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Developing Countries Can Provide Milwaukee With Innovative Ideas for Education

RIBI Image Library, flickr
A classroom in Brazil.

In 2015, more than 190 world leaders signed onto the United Nations' list of Sustainable Development Goals. They address global inequality and promote more sustainable societies over the next fifteen years. The goals are universal – they’re designed to apply not just to the developing world, but to communities like ours, as well.

UW-Milwaukee is using these goals as a jumping-off point for its latest live lecture series.

It’s called "Fireside Forums,” and all this month it’s bringing national and international guests together with Wisconsin-based experts to compare global and local aspects of issues facing our community.

Dr. Rebecca Winthrop looked specifically at education. She is director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

Winthrop joined UWM to talk about helping local communities look for solutions to education problems, both across the country and overseas.

She says there are a lot of similarities between the debates around education in both the U.S. and developing countries around the world, particularly focused on skills gaps and equality of access.

“In a lot of places…in Milwaukee, I know, there’s a big achievement gapbetween black and white students. In the world, there’s also a massive achievement gap, it’s just on a different level,” Winthrop explains. “Developing countries are about 100 years behind where education in America is, if you look on big major averages.”

In her work across the world, Winthrop says she’s noticed some practices developing countries do better than the U.S., even though access might be might be significantly lower. She says American educators would do well to pay attention.

“Education is due to be thought about globally,” Winthrop says. “I think it’s a little harder in the U.S. because there’s a very established, entrenched system, but fresh thinking is useful.”