Education

Working in partnership, we promote and support access to quality basic education for all. 

Education

Working in partnership, we promote and support access to quality basic education for all. 

Sector at a Glance

The statistics say it all: Every $1 invested in education leads to $10 to $15 in economic growth in developing countries. Literate mothers are 50% more likely to have children who live past age 5 years. An estimated 1.8 million lives could be saved annually by giving women in sub-Saharan Africa access to secondary education.

Education is one of the most effective ways to build stronger and more productive societies, yet barriers to accessing education mean that, across the globe, 58 million primary school children do not attend school. For vulnerable households, not enrolling children in schools means missed opportunities because schools serve as information resources and as a way for children and their caregivers to access informal and formal learning opportunities. Schools also help children develop life skills that have a multiplier effect on the broader community.

Getting children into schools must be a concerted effort between affected families and the community at large. It requires an understanding of the local culture, key influencers, and the laws and ministries that govern society. Educating the next generation means tackling, at many levels, the problem of absenteeism and failure to enroll. It also requires addressing issues of educational quality to ensure that the education received is relevant and inclusive.

In resource-poor areas, teachers may use outdated methods or lack the training to effectively reach their students. In some instances, children who have completed primary school are functionally illiterate. Teacher training and parental education are as critical to building better schools and creating access to them for all students as is implementation of government policies.

Around the world, Catholic Relief Services relies on best practices and evidence-based approaches to assist populations that face barriers in enrolling and succeeding in school: children affected by the HIV pandemic; girls; children with disabilities; child laborers; children in ethnic minority groups; children in poor, rural areas; and many more. Through our programs, we work with schools, communities, and government agencies to create sustainable strategies for providing all children access to education.

CRS ensures that, once they are in school, children will have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. One such sustainable strategy involves engaging parents and the wider community, and strengthening their capacity to support and influence their children’s education. Community and parent engagement can take many forms, from supporting a child at home with homework, to participating in school activities and contributing resources to the school, to engaging in school management and governance. It is not just individual parents or family members who get involved; engagement can extend to the partnership of civil society organizations, such as parent–teacher associations with schools. Such engagement empowers communities to set priorities, manage resources, and demand accountability of schools in an environment that allows—or even encourages—that engagement.

Highlights of our work in Education

CRS country programs
Vietnam
Rwanda
Pakistan
Congo (Kinshasa)
Lesotho
Case studies

Investing in Early Childhood Education in Lesotho

Kim Pozniak

With funding from the Better Way Foundation and ELMA Foundation, children are singing, dancing, and playing their way to learning, thanks to 478 teachers and home-based educators in Lesotho who are now more knowledgeable about the stages of early childhood development, classroom management, and play-based curricula. CRS-produced teacher training materials have translated into a robust early childhood teacher education program that reaches more than 5,100 children in 48 recently opened preschools in the country’s most remote communities.

The Whose Child Is This? teacher resource guide, and companion training manual are based on the current Ministry of Education training curriculum and written Sesotho, the local language. These resources introduce best practices in early childhood education and guide teachers on key areas of development: physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional.

Participants learn to stock their classrooms with games made from locally available materials, learning tools, and toys that are easily replicated at home. A companion guide for positive parenting used with caregivers makes this a truly comprehensive approach that sparks a love for lifelong learning and gives young children in vulnerable households the building blocks for lasting success.

Access to early childhood education serves as the foundation for lifelong learning. Not only does it give vulnerable children a leg up in capturing the fundamentals, it provides caregivers critical time to build small businesses and work the land—vital contributions to a family’s nutritional and economic health. Studies have shown that early childhood programs have an estimated 15% to 17% return in investments, making them much more cost-effective than programs later in life that aim to address cumulative deficits. Children who benefit from quality early childhood development ECD programs are better prepared to learn, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and more likely to earn a higher income later in life.

Investing in Early Childhood Education in Lesotho

With funding from the Better Way Foundation and ELMA Foundation, children are singing, dancing, and playing their way to learning, thanks to 478 teachers and home-based educators in Lesotho who are now more knowledgeable about the stages of early childhood development, classroom management, and play-based curricula. CRS-produced teacher training materials have translated into a robust early childhood teacher education program that reaches more than 5,100 children in 48 recently opened preschools in the country’s most remote communities.

Read more

Welcoming People With Disabilities Into the Classroom Through Inclusive Education in Vietnam

Sean Sprague

More than 1 million Vietnamese children live with disabilities. In some cases, their disabilities resulted from land mines and other legacies of the Vietnam War. When children are poor and their community does not understand how to help, they may miss out on school—and be consigned to a lifetime of isolation and reliance on others for care.

Overcoming educational challenges for children with disabilities means more than simply rearranging the classroom environment. CRS goes much further, taking an approach that intensively engages the community to create a support network of teachers, local officials, community leaders and organizations, schools, social services providers, and the children’s parents and their peers.

