgments, can protect themselves, manage emotions, and communicate ideas.

– adolescents are ready for economic opportunities.

– children complete basic education.

We will measure success in these areas by focusing on two targets: first, an increase in the percentage of children who can read by age 11, and second, an increase in children’s self-perception of their well-being.

7. As a Christian organization, how is faith reflected in our work in Education?

Faith is reflected as we strive to achieve our child well-being outcomes. World Vision views the well-being of children in holistic terms. Just as Jesus grew in stature, wisdom, and grace with God and others (Luke 2:52), World Vision promotes healthy individual development, positive relationships, and a context that provides safety, social justice, and participation in civil society. As children develop life skills, we will work to develop them as mature human beings, which includes working with communities and parents to provide the necessary resources to develop them spiritually.

Child sponsorship is the foundation of World Vision’s approach to community development. Join us! Change a child’s life for good. Sponsoring a child helps provide a quality education and other life-saving basics. Consider sponsoring a child today!


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