When thousands of people from government, civil society, affected communities, academia and the private sector gathered in Istanbul, Turkey recently for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit, a pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place.
"A pivotal moment for education in emergencies took place."
A new fund to better coordinate and deliver education in emergencies was launched, called "Education Cannot Wait."
"Education is typically at the periphery of emergency response efforts," says Gemma Terry a Community Manager for Social Innovation at Pearson.
"Normally, education receives around 2-percent of humanitarian aid," she says. "Shelter, food, and water are always at the top—for good reason."
"Now, more people are starting to see the importance of education in these conflict situations," Gemma says.
That's nearly a quarter of the world's school age children.
From that number, 75 million children—aged between 3 to 18 years old—are in desperate need of educational support.
The new education crisis fund Education Cannot Wait has already raised more than 80 million dollars from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, the European Commission, and others.
UN education envoy Gordon Brown told reporters when the fund was announced:
“This is a lost generation we must help urgently. We live in a world where refugee needs are not temporary, with many spending more than a decade out of country. ... For too long we have neglected the education of young people in conflict zones, at the cost of making youth the recruits for terrorist groups and their parents the most likely to leave and seek a better future for their children in Europe or America."
"If children who have to leave their homes because of conflict are able to receive an education," Gemma Terry says, "the hope is that they're better equipped with the knowledge and skills to go back and rebuild their country."
"Finally, people are seeing how important education is in conflict zones," she says. "Finally, it's a priority."
Pearson is partnering with Save the Children for the ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and innovate new solutions to help improve the delivery of education in emergency and conflict-affected settings. As part of this partnership, Pearson and Save the Children worked together on advocacy activities at the World Humanitarian Summit to raise awareness of the urgency around improving education for children affected by conflict. LearnED wrote about this partnership in an earlier story, "Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees."
"All of us in education are concerned about better preparing students for the workplace," says LeeAnne Fisher, Assistant Vice President for Associations, Government, and Career Pathways at Pearson.
"Employers—even the statistics—tell us that there is a major skills and training gap," she says.
Consider the burgeoning field of sustainability—for undergraduates and graduates.
"Many four-year public colleges have already recognized that courses in sustainability across a variety of disciplines is a necessary component of academics," LeeAnne says.
"They understand its importance for students to apply the concepts to business, the trades, the hospitality industry, the culinary arts, even healthcare," she says. "Even companies now understand that sustainability is not just a socially positive movement, it's also profitable for the bottom line."
"But students taking courses in sustainability still graduate without the professional readiness to have an impact right away in the workplace," LeeAnne says.
A Smoother Employment Pathway
That's different for students at Everglades University in Boca Raton, Florida.
The school already had a robust sustainability program.
Now, through Pearson's partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the University now offers courses approved by the USGBC that offer successful graduates a foundation in the field of sustainability.
"And with over 700 business partners associated with the USGBC in Florida," LeeAnne says, "we've also paved an easier pathway to employment for these graduates."
A Bigger Coursework Footprint
"When we first started talking with our colleagues at Everglades University," LeeAnne says, "they figured they would apply these courses simply to their curriculum in construction.
"Over time, they decided to make sure ALL their students would take an introductory course in sustainability—from the construction management programs to environmental policy and management to business and alternative medicine," she says. "It's now a general education requirement."
Monika Kondura is a course instructor at Everglades who says "the content provided a nice foundation."
"The material was comprehensive, up-to-date and no student seemed to have problems understanding the content," she says.
An Easier, Better Way
"If you don't have a program like this in your college or university," LeeAnne says, "then a student has less options and preparation to step into the growing number of green jobs requiring sustainability education, training, and certification."
"Today's students know that they need better pathways to employers," LeeAnne says. "Grades don't carry the weight they once carried. Students—and employers—are looking for something that can set job applicants apart, like a professional certification."
"Rather than blaming or fixing," Kendra says, "the point to all of this is that there is a benefit to learning about the differences between how men and women engage with on another and with their jobs."
Be Gender Intelligent is designed to address a spectrum of workplace challenges. It tackles everything from gender intelligent performance reviews to office interactions to client work to promotions to team collaboration.
"This learning is different," Kendra says, "It is underpinned by neuroscience and borne in of very practical ways at work."
Kendra says this process helps people get "unstuck."
