Speaking Out for Education — in the U.S. and Around the World

I’ve been fortunate to be involved since early 2014 with the Global Partnership for Education, which, to oversimplify their mission, gathers and manages resources from countries and other donors for developing nations that are building their primary and secondary education systems. More recently, I worked with an organization called American Graduate, which raises awareness about ways to improve U.S. high school graduation rates, as well as with the Save the Children Action
, which is dedicated to promoting universal early childhood education here in the States.

desksThe more I learn from the Global Partnership about the challenges of educating children in developing countries the more I think about the public
discussion about the shortcomings in our own education system here in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, our tradition of and emphasis on universal education for everyone in the U.S., not to mention the sophistication of our teachers and teaching systems, are well beyond the dreams of most developing countries. According to UNESCO, an estimated 124 million children globally — primarily in low- to moderate-income developing societies — are currently not in school, and hundreds of millions drop out or don’t learn basic reading or math by the time they reach grade 4.

Still, many of the points global education advocates make could in some ways apply to our own often flawed system here in the U.S.

Most prominent among those points: with so many high-profile crises swirling around us, there appears to be too little urgency associated with education. That’s the point Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and now Board Chair of the Global Partnership, makes in this piece (which I had a hand in). “I am always heartened by these displays of global goodwill driven by” painful humanitarian emergencies that emerge from conflict, natural disaster, epidemic and the chaotic breakdown of governments, she writes.

But, I confess, I’m also troubled that the world cannot summon the same sense of concern and action around an insidious and long-standing misfortune that dooms millions of lives to despair.

I’m speaking of the less visible tragedy of hundreds of millions around the world who have little or no formal education at all. I’m speaking of the silent horror of children who have no hope for a better future because they are denied the right to learn. Many of these children are deprived of an education because of the surge in violent conflicts around the globe, the same fighting that is driving the refugee crisis… But, in comparison to typhoons, earthquakes and wars the education crisis is less noticeable. Its velocity is far more incremental. Its victims’ pain is much less visible. They, too, can tell countless stories of suffering and the scale of the damage is enormous.

She notes that global funding for education in developing countries has dropped in recent years, even as development aid overall has grown. Surely, she says, we can address the most visible, fast-moving emergencies just as we try to solve the longer-term crisis of education.

Too often, it seems, there is a tendency in the U.S. to take our eyes off the centrality of education. I say that with full respect of the many educators and education advocates who dedicate their lives to helping children learn in the U.S. But it’s striking how little attention education gets in our national public discourse. Except for some perfunctory utterances about the value of education to America’s future, our public office holders (and candidates) and pundits seemingly spend little time on the subject. And, too often, our school systems are struggling to provide the resources necessary to improve education outcomes for all.

That’s a lesson from this piece (that I helped develop and place) by John Gomperts of America’s Promise Alliance. Appearing in Washington Monthly earlier this week, the Op-Ed tells the story of Charlie Bird, an educator in the St. Louis Public Schools system whose job is to find students who have left school before graduation and coaxing them back to get their diploma. As Gomperts stresses:

Not surprisingly, young people living in challenging circumstances tend to be, by necessity, resilient and resourceful. But for many of them, resilience and resourcefulness are not enough to overcome the barriers they face. They require something that so many others their age take for granted: help from caring adults to reassure and guide them, steer them toward opportunity and keep them on track.

It’s a tough job that Bird performs by himself, one that almost lost its funding until groups like American Graduate mobilized St. Louis residents to make the case to continue its funding.

Save the Children Action Network is trying to do in the U.S. what many developing countries are also trying to put in place: early childhood education. Experts agree that early childhood education yields enormous long-term benefits for students and society as a whole. I was happy to have helped with this piece by Scott Hilliard, a county sheriff in New Hampshire, who notes:

Those of us in law enforcement will always be seeking new and more effective crime fighting approaches and more sophisticated tools and technologies to help us stay ahead of crime. But we know that even innovative, well-equipped police forces can only go so far to tame the problem. Ultimately, police are battling a symptom of a fundamental challenge, not its source. By supporting strong early childhood education today, we will be in a much better position to secure our communities in the future.

