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The latest PISA results: Seven key takeaways

Marguerite Clarke's picture
International assessments aren’t perfect but they offer useful insights into how countries can help all students learn to high levels. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)


Results for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exercise were released on December 6. The results are instructive, not only because of what they tell us about the science, mathematics, and reading knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world, but also in terms of how they compare to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which were released a week ago (click here to read my blog on key takeaways from the TIMSS results).

Successful procurement is not just a set of activities, it is a strategy

Elmas Arisoy's picture
 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tran Viet Duc / World Bank


Many Bank-financed projects, especially those implementing large and complex contracts continually face high risk of implementation delays, and procurement is the most frequently used scapegoat.

What has gone wrong in those cases?

At the onset, borrowers are requested to prepare a detailed procurement plan for the first 18 months of project implementation, which is carefully reviewed and approved by the Bank before loan negotiations and the projects are then declared "good to go."
But the reality is almost never that rosy.

What is your most urgent question on reducing poverty in Vietnam? Ask the World Bank Vietnam Country Director

Ousmane Dione's picture

As we commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of #Poverty and #Vietnam’s Day for the Poor today, think what’s the most important question you want to ask about reducing poverty in Vietnam. What do you want to know about ensuring equal opportunities? About social #inclusion? Shared prosperity?  

Post your questions at www.facebook.com/worldbankvietnam and we will collect the top 5 questions asked within the next two days.  

The logical next step toward gender equality: Generating evidence on what works

Sudhir Shetty's picture
© World Bank
College students in Vietnam. © World Bank


As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress. 

Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.

Making South Asian Apparel Exports More Competitive

Ritika D’Souza's picture

Apparel workers in Bangladesh

There is now a huge window of opportunity for South Asia to create more apparel jobs, as rising wages in China compel buyers to look to other sourcing destinations.  Our new report – Stitches to Riches?: Apparel Employment, Trade, and Economic Development in South Asia  –  estimates that the region could create 1.5 million new apparel jobs, of which half a million would be for women. And these jobs would be good for development, because they employ low-skilled workers in large numbers, bring women into the workforce (which benefits their families and society), and facilitate knowledge spillovers that benefit the economy as a whole.

But for these jobs to be created, our report finds that apparel producers will need to become more competitive – chiefly by (i) strengthening links between the apparel and textile sectors; (ii) moving into design, marketing, and branding; and (iii) shifting from a concentration on cotton products to including those made from man-made fibers (MMFs) – now discouraged by high tariffs and import barriers. These suggestions recently drew strong support from panels of academics and representatives from the private sector and government when the report was launched mid-year in Colombo, Delhi, Dhaka, and Islamabad. South Asia is now moving on some of these fronts but a lot more could be done.

Moving up the apparel value chain
Stitches to Riches? finds that South Asia’s abundant low-cost labor supply makes it extremely cost competitive (except for possibly Sri Lanka). But rapidly rising living costs in apparel manufacturing hubs, coupled with international scrutiny, are increasing pressure on producers to raise wages. Plus, countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, who enjoy a similar cost advantage, are entering the fray, and some East Asian countries already pose a big challenge. The good news is that the policy reforms needed to keep the apparel sector competitive would likely benefit other export industries and transform economies (view end of the blog).

How many years do refugees stay in exile?

Xavier Devictor's picture
"The average length of time that refugees spend in camps is 17 years." This cruel statistic has been quoted many times, influencing our perception of refugee crises as never-ending events which are spinning out of control. It has significant implications when deciding the type of aid that is needed, the combination of humanitarian and development support, and the possible responses to the crisis.

But is it true? Not so.

In fact, the "17 year" statistic comes from a 2004 internal UNHCR report, and it was accompanied by many caveats which have been lost along the way. The statistic does not refer to camps, since the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside camps. It is limited to situations of five years or more, so it is an average duration of the longest situations, not of all situations. Most importantly, it refers to the duration of situations, not to the time people have stayed in exile.

Take the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya. Refugees started to arrive massively around 1993, about 23 years ago. Their number now stands at 418,000. But can we say that all 418,000 have been in exile for 23 years?

In fact, forced displacement situations are inherently dynamic. As we see in Figure 1, numbers vary every year: they reflect political and military developments in the country of origin. In fact, a large part of the current total could not have arrived before 2008, i.e. about 6 or 7 years ago.
 
 

Figure 1 Number of Somali refugees in Kenya (UNHCR data)

Along these lines, and using data published by UNHCR as of end-2015, we re-calculated the earliest date at which various cohorts of refugees could have arrived in each situation (see working paper). We then aggregated all situations into a single "global refugee population" and calculated global averages and median durations.

So what are the results?

When we look at the "global refugee population" (See Figure 2), we can now distinguish several distinct episodes of displacement.
 


Figure 2 Number of refugees by year of exile

There is a large cohort of about 8.9 million "recent refugees," who arrived over the last four years. This includes about 4.8 million Syrians, as well as people fleeing from South Sudan (0.7 million), Afghanistan (0.3 million), Ukraine (0.3 million), the Central African Republic (0.3 million), and Pakistan (0.2 million).

