Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Education"

Remarkable Women of 2012

by Isobel Coleman
Pakistani students stand next to a portrait of Malala Yousufzai as they attend a meeting organized by South Asian Women in media to mark "Malala Day" in Lahore, Pakistan, November 10, 2012 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters). Pakistani students stand next to a portrait of Malala Yousufzai as they attend a meeting organized by South Asian Women in media to mark "Malala Day" in Lahore, Pakistan, November 10, 2012 (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters).

Among the many compelling stories of 2012 have been those of remarkable women fighting for rights and opportunities—for themselves, their communities, and their countries. In this post I highlight several such women and their courageous struggles. Read more »

Turning Education Into Employment

by Isobel Coleman
Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

The harsh reality of youth unemployment is that in many places where it is high, employers cannot find enough skilled workers to hire. In a report launched yesterday, Education to Employment: Designing a System That Works, the McKinsey Center for Government addresses what it describes as “two crises, one paradox”—widespread youth unemployment and jobs left vacant due to a lack of qualified people. The report looks at 100 skills training programs in 25 countries, and includes interview results from more than 8,000 youth, employers, and educational institutions across nine different countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. Read more »

Egypt’s Reading Revolution

by Isobel Coleman
Egyptian school students attend class at a school in a Giza neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo, September 28, 2010 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian school students attend class at a school in a Giza neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cairo, September 28, 2010 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

I have been visiting schools in Upper Egypt (the governorates of Qena and Aswan) this week doing research for a new book on education in the Middle East. With young people across the region protesting about a lack of opportunity, improving education is understandably a high priority. Over the last several decades, Egypt’s focus has been on increasing access to education. As its population has more than doubled since 1980, it has worked hard to keep pace with an enormous influx of new students, managing to enroll a higher percent of children in schools and to reduce the overall number of children out of school. In 2000, over 500,000 primary school age children were out of school. In 2009, the last year statistics were available, fewer than 200,000 primary school age children were not attending school. The percentage of girls enrolled in primary school has also increased, climbing from 87.4 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2009. Read more »

Observing the International Day of the Girl

by Isobel Coleman
Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters). Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the United Nations’ first ever International Day of the Girl. The UN’s designation of this day reflects the growing awareness of the special challenges girls face around the world. It comes at a sober moment: just this week, the Taliban in Pakistan shot a 14 year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, for her outspoken advocacy of girls’ education.  Although Malala survived the attack, she is in critical condition and the Taliban has vowed to finish the job if and when she leaves the hospital. Read more »

Thoughts on Tunisia’s Transition

by Isobel Coleman
Protesters set fire to the American School in Tunis on September 14, 2012, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops and tablet computers (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters set fire to the American School in Tunis on September 14, 2012, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops and tablet computers (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

I was in Tunisia last week and met with a wide range of people, including business, government, and civil society leaders; educators, journalists, bloggers, university students, and Salafist youth; young people unemployed and looking for jobs, and graduates who have newly entered the workforce. Below are some reflections on what I heard: Read more »

Iran’s Embattled Women

by Isobel Coleman
Schoolgirls attend the Iranian parliament in Tehran on November 15, 2009 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters). Schoolgirls attend the Iranian parliament in Tehran on November 15, 2009 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters).

In his speech at the UN General Assembly this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to scale the blustery heights achieved in previous years–with predictable swipes at the European Union, Israel and the United States. Instead, he came across as a has-been bloviator, unable to escape his lame duck status and myriad problems at home, where he has his hands full with a deteriorating economy (hurt in no small part by tightened international sanctions), persistent internal political divisions, and continuing public disaffection, particularly among women. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Education and Health in Pakistan, Poverty in Haiti, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews two scholarly works, as well as news on Haiti and a range of development innovations. Enjoy the reading and the holiday weekend.
  • Education and Health in Pakistan: While better educated parents are known to raise healthier children, the role of each parent and the exact reasons for the correlation remain unclear. A study in World Development seeks to clarify the issue. Using a survey of almost 1,200 households in two provinces of Pakistan, the authors find that a mother’s level of schooling significantly affects children’s height and weight. However, only a father’s education impacts immunization. The authors speculate that fathers may guide certain health behaviors, “particularly if they require travel to a health clinic,” while mothers govern “day-to-day decisions” that affect “longer-term measures of health such as height and weight.” But it is not parents’ “education per se” that drives better child health. Instead, the authors find that immunization responds to fathers’ health knowledge (rather than overall schooling). Mothers’ impact on height and weight, meanwhile, seems driven by their health knowledge and “empowerment within the home.” Based on these findings, the authors write that “policies aimed at achieving better health awareness and knowledge” might give Pakistan the biggest development boost. Read more »

Saudi Arabia’s Study Abroad Program

by Isobel Coleman
Secondary school students sit for an exam in Riyadh on June 20, 2010 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Secondary school students sit for an exam in Riyadh on June 20, 2010 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

Saudi Arabia is the starkest mix of medieval and modern of any country in the world. It is ranked seventeenth in global competitiveness by the World Economic Forum and boasts world-class skyscrapers and infrastructure; but it is ruled by an aging and sclerotic absolute monarchy that kowtows to its deeply conservative religious establishment. Just last week, Saudi Arabia beheaded a man found guilty of “witchcraft and sorcery.” At least two people met a similarly grizzly end last year for sorcery. With one foot in the seventh century and one in the twenty-first, Saudi Arabia’s balancing act seems more improbable every year. Read more »

Sakena Yacoobi’s Courage and the Future of Afghan Women

by Isobel Coleman
Afghan students study in a makeshift classroom in tents provided by UNICEF at the Afghan government-funded Babazangi school compound in Herat, Afghanistan on September 20, 2010 (Raheb Homavandi/Courtesy Reuters). Afghan students study in a makeshift classroom in tents provided by UNICEF at the Afghan government-funded Babazangi school compound in Herat, Afghanistan on September 20, 2010 (Raheb Homavandi/Courtesy Reuters).

It’s good to have heroes. One of mine is Sakena Yacoobi, the founder of a terrific organization called the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) that provides education and health services to women across Afghanistan. I first met Sakena nearly a decade ago, and have followed her work closely since then. I’ve visited several of AIL’s programs in Afghanistan and wrote about her and her work in my book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East. Read more »

Effat University on the Forefront of Change in Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman
A student at Effat University, Saudi Arabia in 2006 (Isobel Coleman) A student at Effat University, Saudi Arabia in 2006 (Isobel Coleman).

This past weekend, I had the honor of being the commencement speaker at Effat University, a private university for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was hardly the staid affair I expected. Colorful klieg lights lit the way of arriving parents and dignitaries; forget “Pomp and Circumstance”—the more than two hundred graduates and faculty paraded in to a pulsating techno beat, while stage fog swirled to dramatic effect. The array of high-heeled shoes under the graduates’ sky-blue abayas was breathtaking—everything from six inch high, hot-pink platform wedges, to cowboy boots, to the latest snakeskin and metallic Manolo Blahniks. Read more »