While millions of girls around the world do not have access to schooling, there are also millions more girls and boys attending school but failing to learn even basic reading and math. However, there is nothing inevitable about this learning crisis. High-quality learning for girls and young people in developing countries is possible and doable. In fact, there is a broad range of evidence showing what works to support quality learning for both girls and boys.
Hiring Good and Engaging Teachers
A first and critical step to assuring that a girl has a high-quality learning experience is to have enough qualified teachers who attend school regularly and engage students in their lessons.
Having a good teacher is equivalent to an average gain in learning of one school year; having a great teacher is equivalent to 1.5 years of learning; but having a weak teacher means mastering less than half of the expected subject content.
Improving How Teachers Teach
Training teachers is important and especially effective when paired with interventions to improve the conditions in which teachers teach, including continuous professional sup- port and opportunities for further training and qualification.
In Liberia, a program that trained teachers how to teach reading improved students' reading performance, particularly for girls. At the end of the program, the additional training and support tripled girls' reading fluency.
Aligning The Curriculum With Student Needs
Teaching a standard curriculum to a class of students who are at different levels leaves many students behind. Providing more personalized, focused attention based on what each student is struggling with is a more effective way to boost student learning.
For example, in India, a program that provided 2 hours a day of small-group tutoring for students who were behind in specific subjects increased test scores for all students in the class but especially for those who were farthest behind.
Cultivating Soft Skills
Research shows that what has traditionally been considered “soft skills”—such as communication, collaboration, grit, and creativity—may be some of the most crucial skills for girls and boys to master who are at different levels leaves many students behind in their life and work. Soft skills have similar if not higher returns to hard skills. For example, an increase in the index of a person's self-control and motivation is associated with a 14 percent wage premium 20 years later.
Sustaining high-quality education for girls requires involving members of the community like parents and community leaders. Some community engagement practices that improve school quality for girls include explicit agreements with communities to educate girls as well as boys, increasing communities' influence over teacher hiring and school management, and creating partnerships between communities and governments operating schools.
For example, in Indonesian schools that involve village councils and community members in their school committees, teachers spend an average of one extra hour at work each day. Parents of children in these schools spend nearly one and a half more hours helping their children with their homework each week. And, students score significantly higher on their exams, particularly girls in math.
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