White House sends tough message on NGOs as Chinese president Xi Jinping visits US

A top White House official Tuesday hosted US non-governmental groups who face tough new Chinese security laws, a high-profile statement of concern as Xi Jinping arrived in the United States.

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice met several representatives from among the universities, businesses and rights groups that would be forced to register and report to the Chinese security services if the draft law enters into force.

xi jinping

“Today’s discussion focused on concerns that the draft legislation would further narrow space for civil society in China,” the White House said in a statement that came hours after the Chinese leader landed in the United States.

Sources familiar with Rice’s talks said it included some organizations that receive US government grants.

The controversial draft law looks set to be yet another area of contention when Xi meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday for a summit designed to strengthen ties.

“I think the president will make that clear,” a senior administration official told AFP, describing the draft law as “deeply troubling” and its impact “very unfortunate.”

“We are going to find some opportunities to speak out on that issue and also find an opportunity to meet some of the stakeholders involved.”

The Obama-Xi summit has already been beset by arguments over cyber hacking and China’s increasingly assertive land grabs in the South China Sea.

“Our concern with the law is profound,” said the official.

“First of all it is very broad, it gives a huge role to the ministry of public security, not the ministry of civil affairs that used to manage these groups.

“I have heard a number of these groups saying that they are having to question whether they will remain in China, whether they will curtail their activities in China or whether they will cancel plans to establish a presence in China.”

The White House said the legislation could hinder services to the Chinese people and “constrain US-China people-to-people exchanges.”

Pressure to push back

Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said “there’s a lot of pressure on the administration to push back on this, to get the Chinese to change it.”

“Take Yale University, for example. They have a presence in China. If in New Haven they choose to host a dissident or the Dalai Lama or something like that, technically under this law the people in China would be subject to arrest.”

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio urged Obama to take a tougher line with Xi.

“The past year alone has been marked by further erosion of rule of law, tightening restrictions on civil society and outright attacks on human rights defenders and political dissidents,” he wrote in an opinion article that appeared in the Washington Examiner.

He urged Obama to invite Chinese human rights activists to Xi’s state dinner.

“Too often the Obama administration wants credit for ‘raising human rights’ —- but passing mentions and diminished significance in the broader bilateral agenda provides little solace to the brave men and women who face unimaginable obstacles and hardship for daring to claim their most basic human rights,” Rubio wrote.

Xi did not fully dispel the criticisms late Tuesday when he addressed the issue in a wide-ranging speech in Seattle.

“China recognizes the positive role of foreign non-profit organizations. So long as their activities are beneficial to the Chinese people, we will not restrict or prohibit their operations,” he said, adding they have “legitimate rights and interests.”

But he added that, for their part, the foreign NGOs in China “need to obey Chinese law and carry out activities in accordance with the law.”

by Andrew Beatty. (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/09/23/white-house-sends-tough-message-on-ngos-as-chinese-president-xi-jinping-visits-us/)


Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang

Some two million residents in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are set to receive a series of books on families and women in the next few weeks, as part of celebrations to mark the 60th year since the autonomous region was founded.

The books are being donated by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), which held a book donation ceremony in the region’s Kashgar on September 16.

Song Xiuyan, secretary of the ACWF’s Party leadership group, vice-president and first member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, attended the event and handed out the books to representative local families.

ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
Song Xiuyan, secretary of the ACWF’s Party leadership group, and vice-president and member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, hands out books to local women in Xinjiang. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]

The books are written on the themes of parenting, teenage safety, women’s health and infant care, and are published both in Chinese and ethnic Uyghur languages.

With vivid illustrations, they provide recipients with a useful and easy-to-follow guideline in their daily lives.

The publishing of the bilingual books shows the care of the Party and the government for Uyghur families and symbolizes the deep bond between women’s federations and Uyghur female citizens, said Song at the donation ceremony.

The books were well received by readers.

“It was useful. I have slept badly recently. After reading the book, I know it is normal,” said one middle-aged woman who pointed to the chapter on the menopause.

“I like this best,” said a woman who picked up the volume on how to be a good parent. “My husband and I agree that we should not beat or curse our son, but talk with him nicely,” she added.

While chatting with them, Song expressed her wish that all Uyghur women could live happier and more harmonious lives.

The books, a product of over a year’s preparation, are the first batch of their kind delivered to the locals in southern part of Xinjiang.

The second batch on related themes are being translated and reviewed and will be ready by the end of this year.

