With the generous donation from the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation, Thirteen/WNET will produce a ninety-minute documentary film, Back to School, for national broadcast on September 5, 2006 through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The film is the second installment in a twelve-year documentary project, titled Time for School, that follows a child in each of seven countries from the first year of school to graduation day, striving against all odds to get a basic education. The broadcast film will play a key role in the larger public-engagement efforts to effect true and lasting change in public policy on the issue of global education.
Three public-engagement activities are already scheduled:
Fall 2006 screening and panel discussion at Harvard University organized by project advisor David E. Bloom, professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Fall 2006 reception, screening and panel discussion organized by the World Affairs Council of Northern California.
Preview screening at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) hosted by project advisor Gene Sperling, director of CFR's Center on Universal Education.
Education is considered a birthright in the industrialized countries of the world, but the global picture is shocking. More than one hundred million children worldwide are out of school this year, one in four children in the developing world will drop out before completing four years of education, and nearly one billion adults-one sixth of the world's population-are illiterate. Sixty percent of those denied schooling are girls, despite evidence that their participation brings crucial benefits: the size of families goes down, families are healthier and live longer, women join the workforce and family income increases.
The urgency of this issue has fallen below the public's radar, despite the fact that the crucial impact of education on global social and economic development is clearly documented. It has been demonstrated that each year of schooling in the poorest nations can raise an individual's earning power by as much as twenty percent. Mamphela Ramphele, the World Bank's former Director for Human Development, said: 'Education alone will not solve poverty, but poverty cannot be solved without education.'To spotlight this under-reported issue, Wide Angle-Thirteen/WNET's global current-affairs series airing on PBS-undertook to profile seven children from around the world in their quest to get a basic education. Begun in 2003, the longitudinal documentary series, Time for School, will continue with broadcasts of updated installments on each child in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015-the target date of the UN Millennium Development Goal #2, 'Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.'
The films will chronicle the enormous challenges in countries where child labor, poverty, war or changes in political regime destabilize even the best intentions to educate a child. The project will employ the advisory expertise of several of the world's top education specialists. In addition to project advisors Bloom and Sperling, these include Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in economics, and Eddah Gachukia, founder of the Forum for African Women Educationists and former National Member of Kenya's Parliament.
In order to provide a cross-section of the current state of global education, the series contrasts the experiences of children in Afghanistan, Benin, Brazil, India and Kenya with student profiles from Romania (representative of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, where a sweeping shift in the educational system is in the early stages), and from Japan (an affluent, industrialized country considered to have one of the most successful educational systems in the world). The 'graduation' film is planned for 2015 to coincide with the benchmark date of the Millennium Development Goal for primary education. This final film will be a kind of global report card, examining whether the international community's campaign to school the world's children has made a tangible difference in the lives of young people living in some of the world's most vulnerable regions.
The Emmy Award-winning Wide Angle series-of which Time for School is a component-premiered on PBS in 2002 and has continuously garnered enthusiastic reviews, recognition and viewership. In its first season, The Wall Street Journal called it 'unerringly first-class' and The New York Times wrote that it holds 'a distinct and valuable place' in the American television landscape. Wide Angle's production team has extensive experience in news, current affairs and documentary production for PBS, as well as in independent production, cable television and international broadcast.
07/03/2006: The National Education Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Preview screening of an excerpt of Back to School two months before the broadcast premiere.
Participants: 9,600 delegates of the NEA representing education employees from all fifty states viewed and warmly received the film. NEA President Reg Weaver announced the film's national PBS airdate on September 5. Through international affiliates of the NEA, educators in Brazil, Chile, Congo, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Malaysia, Sweden and the United Kingdom will receive DVD copies of the documentary following the U.S. broadcast.