Asian University for Women Support Foundation

Accelerating Adolescent Girls’ Education in Deprived Communities across South Asia

Equal opportunity in education

Establish a program to unleash a new network of girls’ secondary schools created by teams of highly-trained women from underserved regions.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The global movement for Education for All has resulted in impressive enrollment gains in primary schools. This success, however, is not matched at the post-primary levels. Adolescent girls particularly are left behind, reinforcing patterns of early marriage, premature motherhood, and inequality in power and well-being. Asian University for Women will draw on its networks to catalyze teams of women from the most underserved areas who have a vision for setting up their own village secondary schools for girls. Those selected will pursue a 2-year training designed to help them improve their plans and acquire the necessary skills to execute those plans. Each graduating cohort of 200 will set up 40 schools with seed support and guidance from AUW, resulting in 120 new schools. Governments will take on permanent financing of all successful schools. To enable wide diffusion of the curriculum and related learning experiences, a public portal will be developed.

Problem Statement

Adolescent girls in poorer communities in Asia face the starkest prospects. Malnutrition, violence, inequality, and lack of opportunities severely constrain their lives. As Amartya Sen wrote in The Country of First Boys, “The last girls suffer not only from economic hardship, social deprivation, and political powerlessness, but also from a lack of opportunity to benefit from their intellectual potentials and the rich intellectual heritage of the world”. The prospect of empowerment enabled by the fulfillment of MDG 2 (Achieve Universal Primary Education) is thwarted by the absence of sufficient meaningful opportunities for adolescent girls to break out of their condition. A solid secondary education is a necessary path for their advancement – it will delay early marriages and pregnancies and enable them to seek better personal and professional opportunities.Three things subvert girls’ secondary schooling – (i) distance from homes to schools; (ii) traditional male-dominated schools where girls are vulnerable to abuse by teachers and classmates; and (iii) the persistence of traditional rote-learning pedagogies. These issues are more accentuated in vulnerable communities, such as in the Rohingya and Afghan nomadic Kuchis, as well as other areas where women are subjugated.We believe creating a new network of women-led and women-taught high-quality neighborhood secondary schools is part of the solution. These schools would use existing facilities (such as primary schools when they are not in use) and deploy pedagogic methods that are more modern. They would unleash powerful forces of change for adolescent girls that can only multiply.

Solution Overview

The project is aimed at accelerating girls’ secondary education through a new network of women-led, women-taught, pedagogically-innovative schools with a bent on STEAM topics in the most educationally deprived areas of South Asia. Our chosen method for pursuing this objective is to competitively recruit teams of five women from target areas such as the Rohingyas, Afghan nomadic Kuchis, Laotian hill-tribe minorities and other communities with which AUW have long-standing trust and other links. The chosen teams will be invited to attend the two-year program to be jointly taught by AUW and Northwestern faculty. The curriculum designed by Northwestern, AUW, and other partners will be deployed and updated on the basis of the experience and made freely available to others who wish to adopt practices from this model. Typically in Year Two of the initiative, students will return to their home villages to set up the envisioned schools with seed funding from the project and under observation of AUW faculty.The program will provide an altogether new channel for educating girls in the now lost “last mile” of human geography. It will leapfrog innovations in teaching and learning from the halls of Northwestern and AUW into neighborhood schools in the most unsuspecting settings, powered by smart technologies and highly trained teachers. It will make the “last girls” the first ones to rise in this new world of opportunity. A total of 120 secondary schools, forming its own network and system, will have been established by the end of the grant period.

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