Vice-Secretary of the Standing Committee of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Aierken Shiniyazi; Vice-President of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee of the Region and Vice-President of the ACWF Reziwan Aibai; and Vice-President of the ACWF Jiao Yang, were among the officials who attended the ceremony.

ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
 ACWF officials chat with local women in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]
ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
Officials pose for a group photo with women that received the books. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]

(Source: China Women’s News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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Heroes of reading – Teachers have a critical role in promoting reading and literacy to children

Much has been said about how the Internet and handheld devices like smartphones and tablets have made it harder and harder for parents to raise children readers. And while printed books continue to win its reading battle against the ebooks and ebook readers, a study conducted by Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of over 600 original titles annually, showed that children reading printed books are dropping—a sad fact considering the numbers never really got that high.

“That’s why Scholastic’s mission is simple: help children read and learn,” says Scholastic Asia President Frank Wong. “We want to help build a nation of readers and learners. When you read, especially when you read independently, the next phase is learning. Reading promotes critical thinking, connecting thoughts, creativity—these are all 21st century skills. Without love for reading, it’s very hard to see how our children can progress and really excel in the 21st century.”

Image by Noel B. Pabalate

This is why teachers have a critical role in promoting reading and literacy to children.

“In the Philippines, we have been very successful with our literacy agenda simply because our teachers have embraced it,” says Dr. Duriya Aziz, Scholastic International publisher and vice president. “I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of classroom observations in Manila and I observed that teachers read aloud to kids. Every reading lesson, there is a read aloud session. This is very important because it means that of the 60 minutes of class, the teacher believes that reading is valuable enough to devote 10 or 15 minutes to it.”

By advocating reading, the teachers are modeling a good behavior to their students that is sustained. “I can see the kids so excited about reading. So teachers are fundamental to our advocacy,” Dr. Aziz adds.

Recently, Scholastic held its second Scholastic Readers Cup in recognition of the exemplary efforts of educators, from teachers and librarians to principals and school administrators, in improving literacy in their respective schools. The winners were chosen among educational institutions that participated in Scholastic’s Assessment and Enrichment program (AEP) and Independent Reading Program (IRP); two literacy programs which proved instrumental in producing significant improvements in students’ reading abilities.

The Readers Cup is a tribute to the countless teachers, librarians, principals, and school administrators whose work and leadership have paved the way for students to become better readers and good learners.

“The concept of the Reader’s Cup is you enable the school to assess the students reading capability. Read at the level that they are comfortable in and then pick and choose the kind of things that they like to read. So if a child can read at the right level books that they like and enjoy reading, eventually they will have that good reading habit,” says Frank Wong.

This year, the Readers Cup was given to a number of educational institutions including OSJ-Sto. Rosario Academy, OSJ-Holy Family Academy, St. Thomas Academy, Dr. Yanga’s College Inc., St. Paul College, Balayan,  Iloilo Scholastic Academy, OSJ-Saint Joseph Institute, Saint Mary’s Angels College of Valenzuela, OSJ-Saint James Academy, OSJ-Joseph Marello Institute, Sta. Teresa College, Notre Dame of Greater Manila, MGC New Life Academy and Falcon School.

“Our teachers, librarians, principals, and school administrators are doing a fine job at helping us raise a nation of readers, and we should all be grateful to them. The Scholastic Readers Cup is just one way of giving recognition to these notable educators. They are the real heroes in our quest for a more globally competitive Philippines. We hope to continue this tradition every year. By shining the spotlight on these individuals and institutions, we hope to inspire other educators to raise more and better readers and good learners, too,” says Fritzie Salem-Cruz, general manager of Scholastic in the Philippines

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Statistics on literacy rate confusing

As internationally-acclaimed promoter of literacy Dr Frank Serafini said, “There is no child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s views on the International Literacy Day on Tuesday were in tune with those of the award-winning Professor of Literacy Education and Children’s Literature at Arizona State University. She explained why children drop out at the primary stage and why a large number exit from schools. That was why, the PM had never missed an opportunity in the past to tell the authorities to lessen the heavy load of textbooks in their school bags which they cannot even bear on their backs. The prime minister is a hardcore realist when she said such a load continues to distract attention of children from burdensome studies.

In the same vein, the prime minister suggested that children must be enrolled in Class I without any written admission test.  Whenever a child turns to the age of getting admitted to Class I, he or she should have to be admitted and there’s no need to sit for test with printed papers because this is his or her right, not a matter of test, she pointed out.  Today, it is simply because of the wrong approach of persons tasked with attaining 100 per cent literacy, Bangladesh is set to fail to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in this regard by 2015. The condition of the countywide primary schools is so pitiable that it casts a damper on psyche of toddlers entering their new lives as beginners in literacy. And without literacy, the dream of Bangladesh to turn the country’s huge population into human resources and then human capital will always remain a mirage.

