Assessments make a lot of people nervous, and I’m not just talking about the students who have to take them. As a psychometrician (assessment expert) and World Bank staffer, I’ve worked on assessment projects in more than 30 countries around the world over the past 10 years. Time and again, I’ve found great interest in student assessment as a tool for monitoring and supporting student learning coupled with great unease over how exactly to go about ‘doing’ an assessment.
Recently, the OECD released the results for PISA 2015, an international assessment that measures the skills of 15-year-old students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real-life problems. There is a sense of urgency to ensure that students have solid skills amidst modest economic growth and long-term demographic decline in Europe and Central Asia (ECA).
Places with cold climates need access to a reliable and efficient heat supply for the health of their population. But in developing countries, the majority of rural and peri-urban households do not have access to centralized heating or gas networks. Instead, they use traditional heating stoves that use solid fuels like coal, wood, and dung for heating. These stoves are often inefficient (with thermal efficiency as low as 25%-40% compared to 70% or above for efficient stoves) and emit large amounts of pollutants (e.g., CO and PM2.5), causing indoor and outdoor air pollution with negative health and environmental impacts.
Global competition to attract foreign and domestic direct investment is so high that nearly all countries offer incentives (such as tax holidays, customs duty exemptions and subsidized loans) to lure in investors. In the European Union, the 28 member states spent 93.5 billion euros on non-crisis State Aid to businesses in 2014. In the United States, local governments provided and average of US$80.4 billion in incentives each year from 2007 to 2012.
In order to better understand the prevalence of incentives worldwide, the Investment Climate team in the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group reviewed the incentives policy of 137 countries. Results showed that all of the countries that were surveyed provide incentives, either as tax or customs-duty exemptions or in other forms. Table 1 (below) shows the rate at which these instruments are used across advanced and emerging economies. For instance, tax holidays are least common in OECD countries and are most prevalent in developing economies. In some regions they are the most-used incentive.
However, despite offering incentives, few countries meet all the requirements of a fully transparent incentives policy. These include: mandating by law, and maintaining in practice, a database and inventory of incentives available to investors; listing in the inventory all aspects of key relevance to stakeholders (such as the specific incentive provided, the eligibility criteria, the awarding and administration process, the legal reference and the awarded amounts); making the inventory publicly available in a user-friendly format; requiring by law the publication of all formal references of incentives; and making the incentives easily accessible to stakeholders in practice. A T&C study now under way on incentives transparency in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region showed that none of the eight countries analyzed has a fully transparent incentives policy. (See Graph 1, below.)
But do we perhaps rely too much on numbers to gain an understanding of people’s lives and the societies in which they live? Do numbers really tell us the whole story, or give us the full picture?
In disaster risk management, we often pay close attention to the latest technological boosts to better understand risks and help communities prepare for the next disaster. While such efforts are commendable, I noticed that
Such messages teach us how to keep hazards away from people (reducing existing risks) as well as how to keep people away from hazards (avoid creating new risks). On my latest trip to Japan, we hosted government officials from Armenia, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan as part of an experts’ visit focusing on disaster risk management, acting on Japan’s rich culture of passing on such decisive messages to future generations.
The opening ceremonies in Dushanbe, Tajikistan starting Wednesday for construction works on the CASA-1000 project mark an important milestone. The project could bring a trade in sustainable electricity between Central and South Asia; address energy shortages in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and will provide financing for new investments and improve winter energy supplies for Central Asian countries.
This ambitious project, costing $1.17 billion, is based on a simple idea.
Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
My father is a long-distance trucker based in Belarus. As a young girl, I spent long hours on the road with him. I loved traveling to neighboring and faraway cities and—even though I could barely reach the pedals at the time—dreamed of becoming a truck driver myself one day. Life ended up taking me on another path, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned that the option of being a truck driver was never open to me to begin with.
Because my native country prohibits women from being truck drivers, one of the 182 professions out of bounds for women.
Ed: This guest post is by Alan Ruby, senior scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy who also serves as a consultant to the World Bank, an adviser to the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, the Head Foundation in Singapore, and the American Institutes of Research.
Nearly 50 years ago, 40 classmates and I spent the last two weeks of November taking our higher school certificate examinations. In a cavernous, hot, and poorly ventilated hall, we sat in widely-spaced rows, writing essays, solving mathematics and science problems, and answering multiple-choice questions.