Monthly Archives: October 2015

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What Schools Need and What They Don’t

Recently, it seems like educational systems face increased scrutiny. Global testing reveals the strengths and weaknesses of departments of education, schools, administrators, teachers, and students around the globe. For the last 50 years the world has focused on building “schools” and increasing enrollment in developing countries. But have we actually improved learning? Do students leave school prepared to make a productive contribution to the community, to society?

According to Lant Pritchett, “schooling ain’t learning.” In his book, The Rebirth of Education:  Schooling Ain’t Learning, Mr. Pritchett proposes that we have done a good job of building school buildings and the infrastructures of departments of education but have not actually improved achievement. He makes many compelling points.

In well-intentioned efforts organizations have focused on building schools and infrastructure. We have assumed that if there’s a school, then there’s learning. Unfortunately, that assumption has not been culturally informed. We have brought our own culture of a love of education and forced it into the word “school” thinking it would just happen. But it hasn’t.

In many developing countries (if not most), education sits low on the priority list for national funding. As a result, a mentality has developed that “We don’t have enough resources, therefore our schools are ineffective.” Until we have more inputs (desks, chalk, books) we can’t have successful schools.

In one sense that rings true. I would have to agree that when three students share one very old, poorly written textbook, the likelihood of learning wanes. But, if those same three students had high quality textbooks but a teacher who taught only by rote methods, they would still not achieve at acceptable levels.

The “inputs” represent the “low hanging fruit,” a quick, tangible fix with some money and very little dirtying of the hands. However, international organizations have thrown money at developing countries for decades with little to show for it in terms of measurable achievement.

This brings us to the heart of EduCAN. We believe that communities want their children to learn, to achieve, and to produce for the community. We also believe that teachers exist in nearly every school who want their students to advance in real ways.

Every workshop I’ve done in a developing country, the teachers devour whatever information we present. Their hunger for new ideas, strategies, and methods of teaching drives them to engage, come early, and stay late!

We at EduCAN want to be a catalyst for those who want to get past the “throw money at it” approach and actually get their hands dirty. We want to serve alongside passionate local educators who dream of making a difference in their school.

We want to see training and a culture of professional development in every school. We want to see educators connecting to share best practices, challenge each other, and strategize for the good of their students and communities. We want to see the existing resources of communities brought together for the good of educating their children.

Let’s dream of a time where “schooling IS learning!”


Join us in making a difference for educators in hard places.