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September 2012

Africa’s Learning Crisis

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without someone pointing out that, despite being enrolled in school, many of Africa’s primary school-age children don’t seem to be learning very much. 

Today’s salvo is from the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education, whose Africa Learning Barometer estimates that 61 million children (half of the primary school-age population) “will reach their adolescent years without being able to read, write or perform basic numeracy tasks.”  

Last week, my colleagues Elizabeth King and Ritva Reinikka called on Africa’s education system to “put learning first for all students.”  We have documented disappointing learning outcomes in Tanzania on this blog.  Despite being a middle-income country and having substantially increased public spending on education, South Africa’s performance in standardized tests is below the average for African countries.

Quote of the Week: Michael Ignatieff

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“So we come out of the Rushdie affair with one thing in common: democratic life together is a hard bargain. Each of us, Muslim believer and secular liberal, wishes the other were different. But we are not, and living together requires us to accept what we cannot change.”

--Michael Ignatieff, Financial Times, September 14, 2012. The lessons from Rushdie’s fatwa years.

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

Dan Hoornweg's picture

After the post was vacant for more than a year, Jennifer Keesmaat started this month as the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. One of the first things she did was write an excellent article in the local newspaper arguing ‘our cities will define our future’. She makes the case for Toronto – but the same argument can be made globally and even more strongly for cities like Jakarta, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Nanjing and Kunming. We are truly in the thick of the Urban Century; we are building cities at a faster rate than ever before, and increasingly these cities are defining our and our children’s future.

Better Human Resource Policies in Apparel

Gladys Lopez-Acevedo's picture

"Made in Cambodia" by @ndres1, 2010.

Traditionally, policy makers have focused on creating jobs to reduce poverty, but jobs alone may not be sufficient. Job quality also matters, although creating "good" jobs is a huge challenge given the advent of global supply chains, which link thousands of firms extending across cultural and political boundaries.  As it turns out, we are learning that good human resource policies may tip the scales.

Friday links September 14: Cash transfers and sexual activity/food security, CDDs, Facebook causes voting, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

·         Essential reading this week: The Boston Review has an excellent feature on early interventions to promote social mobility, with the lead article by Jim Heckman. I never realized quite how small the samples of the famous early childhood studies are – treatment group of 58 kids in the Perry Preschool program and 65 in the control group.

Why are so many Americans unbanked?

Leora Klapper's picture

 The  U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. released a study yesterday reporting that 17 million adults – or 7% of the adult population - live in an unbanked household. In fact, because they use the household as the unit of measurement, the FDIC considers this to be a lower-bound estimate of the number of unbanked adults living in America. The finding is therefore consistent with the World Bank Development Research Group’s Global Findex database which finds that 12% of American adults are unbanked. Both data sources consider an adult to be unbanked if they do not have an account at a formal financial institution.

How do School Vouchers Help Improve Education Systems?

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

This is an excerpt from "School Vouchers Can Help Improve Education Systems" published on the Opinions section of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) website.


As the demand for education increases, resources remain scarce. In most countries, the government is both the major financier as well as the provider of education. However, schooling still does not reach all members of society equally.

One way of financing education is to provide families with the funding – via cash transfers to schools based on enrollments or by providing cash to families to purchase schooling – in other words- through vouchers. The objective of a voucher program is to extend the financial support from the government to these other education providers and thus give all parents, regardless of income, the opportunity to choose the school that best suits their preferences.

Child mortality: new data and faster progress

Emi Suzuki's picture
Levels & Trends 
in Child Mortality: 
Report 2012

Substantial progress has been made towards achieving MDG Goal on Reducing Child Mortality but still insufficient – The new UN-World Bank child mortality estimates

New child mortality estimates (childmortality.org) show that substantial progress has been made towards achieving the fourth Millennium Development Goal. The estimates were released today by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, which includes UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank and United Nations Population Division.

Since 1990 the global under-five mortality rate has dropped 41 percent, from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 in 2011. Four of the six World Bank’s developing regions have reduced their under-five mortality rate by more than 50 percent: East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa regions.  Progress towards Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2015 target of a two-thirds reduction is also on track in these four regions. ("On track" indicates that under-five mortality is less than 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 or that the annual rate of reduction is at least 4 percent over 1990-2011.)


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