Another large cohort, of about 2.2 million, has spent between 5 and 9 years in exile. It includes refugees from Afghanistan (0.5 million), the bulk of the current Somali refugees (0.4 million), and people fleeing from Colombia (0.3 million) and Myanmar (0.2 million).

About 2 million people have been in exile between 10 and 34 years. This includes years during which numbers are relatively low, and two episodes where they are higher, around 14 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.2 million Sudanese refugees, and around 24 and 25 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.1 million Somalis and 0.1 million Eritreans.

Lastly, a large group of refugees has been in exile for 35 to 37 years: these 2.2 million refugees include mainly Afghans, but also about 0.3 million ethnic Chinese who fled into China during the 1979 war with Vietnam. Finally, there are few very protracted situations, up to 55 years, including mainly Western Sahara.

We can now turn to average durations. As of end-2015, the median duration of exile stands at 4 years, i.e. half of the refugees worldwide have spent 4 years or less in exile. The median has fluctuated widely since the end of the Cold War, in 1991, between 4 and 14 years, and it is now at a historical low. By contrast, the mean duration stands at 10.3 years, and has been relatively stable since the late 1990s, between 10 and 15 years.

But this leads to another important finding: trends can be counter-intuitive. In fact, a decline in the average duration of exile is typically not an improvement, but rather the consequence of a degradation of the global situation. The averages increase in years when there are relatively few new refugees, and they drop when large numbers of people flow in, for example in 1993-1994 (with conflicts in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), in 1997-1999 (with conflicts in DRC and other parts of Africa), after 2003 (with conflict in Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan), and since 2013 (with the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic).

We also looked at the number of people who have spent more than five years in exile. As of end-2015, this number stands at 6.6 million, and it has been remarkably stable since 1991, at 5 to 7 million throughout most of the period.  For this group, however, the average duration of exile increases over time – largely because of the unresolved situation of Afghan refugees which pushes averages up. It is now well over 20 years.

This short analysis of UNHCR data shows that available refugee data can be used to clarify some important parts of the policy debate. It is important to ensure that this debate is informed by evidence, which can help provide a more nuanced perspective of a complex issue.

Hydropower in Vietnam: The right way to do it

John Roome's picture
Also available in: Vietnamese



People have been harnessing water to produce energy and perform work for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used watermills to grind wheat into flour. Ancient Romans used the power of water to cut timber and stone. During the Han dynasty in China, hydraulically operated pumps raised water for crops into irrigation canals. Hydroelectric power is one of humankind’s oldest sources of energy.

Today it represents 16.6 percent of the world’s total electricity production while contributing 80% of the global renewable electricity mix.

Rebooting Vietnam’s PPP program: Legislation that builds on lessons learned

Stanley Boots's picture

After over two years of development and drafting, Vietnam’s Decree 15 on Public Private Partnerships (PPP Decree) came into effect last spring. Dedicated specifically to the identification, preparation, and implementation of PPP projects, the PPP Decree replaced the largely unimplemented regulations for pilot PPP projects as well as the regime for build-operate-transfer (BOT), build-transfer-operate (BTO), and build-transfer (BT) projects. Almost a year after the PPP Decree was issued, it’s become clear that it has rebooted Vietnam’s potential for PPPs in a significant and lasting way. 

Four ways regional bodies can help deliver justice commitments made through the SDGs

Temitayo O. Peters's picture

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) differ from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs universally apply to all countries and they are holistic and integrated. Moreover, their delivery is to be achieved by governments, civil society, and the private sector all working together to achieve their success.
 
The SDGs also recognize the central role of justice in achieving development, with Goal 16 specifically guaranteeing “equal access to justice for all.” Governments, in partnership with other stakeholders, must make necessary national reforms to provide access to justice to the billions who currently live outside of the protection of the law. They must commit to financing the implementation of these reforms and be held accountable for their success.
 
Regional and sub regional bodies are uniquely placed to assist governments with implementing and monitoring justice commitments made through the SDGs. Learnings from the MDGs show that countries that integrated the MDGs into existing regional strategies were far more successful in meeting the MDGs’ objectives than countries that did not have the support of an existing regional strategy.

Using country procurement systems in China and Vietnam to improve efficiency, transparency and competition

Ba Liu Nguyen's picture
Chongqing, China. Photo: Li Wenyong / World Bank

Procurement is an essential aspect of World Bank operations and international development projects worldwide. The World Bank’s policy on procurement encourages the use of country systems in procurement implementation process while ensuring the consistency with the Bank’s regulations . 

Making procurement information publicly available promotes openness and transparency and creates a level playing field for bidders. This, in turn, fosters competition and potentially decreases corruption risks. 

With this in mind, World Bank teams in East Asia and the Pacific successfully collaborated with government procurement agencies to increase and improve the publication of procurement information and to pilot e-procurement portals for Bank-funded operations. 

The following story shares our experiences and successes in both China and Vietnam. 


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