Education for All

From Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide collection, lesson plan 3 of 5

Grade Levels: High School (9-12 grade), Community College, Youth Development Organizations

Time: 90 minutes or two 50 minutes class periods + Assignments

Subject Areas: Women’s Studies, Social Studies, Global Studies, Media Studies, English Language Arts, Education Studies

Purpose of the Lesson:

“When you educate a girl, there is a ripple effect that goes beyond what you would get from a normal investment…When you educate a girl, you educate a village.” Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Access to education is recognized as a basic human right as well as significant factor in breaking the cycle of poverty and improving quality of life for children, communities, and countries. Despite this, millions of girls and women around the world are disproportionately denied the opportunity to attend school and pursue education and training outside the home.


Through this lesson students will:

  • Explore the value of education in their own lives
  • Consider the ripple effect for families, communities, and nations where girls are disproportionately denied the right to go to school
  • Identify the location of Vietnam on a map and understand the social and political context that has shaped the education opportunities for Vietnamese girls.
  • Understand the Millennium Development Goals’ strategy to cut poverty in half by 2015 and examine the progress and the status of Goal 2 Universal Primary Education in relationship to the global gender disparity.
  • Create an Education Genealogy that explores the impact of education in their own families and communities and traces the path and influence of education through the generations.


Please note: Download teacher and student handouts in PDF format by clicking "Download lesson materials" at left

  • Education in Vietnam film module (10:38 minutes)
  • LCD projector or DVD player
  • Teacher Handouts:
    • Educating Girls and Women Discussion Guide (Download Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Discussion Guide PDFs from the Women and Girls Lead website)
  • Student Handouts
    • Student Handout A: Life Map
    • Student Handout B: The Education Ripple Effect
    • Student Handout C: Vietnam In Context
    • Student Handout D: Video Module Screening Guide
    • Student Handout E: Education for All
    • Student Handout F: Notes from the Field
  • Whiteboard/blackboard and markers/chalk
  • Pens and writing paper
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Kraft Paper
  • Washable Markers
  • Wall map of the world with country names (free printable maps are available here)

Standards: This lesson aligns to key Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. For a full list of standards, please download the lesson materials above left.

Curriculum Writer: Allison Milewski

This curriculum is endorsed by the National Council for Social Studies. To learn more, visit


Time: 30 minutes

You will need: Student Handout A: Life Map, Student Handout B: Ripple Effect, Student Handout C: Vietnam In Context, white board/black board, dry-erase markers/chalk, kraft paper, washable markers, and a wall map of the world with country names (free printable maps are available here)

Goal: Students will begin to explore the value of education by considering how their lives and their futures would be different if they were denied the opportunity to attend school. They will then examine the global gender divide in education and the possible ripple effect for families, communities, and nations where girls are disproportionately denied the right to go to school.

Part 1

  • Begin the lesson with a class discussion using the following questions for prompts. Students can be divided into pairs (Think-Pair-Share) and each group can discuss their responses to the scenarios among themselves before sharing with the rest of the class. Students can also work individually and do a “quick writing” response before sharing with the class.
    • Ask the class the following question: Imagine you went home tonight and your family told you that no one expects you to go to school anymore (Or you don’t have to go to school anymore). How would that make you feel? Would you choose to continue to come to school? Encourage students to respond honestly. Discuss student reactions and ask them to go into more depth about the reasons why their responses were either positive or negative.
    • Now, imagine you are a 14-year-old student in a country where everyone has to pay to go to school. If you were that student, how would you feel if you went home tonight and your family told you that you couldn’t go to school anymore because it is too expensive? What would you do? Would you be willing to go to work to help pay for school? Discuss student reactions and compare them to their reactions from the first question.
    • Imagine you are still that 14-year-old student and you went home tonight and your family told you that your sibling(s) would continue to go to school, but you couldn’t go to school anymore. They tell you that it’s too expensive to send all of their children, and they think it’s more important for your other sibling(s) to be educated. Besides, they need your help doing chores and taking care of the other children in the house. How would you respond to that? What would you do?
  • Based on the discussion, have the class work in pairs and consider what impact scenario C would have on the life of their hypothetical 14 year-old student. Using Student Handout A: Life Map briefly brainstorm some possible consequences that a student might face as a result of being denied access to an education.
  • Ask groups to discuss their responses with their partner(s) then share their results with the class.