(Source – http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/09/12/107461)

Today, the country’s literacy rate reached 71 per cent till June this year which should have been 100 per cent by December-end. Fallout of cent per cent literacy is obvious. Literate parents can teach their children about health, nutrition and discipline from their early childhood. Also to create accountability for society, the children can be taught basic norms from their early childhood and steps should be taken keeping that in mind. The ‘Bangladesh Literacy Programme’ has been in place with an outlay of Tk 4.52 billion of taxpayers’ money to make the illiterate people literate and create skilled manpower but where does the money go?

Statistics on literacy rate in the country are confusing. The authorities have failed to compute the correct figure as it is not very difficult to do it through its existing countrywide network. When the PM says the literacy rate is 71 per cent, primary and mass education minister Mostafizur Rahman disclosed 61 per cent people in the country are literate now. Last year he said 65 per cent of the people are literate. Immediate past primary and mass education minister Afsarul Amin said 71 per cent people of the country were literate in 2013. The confusion was compounded by education minister Nurul Islam Nahid after he told parliament on June 16 last that 70 per cent people of the country were literate. The minister quoted Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) statistics while replying to a written question from a ruling party MP.

Officials of the primary and mass education ministry officials say the rate of literacy among people aged 15 and above is taken into account. Quoting BBS statistics released in June, the mass education minister said 61 per of people aged 15 and up are now literate and the rate is 57.2 per cent for people aged 7 and up. If the country lacks vital statistics on literacy, all plans and programmes to make a headway in literacy are fated to fumble.

It is really worrying that the primary school drop-out rate reportedly stands at over 20 per cent. This means that even though efforts to increase primary school enrolment have progressed well topping 97 per cent, the benefits of this achievement are being hugely undermined by a large proportion of children dropping out of schools.

The present government had pledged in its 2008 manifesto to achieve the MDG on literacy, but efforts to develop non-formal education schemes for adults have languished behind other projects, notably those to increase primary school enrolment. In primary schools, programmes to distribute mid-day meals and breakfasts, or to pay stipends to poorer families, have been successful in preventing drop-outs. But these are taking place in a few areas, not nationally. At the secondary level, more emphasis should be given to keeping girl students in schools by curbing child marriage.

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Vietnam still has more than 1.5 million illiterates

A class for illiterates in northern mountain Dien Bien Province’s Muong Nhe District.— Photo vnexpress.net
Story http://vietnamnews.vn/society/275674/viet-nam-still-has-more-than-15-million-illiterates.html

HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam has more than 1.5 million illiterates between the ages of 15 and 60, an official from the education and training ministry has said.

Head of the MoET’s Continuous Education Department, Nguyen Cong Hinh, said all provinces and cities nationwide had achieved the national target of eliminating illiteracy in 2000, and had continued their universal education programme since then.

However, some localities neglected their duty to eliminate illiteracy and thus missed the target deadline in 2015.

The number of people attending literacy and post-literacy classes had decreased from 60,000 in the previous years to a little more than 28,000 in the 2014-2015 period.

Hinh said in some localities, the authorities were not really interested in eliminating illiteracy. The local people’s awareness of the issue was also very limited.

The teachers involved in the illiteracy elimination campaign were also unprofessional as they did not have a chance to attend training courses.

Some localities did not research and compile teaching materials suitable and specific to their learners.

Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Study Promotion Association Nguyen Tat Dong said illiteracy has become quite a serious issue, especially in the remote mountainous areas where its elimination was difficult, mainly because the people were too poor to focus on learning the Vietnamese language.

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Fathers ‘should encourage reading’

Alison Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material.

Alison Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/71780892/fathers-should-encourage-reading

Kiwi men start out behind the eight ball when it comes to reading, often leading to a poor start for their children’s literacy.

Auckland Community Education Trust (COMET) said Father’s Day and Tuesday’s International Literacy Day were opportunities to call for an increased focus on literacy for boys and men across the country.

COMET Auckland manager for literacy and family learning Alison Sutton said men fell behind their female counterparts from an early age, causing troubles in later life including having a negative impact on their children’s reading.

COMET Auckland's Alison Sutton says more needs to be done to put the focus on male literacy in New Zealand.