(Gender inequity) is a reality of where we find ourselves as modern workplaces, a problem that is complex and intricate, a quandary that neither men nor women alone can solve. It is also a challenge that no one company can fix, no matter how large, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how gender intelligent. It is a collective problem, and we're working to help offer a collective solution.
Learning that Pays Off
The Gender Intelligence Group, led by Barbara Annis, reports that learning about gender intelligence actually helps a company's bottom line:
"A leading credit card services company saw collections increase by 85-percent through changes in the way its call center approached clients."
"A west coast technology company increased the percentage of women on their sales team and saw the revenue with their small and medium size accounts grow by $850 million."
"A well-known financial services firm saw increased retention of female clients through using more gender intelligent language."
Behaviors That Begin in the Classroom
"The research into gender intelligence is not just about men and women at work," Kendra says. "It's also about how boys and girls learn in a classroom setting."
"A boy student might be staring into space, looking out a window," Kendra says. "Teachers might respond negatively to that this might just be his brain recharging. He may need that time to look out the window so that he can learn more effectively."
Advice to Parents
"It all begins with the understanding that our brains are different," Kendra says. "Ask kids about how they're thinking and feeling, as opposed to expecting them to see or behave in the world the way you see or behave in the world."
"It's about not trying to force young students into a tight box—and making our learning for them as flexible and agile as possible."
Nicholas is a couple of months away from graduation at the University of Toronto with a degree in political science.
Years earlier, Christian went straight to college out of high school.
Nicholas—after visiting a few colleges as a high school senior—told his parents one day: "I don't think I'm quite ready."
Talking About a Year Off
From her Pearson office in Toronto, Amanda recalls being skeptical at first.
"Neither his father nor I were on board," she says. "We were worried that he wouldn't ever go back to college."
"But after talking to him," Amanda says, "we began to understand that he had a plan. He was able to read himself better than us."
More Prepared for College
Nicholas had been a standout tennis player in high school. He'd even been offered a tennis scholarship to attend college.
"He wasn't sure if he was ready to dive in to tennis like he'd been doing," Amanda says. "He wanted to take some time off, work on his SAT scores, and think things through."
"He worked during his time before college and realized he'd rather coach tennis than play tennis," Amanda says. "So with new aspirations to study education and political science, he managed to get in to a great university and really apply himself in a way that I thought he never could."
Students Needing Clarity, With No Time to Find It
"There's such inertia for high school students to go to college," says Abby Falik, founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year. The organization offers high school graduates a solution to the inertia:
"It’s called a bridge year, a Global Citizen Year, which is an international immersion designed to give high school graduates perspective, confidence and purpose prior to college. A bridge year is a real world classroom – no walls, no textbooks…just life through a global lens."
"Without an experience like this," Abby says, "so many students have no time to pause and reflect and understand who they are and what they care about."
"They get to the end of college," she says, "and they're still unclear about what to do next."
The Global Citizen Year Approach
"I hate the term 'gap year,'" Abby says. "It's not a gaping hole in someone's life. We need to reframe the metaphor to better reflect what the year, when used constructively, can be: a 'bridge year' or a 'launching pad.'"
"We all have a comfort zone," Abby says. "We have a panic zone as well. In between the two is the 'stretch zone' where real learning happens."
"For a lot of kids, being stretched is simply getting out of the classroom which inevitably leads to questions about who we are and who we're becoming," she says.
"The unifying theme for our programs is that kids get the most out of their bridge year if they start with the end in mind," Abby says. "What are the questions they want to answer at the end of the year?"
"And at the end of the year," she says, "we want them to arrive at a whole new set of questions to guide their college education—and beyond."
Bundling Bridge Years Into College Degree Programs
Abby hopes that this kind of approach to bridge years can be a part of re-thinking higher education.
"I'm convinced my kids will not go to a traditional four-year college," she says.
"How can we integrate deep experiential learning into higher education?" Abby asks. "Can the concept of a bridge year be bundled in to what leads up to a college degree?"
Abby says this approach has to be designed to address traditional criticisms about access and privilege.
"That's why 80-percent of our Fellows get financial aid and a third of them are given full, need-based funding," Abby says. "
"The whole system has to benefit all kinds of students."
Needing Time to Grow Up
For Amanda Murray, she's equally proud of both her sons.
"Don't think that Nicholas' brother, Christian, didn't have his own zig zags along the way," Amanda says. "They've both been successful even though they've done things very differently."
"Both of them needed—and found the time—to pause and grow up in their own ways," she says.