Part 2

Introduce the following information:

Access to education is recognized as a basic human right as well as significant factor in breaking the cycle of poverty and improving quality of life for children, communities, and countries. Despite this, millions of girls and women around the world are denied the opportunity to attend school and pursue education and training outside the home.

Of the approximately 75 million children who are currently not in school, the majority are girls. Worldwide, for every 100 boys out of school, there are approximately 122 girls who are unable to attend school. In developing countries and countries with strict cultural and religious codes regarding gender roles, this gap is much wider: for every 100 boys out of school in Yemen, there are 270 girls who are not in school, in Iraq it is 316 girls, and in India it is 426 girls to every 100 boys.

  • Distribute Student Handout B: The Education Ripple Effect and ask students to return to their groups. Using the handout as a guide, ask each group to share their responses to the statement above and discuss the possible ripple effects that result from the disparity in education opportunities for girls.
  • Have each group share their results and discuss as a class.
  • Give each group a large piece of Kraft paper to post on the wall and ask them to record the ripple effects from their discussion.
  • Have the students walk around the room and read eachother’s responses and leave feedback or comments using Post-It Notes. (Be sure to establish guidelines on how to give constructive and appropriate feedback.)
  • Complete the activity by brainstorming some possible strategies that might help to eliminate the barriers to education that their 14-year-old student faces. Record the results on the board to revisit later.
  • Ask the students to keep this activity in mind as they watch the film and tell them that they will return to their responses throughout the lesson.

Part 3

  • In preparation for viewing the video module, ask a volunteer to locate Vietnam on a wall map.
  • Provide students with the one-page fact sheet, Student Handout C: Vietnam In Context. Have them read the fact sheet and discuss briefly with a partner.
  • Variation: This handout can be provided in advance of the lesson for students to review as homework.


Class time: 10-15 minutes

You will need: pens and writing paper, LCD projector or DVD player, Education in Vietnam film module, Student Handout D: Video Module Screening Guide, pens/pencils

  • Distribute Student Handout D: Video Module Screening Guide and instruct students to take notes during the screening using the worksheet as a guide.
  • Variation: The questions from Student Handout D can be projected or written on the board and reviewed briefly before viewing the film module to save paper.


Time: 25 minutes

You will need: Student Handout E: Education for All, Student Handout F: Notes from the Field, white board/black board, dry-erase markers/chalk, pens/pencils, writing paper.

Goal: Students will be introduced to the Millennium Development Goals strategy to cut poverty in half by 2015 and examine the progress of Goal #2: Equal Access to Education. Working in groups, they will imagine that they are student ambassadors for the Millennium Development committee who are collaborating with the Nhi and Phung from the film to identify strategies to improve education in their communities in Vietnam as well as the student’s communities in the United States.

Part 1: Discussion Questions (5-10 minutes):

  • What did you think of the film? Was there anything that surprised you?
  • How do you feel about each student’s story?
  • What are some of the similarities between the stories that you saw? What are some of the differences?
  • What role does gender play in their access to education? In what way?
  • Bich Vu Thi — Room to Read Girls Education Program Officer — talks about her own struggles achieving access to education in a poor family where girls were not valued. She says, “One boy is one child, but 10 girls are not equivalent to one child.” What do you think she meant by that? How do you think this attitude influences girls’ opportunities?
  • What are some things that are being done to support girls in going to school?
  • John Wood, the Founder of Room to Read, has stated that “it is a moral failure” that millions of girls woke up this morning and didn’t go to school? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • How does his statement connect with Phung’s father’s belief that by sacrificing a small amount today, he is giving his children a path out of poverty?
  • Do you think we are facing similar challenges in our own country? Could you provide some examples?
  • Are there groups of young people in this country who are forced to make similar choices between supporting their families or focusing on their own education and future?
  • Nicholas Kristof says in the film, “We often have the idea that providing education is about building a school, providing teachers, school books, and it’s so much more complicated then that in an environment of poverty.” What challenges and complications is he referring to? How do the parents in the film address these barriers and how do their actions shape their daughter’s futures?
  • What does it take to construct a system that supports the education of girls? Are there models in other countries?