COMET Auckland’s Alison Sutton says more needs to be done to put the focus on male literacy in New Zealand.

Sutton said 81 per cent of Auckland primary school-aged girls were reading at or above the standard level for their age but only 72.6 per cent of boys were reading at the same level.

Those figures were even lower for the four South Auckland areas captured by Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative programme, with just 58.9 per cent of boys reading at or above the standard for their age.

“Those figures are really worrying, because the gaps in literacy between girls and boys widen as young people go through their education journey,” Sutton said.

These issues manifested as a “startling” trend in the workplace, where 50 per cent of all workers struggled with the basic literacy needed to do their job, she said, adding that men faced the biggest problems when it came to literacy at work.

Sutton said reading and the associated literacy skills impacted on education, employment prospects, the ability to be informed citizens, relationships, creativity, insight, and parenting.

“We need to build the literacy levels of parents and caregivers so that our young people can get the best start in school, and adults can thrive in their work.”

Attention was often given to improving mums’ literacy as they typically spent more time with their children.

However, dads had an equally important role to play in their children’s literacy and oracy.

Reading for pleasure was seen as more of a female activity but New Zealanders needed to change their conversations and expectations about boys and men being readers, Sutton said.

“Dads should encourage their sons to be readers, and this is most effective when Dad himself is also a reader and role model.”

COMET was trying to encourage fathers and father-figures to increase the amount of time they spent talking, reading and singing with their kids.

Some of the country’s large employers, like The Warehouse, offered workplace literacy courses.

Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material, including illustrated novels, comic strips, manga, poetry, and even fictional stories linked to a popular TV series or movies.


Figures from the latest census show more than 100,000 New Zealand parents left school without any qualification.

Out of 893,706 parents with children between the ages of 0 and 17 at the time of the 2013 census, 123,120 or 13.8 per cent did not have any formal academic qualification.

Parents from the West Coast had the highest rate of no qualifications at 21 per cent, followed by Gisborne on 19.3 per cent.

Wellington parents were the most likely to have gained a qualification, with 99,132 out of 10,239 parents gaining some kind of formal academic qualification.

Meanwhile, 11.8 per cent of Auckland parents left school or university with a qualification and 13 per cent of parents living in Canterbury at the time of the census.

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Literacy event shows location no barrier to learning outcomes


LiteracyPlanet, an Australian-developed online literacy resource for children aged 4-15, held the National Child Literacy Competition – Word Mania 2015 – on Thursday last week.

The event, held at Macquarie University in North Ryde, involved more than 10,000 children and 1,300 primary schools. The event is designed to help students improve their literacy skills through an online word-building game called “Word Mania”.

The nation’s top 12 young “word builders” from Years 1-6 travelled from various parts of the country, competing to become Australia’s top word builder – a title taken out by Evan Luc-Tran, a Year 1 student from Rhodes in NSW.

LiteracyPlanet CEO, Adam McArthur, told The Educator that the most amazing story to come out of the event was a small school in Alice Springs – Living Waters Lutheran School – ranking ahead of the nation’s top schools.

“This school was competing with all the big schools in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere. Two of the finalists were from Alice Springs, based on the points scored from words built,” McArthur told The Educator.

“That is just amazing to me. It shows that the delivery of online education levels the playing field for everyone around the country. Any school that has online access can participate and compete against the big private schools.”

McArthur said the inspiration behind Word Mania came from parents pointing out that most education-based competitions were focused around mathematics rather than on literacy.

“Parents were saying there were too many maths competitions and activities and not enough building literacy skills and making this area of learning fun for students,” McArthur said.

“The whole premise of our business is that reading should be fun. We get great feedback from parents who participated in Word Mania with their kids, even competing head-to-head with them.”

In August, the Smith Family outlined the importance of parental engagement in child learning during National Literacy Week, saying research had shown that students performed better at school when their parents were actively engaged with their learning.

The Smith Family’s acting CEO, Wendy Field, told The Educator that location was no barrier to success, saying parents in poorer households can make a significant impact on their child’s learning,.

“We know that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, it can help improve their outcomes – even though they might have a low-socioeconomic (SES) background,” Field told The Educator.

McArthur agrees. He said that parents are helping to bridge the classroom divide by engaging with their child’s learning.

“The most common feedback we get from teachers is that parental engagement can make a massive difference to the child’s learning. They see the difference when they walk into the classroom the next day,” McArthur said.

“However, many parents see it as the school’s job – not theirs – to get their kids engaged in their learning.

