Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
Developing Global Education
November 2015
In This Issue

Mindfulness for Young Children: Ideas for Parents and Teachers

Read the latest CEI Blog on STEAM: Repurpose, Redesign, and Upgrade

Looking for a 21st Century Curriculum Design and monitoring tool? Curriculum Crafter

C8 Sciences Blog - Ideas for Assisting Students with ADHD

Editor: Lauren Hamilton

2015 Center for Educational Improvement

Dear Educators,

What do you, your teachers, and your students know about education in other countries?  Do you have programs for intentional communication and sharing with students in other countries?  Do your students conduct research and investigations about learning in these countries?  As you study world culture and world history, what are you learning about schools in countries around the globe?

Wow! Ed  this month we share a few insights from two very atypical countries: India and North Korea. Both of these countries fall someplace between the realm of developing and industrialized nations.  People in both countries face poverty and starvation, yet both countries have advanced scientific knowledge and its practical application. Also this month, a look at global collaboration for service learning and the World Education Forum, a place for educators interested in international learning to share ideas and knowledge.
Technology, Innovations, and Education in India
By Amy Osborne, CEI Intern and Christine Mason 
Historically, India has been the home of many important scientific discoveries, including innovations such as the binary code, rulers, the decimal system, and the quadratic formula. According to Indian scientist Narasimha (2011), "the numeral system common today-the closest we have to a universal language-comes from India is well known. The idea of zero and its integration into the place-value system, which enabled one to write numbers no matter how large using only ten symbols, originated in India." What role does education play in advancing science, scientific thinking, and innovation in India? Let's begin by considering some of India's recent scientific achievements.

India's Space Frontier 
 Recently India has become known for its IT services. Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India and Hyderbad, Microsoft's technology center in India, is a major technology hub. India is also a base for such innovations as the Mangalyaan- developed by the Indian Space Research Organization as part of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). On September 24th, 2014, in an unprecedented technological feat, Mangalyaan went into orbit around Mars. The 2,980-lb 'Mars Craft,' as it is called in Hindi, consisted of just five instruments, which allowed it to carry out studies on atmosphere, particle environment, and surface imaging. Due to the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to launch a follow-up mission, Mangalyaan 2, to Mars between 2018 and 2020. (TIME, 2014)
In the years prior to Mangalyaan (2008-2009 to be specific), the ISRO's first dedicated lunar mission with the lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 provided one of India's most notable contributions to modern space exploration-the discovery of water molecules in the moon's lunar soil. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, an imaging spectrometer, on Chandrayaan-1 detected the molecules on September 24, 2009. (Singh, 2013)

Challenges and Advances in Indian Education
How can India be responsible for high-tech innovations such as those in the realm of space exploration and yet still be considered a "developing" nation? How does education facilitate such innovations? One of the major challenges that India currently faces is how to lift 450 million people out of poverty and have them participate in the country's economic development. Currently, there is a strong divide between the impoverished and the wealthy.

India is a particularly interesting nation in that it is still considered "developing" with roughly 42% of the population living on approximately $1.25 USD a day. An estimated 20% of the country is reasonably well off with access to modern technology and central universities. What makes India so fascinating is that, despite its sizeable portion of impoverished citizens, the world has seen some incredible contributions in the form of science and technologies from India.

L. S. Shashidhara, a Professor and Coordinator of Biology at the Indian Institute of Science and Research, (2011) indicates that the "Indian education system, like in many other spheres of our society, is at the cross-roads trying to find a way to enhance the number and quality of future academic as well as industrial researchers of the country, while still maintaining a socialist approach to educate large masses of relatively underprivileged people." In other words, how can the education system in India serve a diverse community - a community with diverse backgrounds, varying degrees of readiness to learn, and varying goals for their educational outcomes?