Part 2: Millennium Development Goals and Education for All

  • Briefly introduce the Millennium Development Goals and Goal 2: Universal Primary Education (MGD2) using the summary paragraph:

In 2000, the United Nations brought together the Heads of State from 189 countries to discuss how to cut global poverty in half by 2015 and ensure fundamental human rights for all. The strategy they developed consists of eight goals, and include a commitment to achieving primary education for all children. Millennium Development Goal 2: Universal Primary Education (MGD2) seeks to ensure that children everywhere--boys and girls alike--will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015 and that girls would have the same opportunities and access to education as boys by 2005. This target was set because countries around the world recognize that providing education is the key to reducing poverty and improving the health and wellbeing of families and communities. Unfortunately the goal for equal access to education by 2005 was not reached, but progress is being made.

  • Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students and provide each with Student Handout E: Education for All and Student Handout F: Notes from the Field.
  • Explain that each group will review the fact sheet and imagine they are student ambassadors working with the Millennium Development Committee. Their assignment is to work in collaboration with a student from the film to identify ways that they can improve education for girls in Vietnam. In return, they will imagine what insights their Vietnamese partners can provide regarding the importance of education in their lives and how we can improve the quality and commitment to education in our communities in the USA. Students should refer to their notes from the film and the class discussion as well as Student Handout E: Education for All for guidance.
  • Students can present their completed work to the class as notes from the field or they can develop a script and perform the interviews and dialogue.


Select one or more of the following assignments to complete the lesson:

Assignment 1: Why does education matter? How would you advertise Education for All?

Students will develop a public service or advertising campaign to promote the idea of universal education. Students should incorporate the resources from the lesson including facts, case studies, and strategies in their campaign materials. When researching their topic, students think about their audience and how they can galvanize collective support from a broad-range of people (male, female, adults, youth, different economic and cultural backgrounds, etc.) Students can work individually or in a group and their projects should consist of a presentation and informational material.

Assignment 2: Education Genealogy

Have students explore the impact that education has had in their own families and communities by creating an Education Genealogy that traces the path and influence of education through the generations. (Variation: If time is limited, ask students to select one subject to focus their research on.)

  • Have students interview members of their family (or community, if family members are not accessible) from several generations using the prompts below as well as their own questions. They can take notes or record the interviews on video or audio equipment if available.
  • What role did education play in your life?
  • What challenges if any did you face? Were there any barriers to going to school?
  • How did your parents/guardians view your education? Was it a priority?
  • Was the education experience different for boys and girls when you were in school?
  • What strategies did your parents/guardians employ to help open doors and break barriers to success?
  • What is your best and worst memory related to your education?
  • How was your experience with education different from the generation before you?
  • What does education mean in your life now?
  • How do you see education for the next generation?
  • Students should combine interviews and oral history with research on the development of the education system throughout their family (or community’s) history and consider how their ancestors’ access or lack of access to education has shaped their own opportunities.
  • Free online oral history tool-kits and digital video and audio production resources can be found at these sites:

Assignment 3: Journaling about Education

Have students develop a short narrative or fictional story using the experience of the hypothetical student from the Pre-Screening Activity as a jumping-off point. Complete the narrative by having them imagine what their life would be like 10 years from now using two scenarios: if they were unable to overcome the obstacles to their education and if they were able to successfully access an education.

  • If, like our 14-year old student, you were denied access to education at the age of 14, what would you have done?
  • What do you think your life would be like now?
  • What goals do you have for your future and how would they be affected if you could not pursue your education?


What would you sacrifice for a good education? The film Crossover, by Tina Mabry, imagines a future where schools are segregated by economic status and a struggling mother must decide whether to sell her own organs to give her children a better education. Screen the film for students and consider current obstacles to education in the US and around the world. What message was the filmmaker sending about the education in the United States and the need for education reform? Should education continue to be compulsory and free? Have students research the current debate and speculate about the future of education in America.

Activity 2: Legislating Equal Access

Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972, (also called Title IX) was enacted in 1972 and has been credited with raising the opportunity of girls and women in educational environments. While it is best known for paving the way for female student athletes, Title IX also ensures an equal education for pregnant and parenting students and for those seeking STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. Through this lesson plan from, students will become familiar with the principles of Title IX and evaluate its impact on their own learning environment.

Activity 3: The Girl Effect

Have youth mobilize their community and harness the power of The Girl Effect. The Girl Effect is a collective movement created by the Nike Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls that is driven by thousands of grassroots and community-based campaigns around the world aimed at empowering girls and improving life for their families and communities. The Girl Effect Toolkit has a range of resources, tips, multi-media tools, and step-by-step guides for creating your own campaign, organizing community events, and starting local clubs to galvanize support for girls education and empowerment.

Activity 4: Are Schools Killing Creativity?

Have students view Ken Robinson’s TED Talk entitled, “Are Schools Killing Creativity” and the RSA Animation “New Paradigms in Education” and discuss what education—specifically school-based education—means in this rapidly changing world. Have students research the development of education in the United States from the industrial model through No Child Left Behind and consider how schools have changed (or failed to change) to address each generations needs. Have students consider: What will the world look like when today’s kinder-gardeners graduate from high school? How can schools prepare students for a future that we have trouble imagining?

Have students work in groups to design a model of education for the 21st century that combines the traditional “3 Rs” of education (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with the new “4 Cs”: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.


Activity 5. Millennium Development Goals: Empowering Women Empowers the World

In September 2000, the United Nations signed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the aim of halving the number of people living in poverty, reducing maternal and child mortality, fighting disease, and improving social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries by 2015. Have your class screen the complete series of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and examine the connection between the issues addressed in the documentary the MDG campaign’s focus on women. Have them consider how and why improving rights and resources for women and girls is considered key to eradicating global poverty.

  • Divide the class into eight groups, assign each an MDG, and instruct the groups develop a “We Are the Goal” presentation, which should include the following:
  • A summary of the MDG and the campaign’s strategies for improving social and economic conditions for women
  • Information on the public perception and understanding of the MDGs. (Students can investigate the public’s knowledge and understanding of the MDG campaign by recording “person-on-the-street” interviews and include the footage in the presentation.)
  • Examples of specific programs that have been implemented and their impact to date
  • How the campaign relates to issues in the students’ own communities
  • A plan of action for the group and their school community to contribute to the MDG campaign
  • The presentations should be multi-media and can include photo essays, video footage, audio clips, animations, and infographics using the following websites as resources:
  • Animoto
  • Capzles
  • Prezi
  • Infographic tools
  • Information and resources for research on the MDGs can be found at:
  • United Nations Millennium Development Goals
  • End Poverty 2015
  • MDG Get Involved
  • UN Women
  • MDG Monitor


Please note: Download teacher and student handouts in PDF format by clicking "Download lesson materials" at left


N. Kristof, S. Wudunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009


Half the Sky, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide: Filmed in 10 countries, the film follows Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe, oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. All over the world women are seizing this opportunity. Visit the website at

Women and Girls Lead Film Series: Women and Girls Lead offers a collection of films by prominent independent filmmakers. These films focus on women who are working to transform their lives, their communities, and the world. Visit the website to learn more about the films and explore our diverse catalogue of educator resources, lesson plans, and video modules. See for more details.

Websites The official website for the Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide film, book and movement.

Room to Read: founded by John Wood, this organization partners with communities across Asia and Africa to improve educational opportunities for children by focusing on the two areas where programs can have the most impact: literacy and gender equality in education.

CARE International: fighting poverty and injustice in more than 70 countries around the world and helping 65 million people each year to find routes out of poverty.

The Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA): works through local partnerships to give women tools to improve their lives, families, and communities. CEDPA’s programs increase educational opportunities for girls, ensure access to lifesaving reproductive health and HIV/AIDS information and services, and strengthen good governance and women’s leadership in their nations.

Girl Scouts of America: Girl Scouts of the USA has a membership of over 3.2 million girls and adults and empowers girls by tackling important societal issues, embracing diversity and reaching out to every girl, everywhere.

The Campaign for Female Education (Camfed): fights poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by educating girls and empowering women to become leaders of change.

Girls, Inc.: inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

The Girl Effect: A collective movement to lift 50 million women and girls out of poverty by 2030 through the education and empowerment of girls.

National Coalition on Women and Girls Education (NCWGE): A nonprofit organization of more than 50 groups dedicated to improving educational opportunities and advocate for the development of national education policies that benefit all women and girls.

  • Film module:
    Education in Vietnam
Download lesson materials