CRS and its partners promote and support access to quality basic education for all. The agency stands in solidarity with the most marginalized populations and works to effect individual, structural, and systematic changes. In so doing, CRS contributes to building peaceful and just societies.
CRS implements or supports education activities in three areas:
- Crisis areas
- Areas that are transitioning from a crisis to stability
- Relatively stable areas
In crisis areas, CRS often provides support directly to schools, whereas in poor but relatively stable areas, CRS supports local "grassroots" organizations or partners who, in turn, work closely with local schools.
CRS' education programming is based on continuous dialogue and reflection for improved performance. Special emphasis is given to working with the social agencies of the local Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations because of our shared commitment to promoting justice and our respect for human life and dignity.
CRS has three priorities for its education programming:
- Access and Equity
- Quality Education
- Community Participation
CRS considers these priorities when implementing activities such as Food-Assisted Education (FAE), also known as school feeding programs. CRS has supported school feeding programs since 1958. School meals help meet short and long-term education, nutrition, and food security objectives.
In the mid-90s, CRS expanded its programs by combining school feeding with education activities that focus on improving the quality of education, girls' access to education, support for teachers, health/hygiene education and services for students, school infrastructure improvement, and increased parental and community involvement in schools. The participants in these expanded school feeding programs are mostly pre-school and primary school students in rural, food insecure regions. In most Africa and Asia programs, school feeding activities have a special emphasis on drawing girls to school.
In the short-term, school feeding encourages children to enroll in school and attend regularly because they receive a meal at school. Through the school meal, children receive essential nutrients, which improve their ability to learn. This meal is also an incentive for parents to send their children to school because they know their children will eat well at school, and that they will not have to use limited family funds and time to prepare a midday meal.
School feeding programs also help meet long-term education and food security objectives. Over time, investments in education, especially for girls, have been shown to improve family health and incomes and help ensure food security for future generations.
In addition to school feeding activities, CRS sometimes uses schools and the school system as a delivery mechanism for other types of services. An example of this would be a health or nutrition project that provides food (to address short-term food security) or micronutrients (to address specific micronutrient deficiency) to children in schools.
Who Do These Activities Reach?
CRS' education programs are implemented around the world in Africa , Asia , Latin America and the Caribbean , the Middle East and Eastern Europe . Education activities promote increased access to, quality of, and community involvement in education, and often combine several of these goals at the same time.
Beneficiaries and participants in CRS' education projects are school-age children, their parents and other members of the larger community, teachers and administrators, and local grassroots project partners. Schools participating in CRS' education programs are public, private, and parochial.
Education programs focus on primary or pre-primary grades and are implemented through both the formal education system and informal learning environments. Informal learning environments provide basic education to groups that have traditionally been excluded from schooling and strengthen parent and community organizations to become a positive force for improving education.
Background of CRS' Education Program
CRS is constantly evaluating and improving its education programming and recently expanded its school feeding activities to focus more on primary education. CRS began implementing new types of education programming, as well as making a fundamental shift in its programming: instead of seeing school-based food assistance as the centerpiece of the agency's education programming, education was made the focus.
Now, food assistance is seen as one of several possible interventions and school feeding was renamed Food-Assisted Education. FAE is defined as a set of "interventions supporting long-term education objectives, which are being implemented with food (among other) resources and thus aim to have short-term food security impact in addition to long-term food security impact." Adoption of this model has inspired a new generation of progressive education initiatives within the agency. A wide variety of programming is now in progress and goals include:
- Promoting girls' education
- Strengthening parental/community involvement in education
- Improving access to education
- Improving the quality of education
- Improving infrastructure and school environments
- Promoting inclusive education
- Promoting adult education and literacy
- Promoting early childhood development
- Promoting health/hygiene/nutrition/sanitation through schools
- Promoting education for peacebuilding
- Promoting vocational training and life skills
- Promoting short-term food security in emergency situations
Specific activities that meet these programming goals include:
- Distributing micronutrient supplements to improve students' health
- Providing parents with hygiene and nutrition education
- Improving teachers' skills and directors' school management techniques
- Providing take-home rations to encourage the enrollment and attendance of girls and other marginalized groups
- Initiating information and education campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of issues such as girls' education
- Strengthening Parent Teacher Associations to increase community involvement in education
These activities provide a more holistic approach to child development and a more comprehensive support for primary education.
Technical Partners and Donors
Local partners include:
- Education ministries
- Parent-teacher associations (PTAs)
- Umbrella PTA groups such as National Parents' Associations
- Catholic diocesan offices specializing in education
- Local not-for-profit organizations active in education