By Hamza Mounhi
By Hamza Mounhi
Morocco World News
Ahmedabad, India, February 23, 2013
“Ask me my three main priorities for government, and I tell you: education, education, education” Tony Blair, 1997
During those recent years, the succeeding governments have done a great job drafting strategies to develop key sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, logistics, high technology etc. Helped with a bunch of consultants, our officials were able to provide us with nice PowerPoints and ambitious objectives.
However, there is one reality which might make all this apparent effort useless: “Education, Education, Education” as phrased by Blair more than a decade ago.
In fact, there exists a strong positive correlation between the educational level and the economical growth and prosperity of a nation. Developing strategies is useless unless you prepare the adequate manpower to take them further. And in this field, our failure is patent.
We can recall a set of reason to explain the current facts. We lack the physical infrastructure, and we do not enough teachers. Additionally, after the IMF help (sic) in the 80s which led to structural adjustments (yes, call it help for development), investments in education became more and more scarce. Now, nearly 30 years after the IMF intervention, the whole discussions are about reforming education and more precisely curricula and programs.
When we talk about improving the economy, we mainly refer to providing the adequate skills to youth so that we avoid “skill shortage” in high-growing industries. In order to acquire “professional skills”, one has to have strong fundamentals (communication skills, comprehension skills, understanding of basic maths and physics etc.). And here resides our plea; for many students across all levels, there is a great gap between their theoretical level and their real level. For example, you might find a child at 5th Grade who can barely write his name or read correctly a sentence.
Our policy-makers are certainly aware of these issues and are working toward finding a solution. However, as all the reforms, it will certainly take time, a lot of time and the results are uncertain. On the other hand, the economy is impatient and will hence not forgive us for the delay. We call ourselves a developing nation that can barely achieve 3% growth rate.
India shares the same problematic. Education is not the field where they have been the most successful, yet there is innovation.
Today I will tell the story of an amazing NGO called Pratham which has found the right panacea to reduce the gap between the real and the theoretical level.
They started in 1994 working with urban poor in the slums of Mumbai and expanded to cover almost all India. Pratham’s mission is to foster education at the grass root level. Their main activity is to organize schooling camps for urban and rural poor during which free tutoring is conducted according to the kids’ “real level”.
The camps are organized on weekends and holidays and the programs are multi-level/multi-subject. For example, a kid who is in 5th grade but has the level of English of 3rd grade and the level of math of 4th grade will attend classes in the respective level for each subject. Hence, he is able to follow and progress. Small tests are conducted to determine accurately the kid’s levels.
Besides, rather than the boring teaching methods of classical schools, Pratham has adopted the new concept of “Activity-based learning” and is the first entity to deploy it at a large scale. The idea is to make the experience of learning enjoyable. Kids learn while playing. When I visited one of their camps, one class was playing the “game of buying from the market” where kids were given cards representing money and were asked to buy several items, the objective was to make them learn numbers and basic arithmetic operations.
Last year, Pratham reached 2 million children in rural India. Its activities involve 62, 000 trained volunteers and 48, 000 teachers. Social innovation has its own magic.
A final year student at HEC Paris, Hamza El Mounhi is now completing his education in India at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. He is very interested in development issues, focusing mainly on education, healthcare and social entrepreneurship. In his articles, he will bring to us India’s successful innovations in these fields and see to which extent they can present a solution to Morocco’s challenges. He is also a blogger and has been active member of several associations and NGOs. He writes also in French and has his own blog (http://indiaandmorocco.wordpress.com/). Email: [email protected]
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