A good education gives people in poverty the power to improve their lives.

It leads to better health outcomes, increases employment opportunities and wellbeing, and reduces the risk of civil unrest and violence.

It produces more engaged and informed citizens, who can take an active stake in creating more wealthy and equitable societies.

Patricia Gilhooley talking to child in Ethiopia

What we do

Our vision is that all children have access to good quality primary education. This includes ensuring the most disadvantaged – such as girls, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities and children affected by HIV and AIDS – are also able to go to school.

In the past financial year, VSO:

  • worked with 164 local partner organisations on education in 16 countries
  • benefitted 810,000 people through education programmes
  • trained 98,500 education practitioners

Our objectives

We work directly with local partners and through national and international advocacy to:

1. Increase the number of qualified and trained teachers

We simply do not have enough teachers to educate all the world’s children to primary level. The pressure for countries to increase their numbers to meet global targets has led to education workforces in many developing countries that suffer from a widespread lack of formal training.

VSO volunteers are working in teacher training colleges, building their capacity to produce a greater number of well-trained teachers capable of giving the next generation the educational opportunities they deserve.

Volunteers also work with groups of schools and alongside teachers to improve the management of teaching staff and the methods they use in classrooms. By assisting teachers in delivering lessons that are enjoyable, practical and interactive, more children leave school with skills and knowledge that will improve their chances in life.

2. Improve leadership and management of education services

VSO works with local government offices and Ministries of Education in assessment, strategic planning, national curriculum development, monitoring and evaluation and national quality standards.

Education services that are well managed, with strong accountable leaders, have more engaged teachers and achieve better results.

Valuing Teachers is the name of our international education advocacy and policy work, produced in collaboration with the CfBT Education Trust. The research has now been completed in 13 countries.

What Makes Teachers Tick? (2002), a policy research report on teachers' motivation in developing countries, has informed much of our work to encourage governments to change policies affecting teacher conditions and efforts to improve the quality of education. 

3. Increase community engagement

VSO works in communities, raising awareness of the right to an education and addressing barriers to enrolment, retention and attendance.

We also work within mainstream education systems to overcome the challenges faced by marginalised groups and improve the provision of inclusive education.

4. Promote evidence-based policy and practice

For more information and case studies on how VSO contributes to improving education outcomes for people living in poverty, see our Education capability statement (PDF).

Volunteer with VSO

If you're an experienced teacher, why not lend your skills and volunteer with VSO?