Drawing on their expertise in mobile learning (m-learning), EDC staff members will present several innovative ideas at the second annual mEducation Alliance International Symposium. The conference, which will focus on using mobile technologies to improve literacy and job skills and create partnerships, will be held September 5–7 in Washington, D.C.
Why he’s leaving: Mike Laflin, 65, has retired as senior vice president at Education Development Center, where he oversaw international-development programs. He had worked for the Waltham, Mass., charity for nearly 20 years. His successor is Larry Lai.
Background: After three years as an English teacher in his native Britain, Mr. Laflin taught in Kenya under a British aid program in 1972. The Kenyan Ministry of Education later transferred him to the school’s broadcasting service to write and direct educational radio programs.
Proudest accomplishment: Building a nationwide program that provided educational instruction over the radio to students in Zambia, which has lost many teachers to HIV/AIDS and where schools are scarce in rural areas. Communities organize sites where children meet for half-hour daily broadcasts for each grade, overseen by a local volunteer. Students who receive the radio instruction perform at the same level as their peers in conventional schools on tests for fourth graders. “It showed that there were other ways to meet the demand for education than just saying schools are the answer or we need to train more teachers,” says Mr. Laflin.
Challenges for international development: Mr. Laflin worries that the trend toward data-driven grant making, while understandable, is curtailing experimentation and research. “If you are looking for evidence, you’re by definition looking to the past or the present, but not to the future.”
What’s next: Mr. Laflin plans to return to writing and theater, interests he had to put aside because of the frequent travel his job required. In the early 1980s, Mr. Laflin co-wrote two musical comedies that were staged at Washington’s Folger Theatre. One of the plays was a huge success while the other was a flop, says Mr. Laflin. “That sort of told me, ‘Well, you can’t really do this and be going to Liberia every few months,’ ” he says. “They’re just not compatible.”
EDC discusses the use of mobile technology, including cellphones and radio, to improve education in Africa. Projects in Zambia and Mali are highlighted, and staff members Rebecca Rhodes, Robert Spielvogel, and Lisa M. Easterbrooks are interviewed.
EDC has been selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a lead organization to implement the Assistance to Basic Education (ABE/BE) initiative, USAID’s new Indefinite Quantity Contract mechanism to support quality basic education around the world.
By 2015 and in accordance with Education for All (EFA), the Government of Honduras seeks to have 50 percent of its pre-school age population in school. Currently, less than a third of preschool age children are able to attend pre-primary institutions, most of which were private.
"Schools without teachers, orphans without school fees, communities without functioning schools." That’s how EDC’s Michael Laflin describes the current state of education in many African countries, where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is decimating families and social systems. In Zambia, teachers are dying faster than teachers’ colleges can produce them.
In a one-room schoolhouse in northern Morocco’s Rif Mountains, forty young children between the ages of three and seven sit shoulder to shoulder on floor mats, reciting the Quran from memory. As they repeat after their teacher, sometimes in unison, sometimes individually, they join a centuries-old practice of training young children to commit Islam’s holy book to memory.
In the summer of 1960, reverend Solomon B Caulker, an African college administrator from Sierra Leone, travelled to Israel to attend an international conference on improving science education in developing countries. After listening to several papers on nuclear power, Caulker stood up to address the group.
From the dry, wind-burned Andean villages where the altitude thins the air and turns the land to dust to the lush Amazon jungle regions of Bolivia, the educational story is often the same: the opportunities for learning are reduced by isolation and the demands of daily life. Thirty-eight percent of children under five suffer from malnutrition, which is associated with four out of five deaths in young children.