Since the turn of the 21st century, there have been several Indian initiatives proposed to help the country face future challenges by creating high-caliber researchers. Some of these initiatives include:  
  • The creation of a large number of broad education centers, including:
    • IISERs [Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research
    •  NISER [National Institutes of Science Education and Research]
    • IITs [India Institutes of Technology]
    • NIPERs [National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research
  • Establishment of specialized centers of research and education in space technology, defense technology, translational research, biotechnology and stem cell biology
  • Expansion of existing institutes such as IITs, IISc and TIFR. The latter two would soon be initiating undergraduate education programs." (Shashidhara, 2011)
The Indian Education System
When India gained its independence, the nation's literacy rate was as low as 12%. India has made progress in terms of increasing elementary education attendance rates and has expanded literacy to roughly 75% of the population. Under the Indian Constitution, free and compulsory education is provided as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14. However, there are a wide array of private schools and only the poorest students attend the public schools. A fair measure of the success of the Indian system must consider private as well as public education.

Implications for India's Education and Future
While India is producing technology specialists and engineers, it is also criticized for its emphasis on rote learning and failure to stimulate critical thinking (Rao, 2014). There is a recent push to bring mobile science labs to schools so that students can have hands-on, activity-based experiences. While short-term success is being reported, further monitoring is needed to understand its overall influence on education in India.

Beyond mobile labs, what else is needed to advance education and enhance the role of education in India in stimulating economic growth and also advancing literacy in this industrialized, "developing" country? What will India learn from Finland, Korea, China, the US and other countries? How will India adopt and adapt the educational innovations and practices to fit with its resources, culture, and needs? Texts could be written (and probably have been) on each of these issues. Needless to say, the problems and barriers are many and complex, and the answers are not simple. Yet, mobile labs seem like a very good place to begin.

Narasimha, R.(2011). Math, science, and technology in India: From the Ancient to the Recent. Asia Society.
Shashidhara, L. (2011, June 15). Science education and research in 21st Century India. India Bioscience. 
Singh, A. (2013, September 18). 15 Indian inventions and discoveries that shaped the modern world - Part 2. Huffington Post. 
TIME. (2014, November 20). These are the 25 best inventions of 2014. Time.
World Bank. (2015). India. World Bank. 
Education in North Korea
Donald Kim, CEI Intern
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known as North Korea, is a country marked by controversy. The country Korea was divided after the second world war in 1945, and in 1948 separate governments were formed. In 1950, The Korean War began and ended in a stalemate - this solidified the separation of the two countries, which continues now. From that point on, there have been scares, threats, and everything in between. The government is characterized as a totalitarian dictatorship, in which the family of Kim Il-Sung holds immense power over the nation. Most know how the Kim family's power affects military, but how does it affect the education?

Interesting Facts about North Korean Education. Education in North Korea is free, and the literacy rate is currently at 99%. Estimates from 2005 cite that there are a total of around 8 million students from nursery school through college.  There is definitely an emphasis on education paired with volunteer labor within the country.  After the Korean War, many people left for South Korea - leaving North Korea without a large amount of skilled technicians.  This began a large effort to create a successful system of education.  With all the humanitarian criticism that has surrounded the country, it seems odd that education seems so adequate. 
Obedient, Unitary, and Subservient. However, all is not well within the education system.  Students in primary school are taught to act in a singular manner - obedient, unitary, and subservient to the greater good.  Children commit Kim's speeches to memory for recitation and learn the communist moral system. 
A few years ago, in the summer of 2012, I met a student named Evan Kim at Virginia's Governor's School for Science, Math, and Technology.  He and his family escaped North Korea while he was young, and he now lives in the United States.  He spoke of his childhood, and his experiences in school - students were to consider the Kim family almost at the level of a god.  The outstanding students were the ones who were most reverent of the Kim family and the values taught. 
Evan Kim's perceptions of education in North Korea are supported by others. According to report from the U.S. Library of Congress"On completion of the 11-year compulsory program, which ends around the age of 15 or 16, most young women go to work, either on farms or in local factories, and most males begin their obligatory military service." (Worden, 2008). Those that go onto higher education face another wave of Kim studies - they often spend more time studying Kim's ideologies opposed to the sciences. And very little time is spent learning social sciences. The schools lack teachers for foreign language, social sciences, and most things except for science, music, drama, and technical skills for labor.