There are the parents who say they are simply too busy with work or chores at home to juggle those responsibilities with their child’s homework.”

For next year’s Word Mania event, McArthur is hoping to increase coverage and participation in the competition through live streaming and video conferencing.

“We have a lot of technology readily available to us which will help bring people closer together. Next year we might make it a real time competition with a leader board that shows the schools and how they’re performing,” McArthur said.

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Children surrounded by “rubbish” books

Vietnam, life skill, academic year, Education Publishing House

VietNamNet Bridge – Educators have expressed deep concern about children’s books with nonsensical content which are sold at many shops in the country.

Vietnamese parents like to buy books that teach life skills and are entertaining for their kids, because they believe modern children are stuffed with too much academic knowledge. And they have many choices as numerous such books have hit the market.

Mai Lan, a parent in Thanh Xuan district in Hanoi, said she panicked when reading ‘Do vui can nao’ (brainstorming quiz) from the Culture & Information Publishing House.

A question was raised in the book: “Why did a man die of drowning even though he tried to commit suicide by jumping off a building?” And the suggested answer was: “Because the street was inundated.”

Another question was: “How can a mother make a formula for her infant with just one toe?” The answer is “Waking up her husband with the toe, so that the husband gets up and does this.”

“These are quite nonsensical questions and answers,” she said. “I cannot understand why such rubbish books can go through censoring agencies and hit the market.”

Lan also pointed out a lot of other questions and answers which provide ‘anti-scientific’ and ‘anti-educational’ solutions.

“How do you measure the height of a big tree without having to climb into the tree?” The book ‘advised’ children to chop down the tree for easy measuring.

“Why is breast milk the best for infants? “Because breast milk does not go up in price.”

Hoang Thanh Hoa, a parent in Cau Giay district, said she was very disappointed about a book from the Fine Arts Publishing House.

“Whose teeth are the whitest?” “The black people’s” was the answer.

“It is a waste of money to buy such rubbish books,” she complained. “However, wasting money is not the biggest problem. More importantly, the lessons from the books will spoil children.”

“It is management agencies which have to take responsibility for the books,” she said, adding that no relevant agencies had expressed their opinion about the cases.

Dr. Nguyen Tung Lam, a renowned educator in Hanoi, commented that children were surrounded by numerous rubbish books.

“It is necessary to eliminate the books from the market and to establish strict censorship at publishing houses to be sure that such books cannot hit the market,” he said.

Dr. Vu Thu Huong, a lecturer at the Hanoi University of Education, said the situation was “worrying”.

The books with nonsensical content would spoil children, while parents nowadays are too busy to spend time to choose the right things for their children to read she said.

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How kids in Vietnam, other countries embark on extreme journeys to school (photos)

As the world marks the 48th annual International Literacy Day on Tuesday, have a look at how children in Vietnam and several Asian countries go to school in this photo feature provided by World Vision Vietnam.

Millions of children across Asia returned to school this month, pursuing their right to education. The new school year in Vietnam officially kicked off on September 5.

While many have schools in their own communities, others have to go on long and difficult journeys to access their education, which is a major challenge in Asia and the Pacific.

In remote villages, schools are often far away and difficult to reach. The distance from home to school is one of the reasons why 26.3 million children are out of school in Asia and the Pacific, according to UNESCO.

“On World Literacy Day, we are celebrating the children who embark on extreme, sometimes dangerous, journeys to school, so that they can learn and continue their education,” World Vision, a global relief and development organization, said.

Here is how kids in remote areas in Vietnam and some other Asian countries make it to pursue literacy.

Vietnam: Every day, Linh and her friends wake up at 4:30 in the morning to walk to school. It is a three-km journey from her house to school. She has to pass over several streams and steep slopes. In the flood season, the stream current is very dangerous. Photo: Truong Cong Thanh

VietnamLinh and her friends walk over a steep slope. In the rainy season, the slopes become slippery and dangerous, often causing them to fall down. Their school books get drenched too. Photo: Truong Cong Thanh

Cambodia: These two grade 3 students endure a four-km walk to school every day. By the time Sreyneang (right) reaches school, “[she] has been tired and [her] legs have been tired too.” Photo: Vanndeth Um

Myanmar: Aye Aye and her friends walk across a rice field on their long journey to school. Photo: Khaing Min Htoo

Indonesia: Melvi, a ten-year-old boy from a rural area in East Sumba, Indonesia, passes over a wide river to reach school before climbing the steep chalk cliff. Photo: Rena Tanjung

The Philippines: Jenel is one of hundreds of students who live in the mountain ranges of the Philippines. He treks two hours – up and down the hills and across a river – to walk from his sugar cane farming village to school. Photo: Mong Jimenez

India: Parmila, 8, and her friend Armu, both in third grade, walk across a desert in western India in order to reach school. Photo: Tiatemjen Jamir

September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1965. It has been celebrated around the globe annually since 1966, with an aim to remind the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.

