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June 9th, 2008
Are All Children at the Same Starting Gate?

Introductory Activity (one class period):

Distribute one sheet of 8″ x 11″ paper and colored markers or pencils to each student. Invite the students to step back in time to recall and reflect on their very first day of school (kindergarten age). Ask them to draw or create some type of visual snapshot of that day. Have students post their work around the classroom. Instruct the class to visit each visual and take notes on their similarities. Divide students into pairs or triads to discuss and synthesize their notes. (Note: Modify for older students, if they are not keen on drawing. They might instead create a chart of their experiences and impressions.) Ask each group to report on what students seem to remember about their first day of school.

Discuss with students why these memories stand out and outline the expectations associated with them. Prompt discussion with questions such as:

  • When and where did their anticipation and expectations begin?
  • What role did their home lives (parents, resources, etc.) play in these feelings?
  • What did they innately understand about school even at a young age?

Have students further expound on what their expectations about education have been and continue to be since their first day of school. For example, has there ever been any doubt about their continued education, at least until high school? Do many expect to go to college? Discuss with students the value and role of mandatory and universal education in the United States.

Have students think about the status of education in other developed and developing nations.

Point students to the BACK TO SCHOOL interactive map, which they will interpret (which nations are represented, why so many children are not in school, etc.)

Share with them the following statistics; have them discuss what the information says about education in developing nations:

  • Over 90 million children worldwide do not attend primary school; another 150 million children will drop out before they finish elementary school.
  • There are many reasons children do not attend school. Some of the most common barriers include: school fees, child labor, poor school quality, health crises such as HIV/AIDS, discrimination, and conflict.
  • Nearly 75 percent of the world’s out-of-school children live in South or West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Over 40 million out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Studies find that 100 million girls currently enrolled in school will drop out before completing primary education.
  • Providing girls with one extra year of education beyond the average can boost wages by up to 20 percent and reduce infant mortality by 5 to 10 percent.
  • The ability to attend school is only the first challenge; quality of school is also important. In some places, there may be as many as 100 to 150 children in each classroom and not enough teachers or supplies.

Activity 1: A Bird’s-Eye View (two to three classroom sessions)

Build on students’ discussion in the Introductory Activity to introduce BACK TO SCHOOL. Explain to students that they will delve into specific children’s educational experiences in various nations.

Distribute the worksheet Contributing Factors. Show “Open and Afghanistan,” Part I of BACK TO SCHOOL (Or, if so desired, choose another segment; the purpose is to have students begin identifying factors that contribute to children’s educational experiences. Part I is a good introduction, but other clips are as useful.) Ask students to look at the worksheet instructions and to take notes about contributing factors on a separate sheet of paper as they watch the film.

After the viewing, discuss the segment with the students: gauge their reaction, what they learned, how what they viewed jibes with some of their initial thoughts about education in developing nations, etc. Divide students into groups of three. Have the groups discuss the film and complete the Contributing Factors worksheet. Invite each group to share its findings.

Divide the class into small groups, at least two groups for each of the three remaining film episodes featuring the children. Groups should watch their assigned segments and again take notes to add to the worksheet (other factors not identified in the first segment). Each group should also write a brief synopsis of their segments. Have each group present its synopsis and the added worksheet factors. (There will be overlap, which is fine.)

Distribute the worksheet Comparing & Contrasting Factors. Have students complete this as a class. Allow their findings to segue into a discussion about the possibility of ensuring equal and quality education for all children, regardless of where they live. What do they deem possible? What will be the persistent obstacles?

Activity 2: Workable Improvement Strategies? (2 to 3 classroom periods)

Ask students to think about possible ways to improve global education. What would it take to do this on national and international levels? Who would be involved? How could such an undertaking be accomplished?

Provide students with the basics of the UNA-USA Millennium Goals Have them review how the issue of education is being tackled

Point students to other efforts (see Web Resources) and invite them to research other initiatives. (Students may work in groups or individually.)

Have students generate a list of projects/programs centered on universal primary education. Compile and synthesize the lists. Divide students into pairs; assign each pair a different program set and instruct them to select three programs to focus on. Have the pairs learn more about the programs and analyze their impact.

Their analyses should recognize themes regarding success and challenges that should frame thoughts about what will best foster the UNA-USA Millennium Goals. Pairs can offer their strategies and projections through oral presentations, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, webinars, etc. The class may discuss or debate strategies and projections.

Culminating Activity
(3 to 5 classroom periods for project brainstorm and design; additional time required for implementation and continuation, to be decided by students and their teacher)

Tell students that they have an opportunity to develop a class project that would support education enhancement in developing nations. To jumpstart project brainstorming, show them the BACK TO SCHOOL clip “Kenya Krew.” Then, point them to information about current efforts, such as the Global Campaign for Education, as well as to WIDE ANGLE’s BACK TO SCHOOL Take Action section Students may also research other sites for project ideas. Encourage them to build on existing efforts and/or to partner with national, international, or even local organizations promoting educational opportunities.

Divide students into small project teams. Allow the teams to spend at least one class session on research and project brainstorming. Then they should submit a list of ideas for review and feedback (support projects that are easier to undertake, such as sending supplies or adopting a school or student).

Select a project that the class will undertake. Students create a project abstract/proposal, outlining goals and strategies toward achieving them (perhaps prepare guidelines or a template). By the end of the fourth or fifth session, students should have contacts, role assignments, etc., in place to begin implementation past this point.

Students might keep a project journal to note progress, ideas, etc.

Extension Activities

Social Science/Social Studies: Students can research the status of girls’ education around the world or in select developed and developing nations. They can create Country Cards (similar to the BACK TO SCHOOL Kids Cards Students compare and contrast their cards, and recommend global policies that will address gender gaps in education.

Mathematics: Students can generate a mandatory universal education expenditure rate for developing nations. This would involve analysis of rates in various countries; consideration of financial contributions from developing nations; an examination of what students need beyond the basics to succeed in school; a review of nations’ economic status, etc.

Language Arts: Students conduct interviews of classmates from other countries to learn about and document their educational experiences. (Students may also interview newly arrived Americans, student/parent caregivers, etc.) Students create a book that profiles these experiences.

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