Western Influence. Despite the dismal state of education in North Korea there is still hope; there are universities - such as the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) -that are funded by western institutions like churches.  In the late nineteenth and twentieth century Christian missionaries established schools to teach Western curricula.  PUST, which was established in 2010, provides education that aims to modernize the students, and eventually the country.  It is difficult for instructors, for they are dealing with student lives that are almost completely conditioned by propaganda.  In addition, access to online and sometimes offline learning materials are restricted and censored - no form of social media or international news are accessible.  But students are learning English and those graduating from the PUST program have new skills and ideas that could change the future of the country.
Worden, R L., ed. (2008). North Korea: A country study. Washington, DC: GPO for the Library of Congress.
An Imperative for Quality Education for ALL Students
Mary Kay Sommers, Ph.D, NAESP Past President and Secretary/Treasurer World Education Forum in the United States 
Imagine having this conversation with a 9-year-old girl living in South Africa. Her father was murdered and her mom died of AIDS. She is now an orphan living in challenging conditions. She shares her only desire with you: I just want to go to school! Netherland's Ton Duif, past president of World Education Forum, shared these real experiences with educational leaders in US, Canada and Europe. Can educators make a difference?

UN Millennium Goal. Most governments and some agencies identify the percentage of children who are attending school. The United Nations Millennium Goal 2, whereby all children will be able to complete primary school by 2015, reports governmental data showing developing regions have reached 91% attendance. Michelle Obama recently reported that 62 million girls aren't going to school. There is much evidence that when a country educates its girls, it is more likely to have better economic development and perhaps a better chance for a more peaceful existence.

How the schools operate is not defined in these reports. The most questionable quality schools are most likely found in developing and "in conflict" countries. Unfortunately, there are schools in the United States, as in other countries, that do not provide similar programs and resources as found in other parts of that city or state. Having quality and equitable schools for all students appears to be an international issue.

World Education Forum. The World Education Forum is a growing international organization that is not government-based, but educator-initiated, and is built upon a belief that the voice of educators is often missing in these government initiatives. We believe educators could have a more influential impact on the changes needed to support educators and students in these situations, both in the United States as well as with our international colleagues.

While attending the International Confederation of Principals in Toronto, Canada, I spoke with principals from Kenya. They were rightfully proud of the accomplishments they'd made and frustrated with inconsistent attendance and the lack of quality resources. The most common factors impacting attendance included fear for safety, inability to purchase uniforms or school lunch, walking distance, and the conflicting needs of taking care of the animals and siblings at home. Similarly, my experience in Tanzania also identified the same factors impacting attendance at school.

Ethiopian Schools. My colleague Michael Schooler, Elementary Head at an international school in Ethiopia, shared his direct observations of the local schools. Teachers have class sizes of 45-60 students with no resources of any kind. Students attend 4 hours for one of the 2 or 3 shifts. Few schools have libraries, which often remain locked for fear of theft. Principals and administrators appear more as political positions, for they must respond first as government employees.

Picture a small dark classroom without electricity, 60 students sitting on a bench, each holding 8 students with a table in front of them. The teacher is in the front writing on an old chalkboard, lecturing while students copy what is written if they have supplies. They may have one textbook to share. Students vary in ages since they often drop out and may return later. If they don't pass the 8th grade exam, they can no longer attend school.

Is there a value in having all children educated? I personally believe that is not only true but also a moral imperative for all citizens in our changing, global world.

Here's one example. Gebisa Ejeta lived in Ethiopia, and his mom personally saw the value of having an education. As a young child, he walked 10 miles each way, to and from school. He worked so hard he was invited to attend the secondary school. His skills and dedication became influential enough to invite him to college in the United States to study agriculture. He wanted to make a difference for his country. Gebisa developed new food varieties that enabled more food to be produced in his home country. Gebisa is now an internationally acclaimed plant geneticist and was awarded the 2009 World Food Prize. What if he couldn't attend school? Imagine a child in Kenya today who is not able to attend school yet possesses the innate ability and motivation to find the cure for cancer.