The theme of the 2015 International Literacy Day is “Literacy and Sustainable Societies,” according to UNESCO.

World Vision, which is dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the cause of poverty, started working in Vietnam with emergency relief assistance in 1988 and opened an office in Hanoi in 1990.

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Localized Innovation in Laos, Guatemala and Ghana Shows Us What Quality Education for All Should Look Like


I left a 30-year career in for-profit education with hopes of changing the future for the world’s most vulnerable young students. Bringing quality education to all, the mission driving Pencils of Promise, may be the most challenging work with the highest stakes I have ever taken on.

Yet, as the name of our NGO alludes, there is promise.

Later this month, the United Nations will convene to celebrate its 70th anniversary, working toward a compelling vision for sustainable development as articulated in its goals (SDGs) for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. By necessity, the group’s policy lens will focus on the highest level and set inspirational goals from which individual countries can begin to shape more specific targets.

Thankfully, this broad, diffuse light brings attention and awareness to a pervasive need — 250 million children worldwide lack basic reading, writing and numeracy skills. One in three of our planet’s youth fall far short of achieving literacy levels necessary to complete primary education, progress to secondary education and rise above a subsistence economy.

If children are indeed our future, then our future is at risk. But, there is abundant evidence suggesting that now is the time to achieve both systemic change and local impact.

Achieving SDG 4 — “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” — requires two breakthroughs. First, we must define and achieve higher quality. Then, we must find effective means to reach every child, to satisfy the “for all” component.

I lead Pencils of Promise (PoP), a small, innovative NGO focused on bringing quality education to rural communities in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos. We live and breathe education, especially “for all.” Impact and return on donor’s dollars necessitate that we adopt a rigorous, hypothesis-driven, trial-and-error approach to identifying what works.

And here, too, there is good news.

Over the past year in Ghana, we implemented programming — including teacher training and e-readers for every student — designed to boost literacy rates. The results showed that 89 percent of sixth-grade students receiving PoP programming achieved benchmark literacy proficiency, versus 56 percent in a control group. This coming year, we will scale this programming to reach more communities and further validate outcomes.

Achieving these gains required a methodical and customized approach to addressing conditions in Ghanaian primary-school classrooms. These programs will not be easily transferable to Laos or Guatemala. There are few economies of scale in this work, at least until broadband internet access is ubiquitous.

What we can share, however, is that a custom approach to promoting quality education includes the following essential ingredients:

Partnership. Faced with deep need, there is a tendency to act. Instead, we ask first, act later. We ask governments and people what they need most, where and why. We trust but verify — with frequent visits to validate need and evolving conditions. Teachers, students and communities are receptive to PoP because of our authentic, equal partnership with local communities, national Education Ministries and regional governments. We do together what no one partner could achieve alone.

Accountability. We don’t believe in handouts. Instead, we hold partners accountable for their contribution to a school, before we make ours. PoP builds primary schools for entire communities, for all students and parents to share and feel ownership.

Transparency. We continue working in communities after we build a school to implement water, sanitation and hygiene programs as well as literacy-boosting technology and teacher support. Being there allows us to frequently collect data and share it with our stakeholders. As a result, 100 percent of the 304 schools that we’ve built are operating — no incomplete builds, re-purposed buildings or failed schools here.

Gender Equality. In Guatemala and Ghana, we require Promise Committees comprised equally of men and women to lead our projects from beginning to end, helping further engage the community and providing vital linkage to our staff.

Local. At PoP, we empower and encourage local staff. Each of our Country Directors knows their country best — our role is to support their visions, not impose our own. PoP team members speak the native languages of communities, spend months there during the school builds and visit at least monthly thereafter. Quality education takes time and persistence.

On September 8, Pencils of Promise is lighting the Empire State Building yellow, like a pencil, to celebrate International Literacy Day and raise awareness of the 250 million children who lack basic reading and writing skills. As we look up at the NYC skyline, we will reflect on our own privilege of receiving a quality education.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development — including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post’s commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What’s Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 4.

To support One Million Words Asia Literacy Organization work in Laos please donate at www.onemillionwords.org/donate.html