Afghanistan students 

Education a ‘Beacon of Hope’ in Afghanistan

December 7, 2016


Education in Afghanistan has historically mirrored the ups and downs of the socio-political upheavals in the country. However, the Afghan people’s demand for quality education, their efforts to ensure greater access, and their belief in education as a transformative force has been unwavering, and is especially true today. In 2015, over 9.2 million… Read more

Cambodian students in the school library during a weekly reading session. 

5 Lessons on How to Build a Digital Library Program

September 6, 2016


Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and a half century later there’s much to celebrate. However, one of the persistent problems faced by schools in developing countries still today is a lack of one of the most essential ingredients to encourage reading: engaging children’s books to build literacy from an early age. In… Read more

A S’gaw Karen student runs his classmates through a pronunciation drill. Photo/Lukas Winfield 

To Realize SDGs, Thailand’s Minority Communities Need More Mother Tongue Books

September 6, 2016


Northern Thailand, a region famous for its natural beauty, hill tribe communities, and trekking routes through lush jungle terrain, is home to a diversity of languages and cultures comprising approximately 59 unique ethnolinguistic groups. Standard Thai is currently the country’s only official language and the primary language of instruction in pub… Read more

Amaraa in the hallway of their apartment building. 

Economic Struggles and Expectations for Education in a Changing Mongolia

September 6, 2016


Mongolia is currently a land in economic flux. Fallen revenues from the mining sector and potential bracing measures from the newly elected government point to economic uncertainty ahead. While investment in various sectors may inevitably be delayed, one area that should continue to be a priority is education. The nearly two-thirds of Ulaanbaatar’s… Read more

Ruby Hembrom (left) at the World Delhi Book Fair. 

Giving a Voice to India’s Indigenous (Adivasi) Community

September 6, 2016


Ruby Hembrom (left) at the World Delhi Book Fair. Five years ago, Ruby Hembrom gave up a high-paying career in the IT sector to start her own publishing company to preserve the culture and historical heritage of India’s indigenous (Adivasi) community. Hembrom, who spent the first four years of her life in rural Jharkhand learning Santali as her nat… Read more


The Dawn of a New Day for Reading in Cambodia

March 23, 2016


Cambodia marked its first National Reading Day on March 11 – a public event that calls on Cambodians to embrace a love of reading. The event was one of the many recent steps taken by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MoEYS) to improve the quality of education in Cambodia.


Photo Blog: Building Digital Libraries in Mongolia

February 10, 2016


Since the end of the socialist regime in the early 1990s, urban migration in Mongolia has continued to play an outsized role in the country’s evolving economic and social identity. With 45 percent of Mongolia’s traditionally nomadic population now living in Ulaanbaatar, public resources, especially those for schools and education, have been stretch… Read more


Int’l Day of the Girl Child: Celebrating the Power of Girls in Vietnam and Across Asia

October 7, 2015


On October 11, global communities will mark the International Day of the Girl Child to celebrate girls’ rights and to recognize the achievements and shortcomings since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals…


Post-2015 Development Agenda Needs Standalone Goal on Gender Equality

March 4, 2015


It has been more than a century since the world first celebrated March 8 as International Women’s Day. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women when representatives from 189 governments signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action…


Conversation with Burmese Publisher, Library Advocate U Thant Thaw Kaung

July 9, 2014


Publisher U Thant Thaw Kaung, head of the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation and the mobile library project under the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, recently visited The Asia Foundation’s headquarters in San Francisco as part of a three-week study tour…


Bangladesh’s Development Surprise: A Model for Developing Countries

June 25, 2014


By many metrics, Bangladesh’s development trajectory is a unique success story, especially since the 1990s when democratic rule was reinstated and extensive economic reforms were made. Poverty incidence has fallen from 60 percent to around 30 percent.


Picturing: The Promise of Libraries in Myanmar

April 2, 2014


Libraries and reading have a special place in Myanmar society. Yangon, the country’s largest city, is teeming with book vendors and libraries. The American Center and British Council libraries were venerated sources of up-to-date publications…


Myanmar’s Libraries: A Potential Catalyst for Community Development

February 5, 2014


Despite five decades of near-isolation, the culture and appetite for education and reading is still very much alive for the people of Myanmar. The country maintains one of the highest literacy rates in Southeast Asia – 92.7 percent, according to government figures.


