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Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World

by Susan Hughes

Around the world, over 100 million kids are not getting an education, despite the United Nations declaring it a basic human right. Most North American children rarely, if ever, consider how their peers around the world are educated, let alone whether they are able to actually attend school.

In Off to Class, Toronto writer Susan Hughes opens the door to a world of educational possibilities, while at the same time laying out the hard facts (in India, for example, there are more than 18 million street kids, the majority of whom have no access to education). She introduces young readers to the many ways adults around the world are ensuring that children have a chance to learn, often in the most unorthodox ways.

Presented in a simple, captivating style, each school or education system is given a two-page spread, with a brief background of the area and a summary of the challenges faced. Using short paragraphs, pictures, and interviews with students, Hughes shares the creative solutions that devoted educators have devised to provide schooling for kids who would otherwise not be getting any.

Hughes highlights many issues facing children and adults alike around the world, from natural disasters to poverty and homelessness to the challenges of living in a less-than-hospitable environment. She introduces very real issues, including gender inequality, discrimination, and the impact of HIV/AIDS, all in an age-appropriate and sensitive way that sets the stage for further dialogue and discussion, and includes a resource list to encourage participation.

Off to Class is an easy-to-read yet detailed book that should, at the very least, be in every school library, if not every classroom and home.