WISE, the global education initiative and sponsor of one of the largest education prizes, has released the list of 12 finalists for another prestigious award – the 2021 WISE Awards.
Since these prizes started in 2009, more than 3,000 leaders and organizations from 150 nations have applied or been nominated for the awards, which, in addition to their notoriety, bestow a $20,000 purse on the six winners. This year, the dozen selected finalists come from nine different countries and continue the foundation’s interest in and commitment to the most fundamental issues of global education.
The prizes and the groups they honor are an important reminder that while we in the United States can be caught up in issues such as the digital divide, learning loss, and the effectiveness of online learning, much of the rest of the world is in a dramatically different place. Many of this year’s finalists are confronting challenges such as access to basic education for girls, elementary literacy and education among refugee populations — all during the globally debilitating pandemic.
This year’s named finalists are: Pehchan Project by CULP – Center for Unfolding Learning Potentials (India); Underprivileged Women Entrepreneurship and Skilling by AISECT (India); The Happiness Curriculum by Dream a Dream (India); Creating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs for Children in Indian Public Schools by Labhya Foundation (India); Kinedu (Mexico); Onebillion by Onebillion children (United Kingdom); Trauma Informed Schools by Maya Vakfi Foundation (Turkey); Let’s All Learn to Read by Fundacion Luker (Colombia); Kiwix (Switzerland); Taleemabad by Orenda Project (Pakistan); ProFuturo Digital Education Programme by Telefonica Foundation and “la Caixa” Foundation (Spain); Civic leadership fellowships for education equity by Anseye Pou Ayiti (Haiti).
Scanning those projects underscores that the work being done in places such as India and Colombia and Pakistan is different than what most of us tend to hear about. The work is crucial and our general lack of awareness about it is troubling. And given that the global reach of this pandemic has reinforced the realities of our collective connectiveness, education improvements in Turkey unquestionably matter in Tulsa.
That’s does not, in any way, mitigate the more immediate challenges we read about most often. Or imply that global education projects only matter when they impact people here. To be clear, helping kids be better, wiser, smarter, more resourceful and capable adults is everyone’s business and, for everyone’s sake, it had better be. It’s pretty important.
These awards, and the opportunity to raise visibility of the work itself, are important to the finalists too.
One of them, “The Happiness Curriculum” in India is on track to make social and emotional learning a part of the curriculum for more than four million young students over the next three years, according to Suchetha Baht, the CEO of Dream a Dream, which runs the program. “With the recognition that comes through the WISE Award, we would be able to further our intention to ensure every child can thrive by shifting mindsets around the purpose of education,” she said. “For the first time in India,” Baht said, “there is space in the school curricula to include social emotional learning which develops life skills like managing conflict, interacting with others and taking initiative.”
India has 422 million people under the age of 18. The entire US population is 331 million.
WISE says the submissions and nominations for the prizes are not simply a recognition of good work or good intent. Instead, evaluations include assessments on scalability, sustainability and financial stability. That’s the right approach as these projects need to not just succeed but grow.
It’s reassuring and affirming that smart and dedicated people are out there, doing the hard work of building, preserving and expanding educational access and delivery systems. Journalists and editors need to give them more attention and donor organizations need to give them more money.
It’s good too to know that, while we’ve been focused on other things, someone has been working to recognize and reward those efforts. We need more of that as well.
The winners of the WISE Awards will be announced in September 2021 and celebrated at the WISE Summit this December.