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Young Turks Tackle Girls' Education Gap With Free English Lessons

"We see each English word as a brick which helps a girl to construct her dream."

17/05/2016 2:29 AM AEST | Updated 17/05/2016 2:29 AM AEST
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Unlike these children at a special preschool in Tehran, many girls in the Middle East miss out on educational opportunities.

Frustrated that many girls in the Middle East are excluded from the full benefits of education, a group of Turkish entrepreneurs decided to help them acquire one valuable skill: the use of the English language. The team is building a website that will offer girls free online lessons.

The site, called 1word1dream, aims to teach elementary school-level English, founder Burçak Tuba Tayhan told The WorldPost. The focus will be on girls between the ages of 10 and 15 who already know the rudiments of the language.

Lessons will be conducted through animated videos, interactive drills and exercises. Students will also be able to communicate with teachers in real time during a weekly two-hour online class.

The organizers are currently seeking $130,000, through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, to build the software and to employ the teachers. With that money, the team expects to provide lessons to 5,000 users starting this year, although they hope to expand the platform's capabilities in the future.

The website focuses on educating girls in the Middle East because women's rights are particularly fragile there, Tayhan said.

Gender gaps in the region's primary and secondary school enrollment are among the widest in the world, the Brookings Institution noted in a 2015 report. The causes include poverty, armed conflict, child marriage and other religious and social norms.

"These girls' hands are tied with 'do nots' and 'cannots' in their cultures," Tayhan said. "So we are ready here and now to share all the knowledge with these girls."

Girls with an education are more likely to avoid early and unwanted marriages, participate in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes, the World Bank noted in a report last year.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters
The gaps between school enrollment of girls and boys in the Middle East are among the widest in the world.

Through its classes, the 1word1dream team hopes to empower young women to better understand and communicate with the wider world. Knowing English helps increase women's opportunities to work outside the home and to study internationally, said Tayhan, an English instructor at Turkey's Ahi Evran University.

"We see each English word as a brick which helps a girl to construct her dream," Tayhan added.

They hope to offer the first lessons on 1word1dream's website by November, Tayhan said. By the time the 5,000 girls finish the elementary school-level courses, she predicted the site will be ready to launch its intermediate-level courses.

Once the full website launches this coming fall, girls can sign up by filling out a short form indicating their level of education, age and residence. 

Around the world, some 62 million girls between the ages of 6 and 15 are not in school now, according to the World Bank. Sixteen million girls between 6 and 11 will never get to go school, compared to 8 million boys.

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