The good news is that so many prominent voices are speaking out. The question is, who is listening and taking action?

Jeff Weintraub

What It Takes to Promote Literacy Worldwide

literacyOn International Literacy Day, Alice Albright, CEO of Global Partnership for Education, my client, discusses how reading initiatives in developing countries are promoting literacy. It’s a piece I helped develop, and it draws on just a few of the projects that the Global Partnership makes possible around the world. According to estimates by UNESCO, 757 million adults and 115 million youth are illiterate.

Click here to see the full article.

The Unfinished Business of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Jay Ruderman (photo: Noam Galai)

My client, the Ruderman Family Foundation, is a leader in promoting greater inclusion of people with disabilities into aspects of society — schools, workplaces, religious life and many other public accommodations. So it was appropriate that Jay Ruderman, the president of the Foundation, and Congressman Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a leader in the disability advocacy community, teamed up to publish this piece about the 25th anniversary (on July 26) of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Op-Ed, which I had a hand in crafting, points out that the ADA brought about a revolution for the rights of people with disabilities in this country. In it, Ruderman and Langevin note that the ADA “provided that people with disabilities would no longer have to face discrimination in the workplace and in other accommodations, and it brought about a revolution in the nation’s built environment and telecommunications, providing greater accessibility for all.”

But, it adds, even after 25 years, the U.S. still has a long way to go to achieve full integration of people with disabilities into our schools, our workplaces and our communities.

Cong. Jim Langevin (photo: http://langevin.house.gov/)

“The misguided belief that people with disabilities are better off living and spending their days primarily with other people with disabilities, for example, is still far too prevalent across the country,” Ruderman and Langevin say, adding later that “people with disabilities – even those with clear and concrete capabilities – continue to face barriers to full and inclusive employment. Those who do have a job are too often segregated from their colleagues, where their contributions remain underestimated and underutilized. And many employers still lack a fundamental understanding of how to provide adequate accommodations – even simple and inexpensive ones – that increase access and enhance productivity in the workplace.”

The Last 15 Years in Global Education Show of Great Gains, Continued Challenges

Here’s a piece I wrote for the blog of (my client) the Global Partnership for Education, the leading multilateral organization promoting and supporting the development of primary education systems in developing countries around the world.

19145607229_283286d92f_kIt’s a summary of the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report, which noted advances in primary school net enrollment rates, decreases in the number of out-of-school students, rises in literacy rates for children and adults and a growing balance – and, in many countries and regions parity between girls and boys who go to and complete primary school.

At the same time, the UN report showed that the poorest children are still far less likely than there relatively well-off counterparts to receive an education. In many countries there are still large numbers of children who do not go to primary school at all and even more who go but do not finish.

“Despite enormous progress during the past 15 years,” the report concludes, “achieving universal primary education will require renewed attention in the post-2015 era, just as the global community seeks to extend the scope to universal secondary education….Interventions will have to be tailored to the needs of specific groups of children — particularly girls, children belonging to minorities and nomadic communities, children engaged in child labor and children living with disabilities, in conflict situations or in urban slums.”

To Achieve Development Goals, Strengthen Education Worldwide

sdgThis September, the United Nations will commit to the new Sustainable Development Goals, which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs outline a new and ambitious worldwide effort to reduce poverty and hunger, improve health, enable equality, protect the planet and much more.

To illustrate that point, my client, the Global Partnership for Education, called on me to help them spell out the prominent evidence that real progress on all 17 of the new SDGs is only possible if all children receive a quality education.

Click here to view the entire piece. The graphic above comes from globalgoals.org.

Clarify: Women Leading Push For Girls’ Education

On International Women’s Day, (my client) Global Partnership for Education recognizes in this post (with contributions by Weintraub Communications) 15 women who have helped promote girls’ education.

Two of those women, activist and philanthropist Graça Machel, and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg wrote in 2014: “In childhood and adolescence, too many girls are undernourished, stunted, denied education and forced into early marriages. This creates a gender disparity that threatens to undermine stability in future generations and must be addressed by policymakers.”