Adapting educational methods for children with disabilities greatly benefits all children. Known as inclusive education, it introduces concepts of individualized education and diversified methods of teaching, such as games, songs, drawing, and participatory activities, as opposed to lecture and rote memorization.

Teachers are critical to the program’s success. Joining the handful of Vietnamese experts with specialized training in this area, CRS has begun to work in inclusive education under the leadership of the National Institute of Educational Strategy and Curriculum. We have developed preservice and in-service training that have been endorsed by the Ministry of Education for use in approximately 9,000 preschools and 15,000 primary schools, and in teacher training institutions nationwide. To date 6,498 teachers and education staff have been trained in identification, early intervention, and inclusive methodologies tailored to each child’s specific needs.

All children benefit from better-educated teachers. Because of the CRS advocacy and outreach activities, inclusive education practices are now being used in schools and communities in project-targeted provinces, and enrollment of children with disabilities is 60% to 70%—well above the national average of 25%.

Welcoming People With Disabilities Into the Classroom Through Inclusive Education in Vietnam

More than 1 million Vietnamese children live with disabilities. In some cases, their disabilities resulted from land mines and other legacies of the Vietnam War. When children are poor and their community does not understand how to help, they may miss out on school—and be consigned to a lifetime of isolation and reliance on others for care.

Read more

Returning Conflict-Affected Children to School Using Block Grants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sam Phelps

Years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made the simple act of sending a child to school a near impossibility. Schools continue to suffer in the aftermath of warfare with ransacked or destroyed classrooms and lost materials. The massive displacement has emptied some schools while overwhelming others.

CRS is empowering communities in Eastern DRC to get children back in school through block grants. Through the UNICEF-funded program Babote Masomo (Strengthening Educational Inclusion), CRS is assisting parent groups and school management committees comprising parents, teachers, administrators, and local leaders to identify barriers to enrolling and maintaining children in a quality education system. More than 1,700 members who compose 40 parent and school management committees have received training on how to engage in school management, identify the barriers to enrolling students, and formulate strategies to improve access to education.

In an area where 24% of school-aged children are out of school and another 75% are unlikely to finish the school year, we are working to implement school improvement plans—furnishing schools, rehabilitating or constructing new buildings, creating accelerated learning programs, offering teacher training, or paying school fees for students unable to pay—to address the obstacles schools are facing. Each proposal for school improvement reaches at least 300 children, with a target population of 50% girls. Once approved, committees received grants in the form of bank or mobile money transfers.

By actively engaging the community to improve and manage their schools, CRS is effectively cultivating local leadership, ownership, dialogue, and greater awareness of strategies to enhance educational access and quality in the long term. The results speak for themselves: Through the committees’ work, 3,366 children at risk of dropping out have remained in school, and an additional 3,286 have enrolled.

Returning Conflict-Affected Children to School Using Block Grants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made the simple act of sending a child to school a near impossibility. Schools continue to suffer in the aftermath of warfare with ransacked or destroyed classrooms and lost materials. The massive displacement has emptied some schools while overwhelming others.

Read more

Fostering Girls Education in Pakistan Through Strong Community Relationships

Jennifer Hardy

The literacy rate among rural Pakistani women is estimated to be as low as 6% to 8%. These are sobering numbers considering that literate mothers are 50% more likely to have children who live past age 5 years.

Educating girls is critical to helping vulnerable households access information and break the cycle of generational poverty. For rural Pakistani girls, barriers to education come in various forms: Tradition dictates that girls not walk far from home and that they be educated solely by women in a country where female teachers are in short supply. Mothers also rely on their daughters to assist with household chores, which are essential to preparing the family for long winters when food and services are difficult to access.

To reverse this trend, CRS worked with local community and religious leaders to promote girls’ education in culturally appropriate ways. Religious scholars scanned the Koran for passages that promote girls’ education. Using those passages, they made the case to foster school enrollment. Community members identified locations that would minimize the distances girls would need to travel to attend school. CRS provided regular teacher training, such as in-classroom management, which improved the quality of the education received by girls and boys in the community. As a result, the enrollment of girls in some communities was as high as 31%—15% higher than neighboring communities with no interventions.

Investing in the education of girls is an investment in the future. CRS is working with communities worldwide to develop appropriate interventions that promote and improve access to schools and the quality of education for boys and girls. By teaming up with faith and community leaders to transform the public’s view on the importance of education, CRS is creating sustainable, scalable interventions that are changing lives and transforming communities.


Empowering Rwandan Girls Through Vocational Training and Gender-Sensitive Learning Spaces

Rick D'Elia

For many of the vulnerable adolescent girls participating in CRS-sponsored vocational training in Rwanda, it was the first time they had been in a room filled with their peers. Many girls drop out while still in primary school. Household responsibilities keep them out of the classroom and away from other girls who also have suffered the loss of parents and caregivers

A lack of financial and educational opportunities has detrimental consequences, leading to health disparities between young men and women. For example, HIV prevalence in Rwanda among women aged 20 to 24 years is 2.5%; for men in the same age group, HIV prevalence is only 0.4%.

With generous funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, CRS and Caritas Rwanda created vocational opportunities for nearly 650 adolescent girls. Successful female instructors and graduates in their chosen fields served as role models and opened up a new landscape of possibilities for professional success. Participants took classes in sewing, handcrafts, carpentry, and mechanics. Complementing this training was practical vocational instruction in financial literacy and life skills, particularly HIV education and awareness.

The benefits of girl-inclusive programs have a positive effect on their households and future children. Girls often educate others and contribute to their wider family income as a result. So that girls could afford to take the classes, the vocational program provided training in bio-intensive gardening and goat-raising to help the girls access additional food and income throughout the duration of their studies.

The 6- to 12-month training period made it a more appealing option for time- and resource-constrained girls who could not afford to attend secondary school. The positive examples and extended support network positively influenced their self-esteem and helped them forge a new vision of themselves in the world.

Empowering Rwandan Girls Through Vocational Training and Gender-Sensitive Learning Spaces

For many of the vulnerable adolescent girls participating in CRS-sponsored vocational training in Rwanda, it was the first time they had been in a room filled with their peers. Many girls drop out while still in primary school. Household responsibilities keep them out of the classroom and away from other girls who also have suffered the loss of parents and caregivers

Read more

Linking Vietnamese Employers With a Highly Trained Work Force Through Inclusive Education

Sean Sprague

In Vietnam, jobs are particularly hard to come by for people with disabilities, who find it difficult to earn a living and contribute to the household income. Although school enrollment in Vietnam is a respectable 95%, nationwide, only 25% of children with disabilities enroll in school and only 2.5% have access to vocational training.

With generous funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, CRS was able to identify a burgeoning IT market with good salaries, social prestige, and diverse job availability that could be filled by people with disabilities. That work also would provide essential training so they would be competitive in their field.

To date, more than 986 disabled graduates, including nearly 300 females, have gone through 3- to 12-month training programs that include courses in programming, graphic design, IT management, soft skills, and short courses on basic IT for vision impaired people and the deaf community. To ensure sustainability, training was funded with student contributions, government support, fundraising, and income-generating activities.

While learning, students received stipends, mentorships, and opportunities for earning. An added bonus was the peer support and motivation that came with being immersed in an environment in which they could see others with similar disabilities achieve success in their field.

To date more than 70% of graduates have gone on to be employed by firms in the IT sector. Successful graduates help to erode societal beliefs about the professional limits of people with disabilities. These graduates become role models of hope for children living with disabilities.

By pairing a skilled workforce with employer demand, disabled members of vulnerable households can successfully land jobs that set them up to meet their own financial needs and that of their families.

Linking Vietnamese Employers With a Highly Trained Work Force Through Inclusive Education

In Vietnam, jobs are particularly hard to come by for people with disabilities, who find it difficult to earn a living and contribute to the household income. Although school enrollment in Vietnam is a respectable 95%, nationwide, only 25% of children with disabilities enroll in school and only 2.5% have access to vocational training.

Read more

Tools and manuals
Zimbabwe

How-to Guide: Child Participation in Education Initiatives

Education

This guide presents many useful suggestions for ways in which to increase child participation; what is required most of all, though, is a belief in the value of child participation and a commitment to making that participation happen in a meaningful way. Access Resource

Lesotho

Teacher Resource Guide

Education

Teacher Resource Guide (Lesotho)Designed for early childhood care and development teachers, this guide helps them support young children’s development and education. Access Resource

Pakistan

How-to Guide: Promoting Education for All in Conservative Areas

Education

This guide presents a replicable model for promoting the education of girls in culturally conservative contexts by involving religious leaders and highlighting religious texts in conjunction with other, more traditional community mobilization activities.  Access Resource

Vietnam

How-to Guide: Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Education

Education

How-to Guide: Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Education (Vietnam)This guide explores ways to support quality inclusive education for children with disabilities by improving the overall quality of education.  Access Resource

Guatemala

How-to Guide: Integrated Community Literacy for Development

Education

This guide offers a progressive methodology that puts the learner at the center of a process that not only improves literacy but raises participants’ self-awareness and helps them develop cultural pride. Access Resource

Ecuador

How-to Guide: School Improvement Plans

Education

How-to Guide: School Improvement Plans (Ecuador)This guide describes a methodology for creating school improvement plans through the participation of the entire school community. Access Resource

Ghana

How-to Guide: Child-Led School Health Education Programs

Education

How-to Guide: Child-Led School Health Education Programs (Ghana)This guide explores the ways in which children can be mobilized as leaders in an effort to create more healthful school environments and communities. Access Resource