These 15 Projects Are Solving the World’s Toughest Education Problems

Finalists for the annual WISE Awards provide innovative solutions to global learning challenges.
Children study in a classroom at a school in Zimbabwe. (Photo: Gideon Mendel/Getty Images)
Jul 21, 2016· 3 MIN READ
Jillian Frankel is an editorial intern for TakePart. She is the features and student life editor at the UCLA campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin.

Sky-high suspension rates, bullied kids, and underfunded schools—those are some of the hot education topics in the United States. But in other parts of the world, teachers, parents, and policy makers are grappling with challenges such as a lack of school buildings or teachers, scarce electricity, and extreme poverty, which often forces youths out of the classroom and into the workforce.

The solutions to some of these issues might be found with the finalists for the WISE Awards, an annual competition for innovative organizations and projects that address global educational problems. It was started in 2009 by the Qatar Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization based in Doha, Qatar, as an offshoot of the World Innovation Summit for Education. The competition awards six winning organizations or projects $20,000—funding that helps expand their ability to make a difference.

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Along with the monetary award, the attention that winning brings can put fresh solutions to education problems on the radar of people around the globe.

“WISE Awards Winners are encouraged to develop partnerships with others in the WISE community in order to scale their initiatives, measure their impact and explore new sources of funding,” Stavros N. Yiannouka, the CEO of WISE, said in a statement.

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Winning also gives a boost to projects that need funding to survive. “We would be very happy and eager to share our know-how, expertise, and experience, but in order to be able to do so, we need support from the donors,” Dijana Pejić, a program manager for one of this year’s finalists, From Puppets to Empowerment, wrote in an email to TakePart.

Applications for the competition are accepted from every country, and a panel of education experts selects 15 finalists. Along with From Puppets to Empowerment, which uses interactive shows to teach kids in Bosnia and Herzegovina to avoid land mines, other finalists are focused on early childhood education, teaching women and girls, and providing access to technology. The six winning projects will be announced in September.

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Here are this year’s finalists, which hail from 13 countries and together have served almost 6 million people worldwide.

1KG Box
Aiju Social Innovation’s 1KG Box provides free course outlines and materials in boxes for teachers in rural China. As of January, 840,000 courses in subjects such as art, road safety, reading, and handicrafts have been taught to about 258,000 students.

Education for Growth and Value Creation in Lebanon
Promotion et Développement Social, or PRODES, began “Education for Growth and Value Creation in Lebanon” 15 years ago to provide vocational training to young women, enabling them to find local jobs and reducing the pattern of migration from villages to more urban cities. The organization has served about 12,000 women of all ages.

From Puppets to Empowerment
The Genesis Project’s “From Puppets to Empowerment” program uses theatrical performances to teach children in Bosnia and Herzegovina about the dangers of land mines. The program has served more than 100,000 children ages five to 12 since 1999.

Geekie has helped educate 5 million K–12 students in Brazil by offering customized online learning options. For each Geekie program a private school purchases, the company offers the same one to a public school for free.

Based in Saudi Arabia, Glowork provides a digital database of thousands of job listings for women in customer service, sales, research, and digital marketing. It has served 30,000 women in the last four years.

Ideas Box
“Ideas Box,” a project from the nonprofit Libraries Without Borders, provides portable media centers equipped with computers, tablets, cameras, and other equipment to refugees around the world. Since 2014, it has served 100,000 people of all ages.

JUMP Math is a curriculum-based resource that seeks to make teachers and students more confident in their ability to problem-solve. The lessons are being used to teach about 85,000 children in 400 schools around the world.

Lights to Learn
Lights to Learn supports education in Latin American communities with scarce access to electricity by installing solar systems, offering internet and IT equipment to local schools, and hosting teacher trainings. It has served nearly 23,470 primary school children and 1,100 teachers.

Little Ripples
Little Ripples provides low-cost preschool and early developmental services in a refugee camp in eastern Chad. The organization has served about 500 children and trained 21 teachers.

Partners for Possibility
Partners for Possibility pairs principals from under-resourced schools in South Africa with local business executives and provides leadership training to help improve education in the region. The program has trained nearly 400 principals.

Smart Robot Coding School
The Smart Robot Coding School teaches children programming to prepare them for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Participating children ages four through 12 learn coding by playing games. The system has been implemented in 530 schools in Korea, Malaysia, and France.

Sonidos de la Tierra
Sonidos de la Tierra implements musical education programs in Paraguay to help motivate students to complete their education. The organization has served 16,000 children and youths and trained 2,000 adults in community development.

Sports for Sharing
Sports for Sharing uses physical activity and games to teach children teamwork, which they then use to form groups and solve problems in their community. It has worked with nearly 519,000 children, teachers, and parents, primarily in Central and South American nations.

Tara Akshar Literacy Program
The “Tara Akshar Literacy Program” offers 30-day reading and math classes to women in northern India and Sri Lanka. About 165,000 have finished the classes so far.

Youth for Technology Foundation Academy
Founded in 2001, the Youth for Technology Foundation Academy provides women and youths around the world with training in programming, software design, and application development. In 2015, some 315,000 participants graduated from the academy.