In Highly Literate Myanmar, Local Storybooks are Missing from Shelves

September 4, 2013


As we contemplate the triumphs and remaining challenges in improving literacy this International Literacy Day, consider the fascinating case of Myanmar. The country is one of the poorest in Southeast Asia, with decaying infrastructure and an economy that is just now starting to pick up after decades of stagnation.


The Silent Crisis in Timor-Leste’s Development Trajectory

September 4, 2013


As International Literacy Day approaches, the matter of literacy remains an enormous challenge around the world, including in Asia’s youngest nation, Timor-Leste. Amid the competing development agendas for this democratizing, fast-developing, and oil-rich nation, education, and literacy in particular, too often falls by the wayside.


Activating Feature Phones as Handheld Libraries

September 4, 2013


Victor, a middle-aged resident of the Western Kenyan village of Koru, watched me page through my old Nokia feature phone. I was in Koru to launch a program at a nearby school for Worldreader, an organization that brings e-books to places and people underserved by print books. This was one of the few breaks I had during the launch…


Mongolia’s Young Women Leaders Inspire Merali Scholars

June 19, 2013


On June 9, the Zorig Foundation held its annual Young Women Leaders Event, which brought together 115 young women recipients of the Shirin Pandju Merali scholarship program. The recipients had a chance to meet one another and to hear the experiences of three successful women who rose to the top in spite of barriers…


Elevating Education for Cambodia’s Growth

April 24, 2013


Yesterday marked the 18th World Book and Copyright Day, first introduced by UNESCO in 1995, in celebration of books, authors, and the joys of reading. It’s also an occasion to reflect on the importance of education, especially as a driver of poverty reduction.


How Can Burma’s Libraries Catalyze Development?

February 27, 2013


A delegation from The Asia Foundation, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), and International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) spent time in Burma (also known as Myanmar) last week to hear from citizens and representatives from government, civil society, and libraries…


Burmese Librarians Discuss Country’s Appetite for Education, Changes Underway

September 26, 2012


The Asia Foundation’s Asian American Exchange unit and Books for Asia are currently conducting a 10-day observation program around northern California for 14 librarians from nine Asian countries. While in San Francisco, In Asia editor Alma Freeman caught up with two librarians from Burma…


Harnessing Mobile Learning to Advance Global Literacy

September 5, 2012


This International Literacy Day, Sept. 8, 2012, marks the culmination of the United Nations Literacy Decade (UILD), an initiative launched in 2003 to increase literacy levels and develop literate environments worldwide.


In Remote Sabah, Books Can Help Reduce Isolation

September 5, 2012


I recently took a trip into the heart of Malaysian Borneo to visit some of the most remote schools that The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia serves. Borneo is a large island located north of Java, Indonesia. In the spring of 2011, we started a partnership with PACOS Trust…


Sakena Yacoobi’s Courage and the Future of Afghan Women

June 13, 2012


It’s good to have heroes. One of mine is Sakena Yacoobi, the founder of a terrific organization called the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) that provides education and health services to women across Afghanistan. I first met Sakena nearly a decade ago…

Books for Asia distribution at Leuwiranji Elementary School 

New Online Campaign Brings Children’s Books to Remote Indonesia

May 2, 2012


Last week, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia launched an online campaign with Pearson Foundation’s We Give Books initiative to help bring 5,000 new children’s books to schools in rural Indonesia. For each book read online, We Give Books will donate one new book to support…


Kabul ER: The Power of a Book

April 4, 2012


In Afghanistan, physicians at training hospitals across the country struggle to update their skills and provide adequate care to patients because of a lack of equipment, materials, and up-to-date medical texts and reference materials. In 2011, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia provided over 4,000 medical texts…

Access to Information and Justice 

Three Tech Advances That May Lead to a More Equitable World

March 28, 2012


“Just because they are poor and isolated doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to be the next Bill Gates,” said Shahed Keyes, the founder of Subornogram Foundation in Bangladesh, while introducing me to lively students at a school he started on the remote island of Mayadip.


Digital Libraries Expand Access to Information for Lao Citizens

March 28, 2012


Internet users in Laos are estimated at only 7 percent of the population as of 2010, the last time this data was gathered. But, despite how low this seems, that is double the number of users than in 2008. And, as the economy continues to grow, internet usage is steadily climbing in Laos.