Network of International Colleagues. We are creating a network with our international colleagues for our continued support of quality and equitable schools in every nation. With educators supporting each other, we believe we can make a difference in our world. If you are interested in the non-profit World Education Forum in the United States, please contact me at

As Nelson Mandela said, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." 
Service Learning in Developing Countries
By Katie Delis, CEI Intern 
Learning in the twenty-first century requires global consciousness. Infusing curriculum and instruction with global consciousness and multicultural education can occur within any classroom. However, international service learning is an enriching opportunity to pair academic learning with immersion in a new culture. 

As professors at George Washington University have indicated in a summary of service learning, students who participate in service learning benefit in many ways. In that report, they reference the research of Janet Eyler.
  • Service-learning has a positive effect on interpersonal development, the ability to work well with others, and leadership and communication skills.
  • Service-learning has a positive effect on sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills
  • Students and faculty report that service-learning improves students' ability to apply what they have learned in the "real world."
Substantial research has also indicated that k-12
students participating in service learning have better high school attendance records, become more engaged in their own learning, and develop critical thinking skills. 

Many universities and non-profits provide programs for individuals to travel to developing countries to help meet a local need in tandem with academic outcomes.  The University of Georgia compiled a
 research survey to explore the essential elements of global service learning.  Some of the key elements follow:  
  • Orientation to local culture. Service learning programs work best when educators, community members, community leaders and students share mutual respect. Many successful programs prepare their students by orienting them to the community's culture, history and socioeconomic realities before leaving for the new country.
  • Satisfies a need defined by the community. It is vitally important that the community benefits from student participation. Research and experience demonstrate that the communities themselves are best qualified to define what service will be most useful. So, effective service learning programs maintain a collaborative, open relationship with the community being served so that community needs are truly met. Some ways educators can establish quality service learning partnerships include understanding expected academic outcomes, knowing the community and agencies to be served, and knowing students' academic needs.
  • Application of knowledge. While the locations provide an enriching setting for cultural immersion, meeting student learning goals are of primary importance. Students should be able to better understand their learning goals after having participated in their service learning experience.
  • Reflection on experiences. Global service learning trips often evoke powerful emotions from students, including gratitude, homesickness, culture shock and dissonance between home reality and the community reality. Effective global service learning provides students with ways to reflect on their experiences and educators who are capable of helping them process their experiences. Some effective tools are journals, guided questions, and regular discussion. 
Options and Shared Experiences. Travel to other countries provides one important venue for service learning; however, this takes substantial coordination and collaboration. Other less intensive and less expensive possibilities abound. Students can connect via email or video conferencing with students in other countries, first learning about the students and their needs and then collecting donations or school supplies to send to students.  Or connections can begin with joint academic projects and dialogue, sharing results from experiments and learning about the other's culture.  Sometimes service learning projects emerge only after this initial shared experience.
While these and other guidelines for creating and implementing global service learning programs are available, no two programs are identical because no two communities are mirror reflections of each other. Establishing a great program from the start, however, can lead to sustainable community outcomes and a partnership that creates future service learning experiences.
When the community outcomes mirror student academic goals, all persons involved - students, educators, and community members -  benefit from global service learning. As educators, let us consider if and how global service learning can enhance our students' academic and global education.

Eyler, Janet S., et al. (2003). "At a glance : What we know about the effects of service-learning on college students, faculty, institutions, and communities, 1993-2000,"  in Campus Compact, Introduction to service-learning toolkit: Readings and resources for faculty. Second Edition. Providence, RI:  Brown University, pp. 15-19.
Learning & Giving Thanks

November. The Holidays are upon us. By now students have settled in for the year and teachers are into their stride as rules and routines have been established. At CEI we believe this is a good time to turn our vision outward, to expand our learning beyond our borders.  Take time this month to learn something about another country, its education, its students. And as you do this, pause . . . give thanks . . . thanks for what we have and what we can do.

Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement