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Lehigh hosts Indian students who produced award-winning MDG related films.

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Reach Them to Teach Them

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UN Trip Summary
April 21 , 2010

Mariam Yaqub, CIE Graduate Student

Reach Them to Teach Them: The Role of Psychology in Achieving Universal Access To Education


Students from the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with their professors Iveta Silova and Tina Richardson, attended this briefing in observance of World Health Day and Psychology Day at the United Nations.

The moderator, Maria Luisa Chavez, Chief of NGO Relations for the Department of Public Information, opened with a statement about the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance and the need for action in this domain.  She informed the audience that the World Health Organization had chosen the theme “Combat Antimicrobial Resistance: No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow” as the theme of this year’s World Health Day.  She explained that for the briefing, however, the DPI had chosen to focus on another aspect of health: the interrelation between health and education as put forth in MGD 2: Achieving Universal Access to Education.

The opening remarks were provided by Her Excellency Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN, who discussed her country’s efforts to integrate the MDGs into its national strategy, trying to achieve health and better standards of living through education.  She highlighted the Family Allowance Program as being a major component of these efforts.  This program distributes cash benefits to poor families provided that they have met certain requirements, such as enrolling the children in school.

The next speaker, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Senior Education Advisor at UNICEF, focused on the 67.5 million children worldwide who are not in school.  She discussed the special challenges involved with making sure that “children at the margins” also have access to schooling.  Psychology can help in education and development work, according to Dr. Reynolds, by helping increase understanding of why policy makers implement certain programs and not others, or choose certain strategies or priorities.

Following Dr. Reynolds, Dr. Maria Regina Maluf, a professor of psychology at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, addressed the teaching of reading and writing, noting that many policies on this topic have more to do with politics than with research-based approaches.  She emphasized the need for education systems to focus on the teaching of metalinguistic skills.

Dr. Pamela Flattau, Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analysis, spoke to promote the development of national educational technology plans, which focus on the “goal of developing a modern educational system” in order to build an ICT-savvy workforce.  She highlighted a program in Korea that allowed children from poorer families to use computers to catch up with their peers who had access to private extracurricular educational activities after school.  However, when Goma Mabika, an M.A. student in Lehigh’s Comparative and International Education program, asked Dr. Flattau how the briefing’s theme of “reach them to teach them” would apply to students in his home country of Congo, and in other places where they do not have ready access to computers or the internet, she did not give a substantial answer and instead placed the responsibility on teachers to find and use global technological resources.

The final speaker, Foday Sackor, an MA student at Columbia University, related his own tale of overcoming great challenges to pursue his education from war-torn Liberia to his present home in Maryland.  He closed with a challenge to consider the position of children in countries experiencing war and unrest, whose educational systems are destroyed, and to focus on how these children can be reached.

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