Vivakananda Vidyalaya, Kalladai, Batticaloa 

Sri Lanka Launches Plan to Become Trilingual Nation

March 28, 2012


Three years after the end of decades-long armed conflict in Sri Lanka, there are new government-sponsored efforts afoot to encourage people to speak both national languages – Sinhala and Tamil – and to promote English as a common link language.


The Power of a Book in Sri Lanka

March 28, 2012


As Sri Lanka emerges from a decades-long civil war, employment opportunities are rapidly shifting from the public to the private and technology sectors, where speaking English is required. But, for many Sri Lankans living in impoverished outskirts or the war-torn North, English-language books are a luxury and remain out of reach.


O and Sal: The Jaipur Literature Festival in Two Names

January 25, 2012


Oprah Winfrey looked nervous. Making her way across the stage, she stopped to smile for the herd of photographers and then quickly sat down in her chair. Waiting for the applause to die down, she folded her hands in her lap. This was Oprah’s first visit to India; the press has tracked her every move as she traveled across the country…


Reimagining Education at the Big Ideas Fest

January 11, 2012


For three days in December, individuals from a range of industries gathered at the 3rd Annual Big Ideas Fest to explore the future of education. In a venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley, teachers, administrators, and representatives from policy and advocacy groups…


Timor-Leste’s President Calls for Redoubling of Nation’s Commitment to Education

September 14, 2011


On September 8, The Asia Foundation commemorated International Literacy Day for the first time in Timor-Leste. The Foundation partnered with the Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, Alola Foundation, Care International, and Timor Aid to host a book fair for primary and secondary students.


Traditional Afghan Tales Return Home

September 7, 2011


I was in my teens in England when I first heard the Afghan author and educator Idries Shah telling tales to his children, family, and friends. He had collected hundreds of these traditional stories from oral and manuscript sources in and around Afghanistan.

Vietnam 2009, Justin Mott/Getty Images for The Asia Foundation 2008 Annual Report 

Unlocking the Potential of Vietnam’s Libraries

September 7, 2011


Stories of Vietnam’s rapid development make headlines in local and international media regularly these days. In 1985, the average per-capita income in Vietnam was $130, making it one of the five poorest countries in the world. Now, with average incomes over $1,000, Vietnam’s highly literate population…


Q&A: Nepal Library Director Discusses Nation’s Literacy Challenges

September 7, 2011


As the world celebrates International Literacy Day on September 8, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia officer in Nepal, Shameera Shrestha, caught up with the director of the American Library at the U.S. Embassy of Kathmandu, Prakash Thapa, on where he sees the future of Nepal’s library system…


Family Legacy in Mindanao Inspires Community to Better Education

September 7, 2011


When Ireneo O. Pinzon and his family moved in the 1960s to Isulan, a rural town in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, not a single library existed. Even 50 years later, the Southern Philippines continues to lag behind the more urban islands to the north.


From Mongolia: International Recognition for Writers

June 4, 2008


It’s happening slowly, but it’s happening: Mongolian writers are taking steps toward forming a branch of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, and Novelists). International PEN, the only international organization of writers, is dedicated to literary fellowship and freedom of expression around the world. It was founded in 1921 by Mrs. C… Read more


Books are not obsolete!

May 30, 2008


As I pack my bags for Book Expo America, where I will meet with publishers whose generous donations are improving the lives of millions, I am struck by the high level of participation by the publishing industry and the general public. About 25,000 people will gather in Los Angeles for three days to discuss the latest trends, hear talks from bestsel… Read more


From Pakistan: Delivering Books to Peshawar and Quetta

May 28, 2008


In March, I traveled to Quetta and Peshawar to oversee the distribution of 15,000 books to the University of Balochistan and the University of Peshawar. Books can annihilate a sense of distance, whether between people or places. In Pakistan, donations from Books for Asia (BFA) ” amounting to 2.5 million books since 1954 — have traditionally concen… Read more


From Thailand: Pondok Students Learn In and Outside the Classroom

April 30, 2008


Nakmeen Waeming is a 14-year-old student who dreams of becoming a diplomat. “In the future I would like to be Thailand’s ambassador to Malaysia and work on border issues between the two countries.” To achieve her goals, Nakmeen understands that having foreign language proficiency, in particular English, is an essential part of her future. Yet stude… Read more