Since implementing its first education program in 1972, Concern Worldwide US has developed an education strategy comprised of three pillars: access, quality, and equity.
Access to education has long been a priority for Concern. Concern works with parents, teachers, local organizations, local governments, and children themselves to ensure that barriers to access are minimized and overcome. Specific activities include the following:
- Reach out-of-school children in the poorer sections of society;
- Strengthen parental and community involvement in providing quality education services;
- Advocate with Governments to improve education opportunities for the less fortunate;
- Strengthen linkages among education and health systems by providing health and nutrition support services to schools;
- Ensure that communities have adequate schools, furnished classrooms, books, blackboards, teaching resources for teachers and sanitation facilities to support existing and new enrollments.
The quality of education for children varies significantly and can often contribute to the drop-out rate in schools. Concern works to ensure that high-quality education acts as a pull-factor, attracting out-of-school children to the classroom. Concern is working with schools, school committees, governments, and teachers to develop quality curricula and provide training programs that produce quality teachers. To address issues of quality in education, Concern focuses on the following approaches:
- Provide teacher training and resources for teachers in an effort to motivate teachers to keep higher education standards;
- Maintain a focus on quality through outreach programs designed to inform communities of their rights to education and its benefits to children and families.
Girls and other marginalized groups such as children displaced by conflict are often excluded from participating in education. This lack of equity is a result of different factors including the need for children to help with work in the home, cultural and religious beliefs, and the tradition of early marriage. Also, girls may be at risk of violence and sexual assault both at school and traveling to and from school, especially in conflict environments. These factors are responsible for many girls dropping out of school. To support girls education, Concern will:
- Support national policies to improve conditions for girls' education;
- Strengthen initiatives to increase awareness of gender issues in communities;
- Ensure that schools are girl-friendly spaces through the provision of adequate and separate sanitation facilities for girls;
- Advocate and support the use of curricula that do not reinforce negative gender stereotypes.
Education is a key factor in reducing poverty and child labor, yet 72 million children of primary school age, the majority of them girls, are not enrolled in school. Millions more are taught by untrained and underpaid teachers in over-crowded, unhealthy, and poorly equipped classrooms. In many of the countries where Concern works, the problem of overcoming extreme poverty comes with the added burden of coping with or recovering from conflict. In such contexts, education services are often interrupted and violence against women and girls is wide-spread. Education programs in conflict and post-conflict situations must make extra efforts to ensure that schools provide a safe environment for children and to ensure the inclusion of girls. It will not be possible to achieve universal primary education, which is the second of the United Nations' eight Millennium Development Goals, unless there is a renewed commitment to ensure that the most vulnerable children - those affected by conflict - are provided with a basic education. With over 40 years of experience working in conflict and post-conflict contexts in the world's poorest countries, Concern is rising to the challenge with initiatives like the Program for Education Attainment in Conflict Environments (PEACE).
At the heart of Concern's PEACE program is the belief that education is a vital force in fighting ignorance, intolerance, poverty and suffering; it opens the doors to peace, improved health, and prosperity. Concern's 40 years of experience working in the poorest countries has taught the organization that access to education empowers people to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Concern knows that the right to quality education is fundamental to all other basic human rights: without it, there is little opportunity for social advancement and economic progress. Yet, in countries affected by conflict, many people are denied their right to education because of gender, race, religion, language, disability, or simply because they are poor. Concern firmly believes not only that education is everyone's right but also in the power that education can unleash. Education is transformative: it fosters the creation, application and transmission of new ideas and technologies, which in turn promote economic prosperity at a national level. Education augments skills, and thereby produces a more productive labor force. Educated mothers raise healthier children who are more likely to attend school. Education is the ultimate liberating force: it empowers individuals, gives them greater personal and social choices, and acts as a catalyst for the formation of democratic societies.
Concern seeks to find partners willing to actively support this commitment to provide children affected by conflict with access to education. Concern's goal is to form partnerships with interested parties who will help Concern directly reach 452,300 children over a four-year period (2009 - 2011). Indirectly, the program will benefit millions more people in target communities.
Concern continues to offer partnership as an implementing partner as well as best practice information sharing.
Concern seeks partnership opportunities for scaling-up its global education work in financial, best practice, and media/marketing opportunities.
Concern partners with existing national NGO partners who can add value to its work in education. Concern also seeks to learn from best practice of other NGOs both in-country and overseas in order to improve its own performance in delivering its education programs.