KidjoAnother, West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, (at left in photo) told Al-Jazeera: “The problem we are having today is that girls in some countries, in some traditions, are still seen as [a] commodity. Therefore, they can be kidnapped. They can be married. The only thing that I know as an African person that can transform my continent is girls’ education.”

And Ann Cotton, the founder of the Campaign for Female Education, or Camfed, said last year of girls’ education that “there is a feeling, a zeitgeist, a global awareness around this issue, and we have to take advantage of it.”

[Photo above from: https://twitter.com/BatongaTweets/status/256062348073238528/photo/1]

Amplify: Op-Ed on Value of Girls’ Education

julia-rwandaFormer Australian Prime Minister and Chair of (our client) the Global Partnership for Education just published this piece, which Weintraub Communications helped shape, in the WISE Ed Review. It coincides with the 2015 observance of International Women’s Day on March 8. She wrote:

“Over the last decade, there has been a substantial improvement in getting more children in school, and many nations have achieved or approached gender parity in their primary schools. But 31 million is still a staggering number, and it means that the task of bringing a quality education to girls in every corner of the world is still far from complete.

“…This year, as we refine and inaugurate the Sustainable Development Goals, we have a chance to inject new urgency into the agenda of educating more girls by expanding access to secondary school, improving quality and better responding when education is caught up in a crisis.

“Yes, that is going to take more money, but education is a high-return investment. There’s more than enough evidence to show that educating girls is not only transformational to girls themselves but to everyone around them. With education, a girl will be better positioned over her lifetime to help herself and her family move out of poverty and avoid the threats of disease. That makes for stronger women and more resilient families, communities, nations and the world.” 

Amplify: Op-Ed on Role of U.S. Foreign Aid in Fighting Extremism

Anthony Zinni (fromj "Anthony Zinni" by Unknown - http://www.usmc.mil/genbios2.nsf/working/65AB0DA17487377285256A40007188D3/$FILE/lowres.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Weintraub Communications had a hand in this Op-Ed by General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.) (right) the former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, and Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) (left, below) former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Both are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of (Weintraub Communications client) the US Global Leadership Coalition, a broad-based coalition of more than 400 businesses and NGOs that supports a smart power foreign policy. They wrote:

image_Stavridis_James“The important lessons we learned in our military careers is that countering the threats to our nation require comprehensive responses that utilize all our elements of national power – military and non-military. An indispensable part of the non-military toolkit is foreign aid – one of the least appreciated and yet vital means for advancing America’s interests around the world.

“Today’s battles require melding our military power with civilian efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and support the creation of well-functioning governance systems and civil society, build infrastructure, coalesce diverse nations around common goals, and promote economic development. In short, everything that is necessary to improve the long-term prospects of a nation and keep extremists from exploiting misery and desperation.”

(Zinni photo attribution.)

Amplify: Ebola and Education on the Radio

CBahWith Weintraub Communications’ help, Chernor Bah, a youth advocate for (client) the Global Partnership for Education and a co-founder of A World at School, appeared late last year on the Diane Rehm Show, a nationally syndicated public affairs program.

Amplify: Boko Haram’s Threat to Education in Nigeria

obaji.2Here’s a piece Weintraub Communications helped place in The Hill Newspaper for Philip Obaji, Jr., a youth advocate for (our client) the Global Partnership for Education) and the founder and general coordinator for the 1 GAME Campaign, which promotes basic primary education for vulnerable children in Nigeria. He wrote:

“During four days in late October, I was on a mission to encourage reluctant parents in Maiduguri to send their daughters to safe schools working through traditional leaders, youth leaders and the local media as facilitators. In those four days, I met girls who told me they were scared of returning to school because they fear they could be attacked by anyone, including their male teachers. Because of their ordeal in the hands of militants, some of whom they identified as neighbours, they are unwilling to trust anyone.

”’I don’t know where my next attacker could come from,’ a young girl told me. ‘I just don’t trust anyone, not even my teachers.’

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