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Europe and Central Asia

Global Economic Prospects: Weak investment in uncertain times

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
The January 2017 Global Economic Prospects forecasts a subdued recovery in 2017 after the weakest year since the financial crisis.

The pickup in growth is expected to come from the receding of obstacles that have recently held back growth among commodity exporters, and from solid domestic demand in commodity importers.  Major emerging economies—including Russia and Brazil—are anticipated to recover from recession as commodity prices bottom out.

Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2016

Michael Trucano's picture
come on in, hopefully you'll find something you like
come on in, hopefully you'll find
something you like
The World Bank's EduTech blog seeks to "explore issues related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries". Over the past eight years, it has highlighted an eclectic batch of related new research and explored emerging 'good practices' (and more than a few bad ones as well). Along the way, it has briefly documented and analyzed a wide variety of interesting projects and programs around the world seeking to use new technologies in the education sector. In doing so, it has perhaps posed (and re-framed) many more questions than it has it has provided hard-and-fast 'answers'.

Given the fast-changing nature of so much of our world today, and the expectation that the pace of technology-enabled change is unlikely to slow, it is an abiding conceit of this blog that our individual and collective ability to ask better questions related to the use of new technologies and technology-enabled approaches in education (not only about what we should be doing, and when, and where, but especially about the why and the how) will become an increasingly critical skill to develop and cultivate. There is no shortage of edtech-related 'solutions' marketed around the world, but are they addressing the right problems and most critical challenges? As Wadi Haddad likes to ask: If technology is the answer, what is the question?

The blog seeks, perhaps rather presumptively, to inject an evidence-based, practical tonic into various debates and deliberations about the use of new technologies in the education sector that are, in many places, often characterized by ideological extremes and a general lack of knowledge about what's actually happening 'on-the-ground', especially in many emerging economies and so-called 'developing countries' around the world. While the blog deliberately attempts to adopt a general tone and perspective of fairness and objectivity, 'balance' can admittedly be a rather elusive goal when trying to navigate between the giddy utopianism of many techno-enthusiasts (especially among many in Silicon Valley, and more than a few politicians) and the sometimes rather crotchety conservatism of the reflexively anti-technology (indeed, often anti-change) crowd. In theory, there should be a vast space between these two poles; in practice, such middle ground can often be hard to find, or negotiate, in many places in the world. 

The historian Melvin Kranzberg famously opined that technology is neither positive nor negative, nor is it neutral. What is clear, however, is that there will increasingly be much more of it, all around us -- including in our schools, and embedded within teaching and learning practices in communities pretty much everywhere: rich and poor, urban and rural. Yes, technology-fueled 'revolutions' in education have been promised for almost a century now, but even if the related change (for better and/or worse) has been long in coming, there is little denying that there is much change afoot these days (again, for better and/or worse).  How can we make better decisions about what's important, and what isn't, and how we can tell the difference? By highlighting some interesting things happening in parts of the world that you may not have heard (or thought much) about, the EduTech blog continues to try, in an admittedly modest and incomplete way, to help provide fodder for related discussion, discourse and disagreement in educational policymaking circles in many countries. 

What follows below is a quick outline of the top EduTech blog posts from 2016. If you're new to the blog, please do feel to browse our 'back catalog' as well, as many of the 'hits' from past years continue somehow to draw in large numbers of readers, in a number of cases even more than for the new stuff. (Here, for what it's worth, are links to the top posts of 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; and 2009.)

The blog went on a bit of a hiatus for part of 2016, so there is much in the queue that will appear in the early months of 2017. As always, the best way to be notified when new posts appear is to subscribe to us on Twitter (@WBedutech) and/or enter your email address into the 'subscribe by email' box that appears in the right column of your screen if you are reading this on a desktop (the mobile-optimized version of the blog omits this functionality, unfortunately). If you want a sneak peek at topics in the pipeline, as well as links to related news, projects and research papers, you may want to check out the Twitter account of the blog's principal author

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit this blog -- and good luck with whatever projects or decisions you may be considering for the New Year!
 
Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2016

Let’s turn the lights on! The PISA test and FYR Macedonia

Bojana Naceva's picture
 

In 2015, over half a million students—representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies—took the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. The Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia has participated in international large scale assessments since 1999.

Debates about the country’s performance have always focused on a comparison with other counties’ mean scores; and, after a few days, everyone - including the education authorities – have continued with business as usual.  The available data was rarely used to underpin policy decisions or shape reforms.

The system has operated in the dark for decades.Addressing these challenges requires the mobilization of all available expertise in the country, regardless of political or ethnic affiliation. The time is now, tomorrow may be too late.

Chart: High-Tech Exports Gaining Ground in Kazakhstan

Erin Scronce's picture

Over the past two decades, high-tech exports from Kazakhstan have been increasing steadily. The World Bank Group has been working since 2008 with the Kazakh Government and scientist groups to further expand the country’s high-tech exports in a number of sectors. Through the Technology Commercialization Project, 65 new startups received grant funding and business training to get their innovations out of the lab and into markets. The startups operate in a wide variety of industries including agriculture, health, medicine, gas, oil and robotics. Already 40 of these businesses have reached first sales.

Find out more about the project and how it energized innovation in Kazakhstan
 

Do the right thing: Tax tobacco!

Alex Kremer's picture
Both my grandfathers smoked when they were young. My father’s father was a shopkeeper who smoked a pipe and my mother’s father was a smallholder who smoked cigarettes. Both died of heart failure and left my grandmothers as widows. My father grew up as a little boy in an atmosphere of pipe smoke and sometimes I wonder whether this contributed to his asthma and his own heart problems. My mother became a doctor, a cancer specialist, and she always used to tell my brother and me that we should never smoke, because she saw every day what smoking had done to her patients.

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).

It’s not just women that need to support gender equality in the workplace

Ismail Radwan's picture
I was recently awarded the honorary title of “Manbassador” by the Professional Women’s Network (PWN).  PWN is the leading Romanian organization promoting gender equality in the workplace.

In Romania, as in many high-income countries, women have for many years eclipsed men both in terms of numbers of graduates and educational attainment, and yet these advances in education are not matched in the workplace. I hope that all who read this blog will take a moment to think about how they can play a role in supporting women’s empowerment and ending discrimination in the workplace.

Higher revenue, easier filing for taxpayers in Armenia

Julia Oliver's picture


Photo credit: Dmitry Karyshev

Armenia was faced with a slowing economy, sinking remittances, and inefficient tax administration. At the same time, ordinary taxpayers had to navigate arduous processes when paying taxes. The Armenian government was eager to reform its tax administration. Below is a transcript of what we learned when we spoke to World Bank experts working with Armenian tax officials to make things better.
 
Julia: I’m Julia Oliver.
 
Maximilian: I’m Maximilian Mareis.
 
Julia: And we have been talking with tax experts around the World Bank to find out about what they do.
 
Maximilian: So, let’s start with this project in Armenia. Why did we get involved?

Julia: Well, the global financial crisis hit Armenia and its three million people pretty hard. In 2012, when the World Bank began working with policymakers to improve the country’s tax administration, the country faced a pretty bleak picture. Foreign remittances were low, and the domestic economy was slowing. In addition the country had high levels of informal employment.

Research rigor and risks: Investigating gender-based violence in the European refugee crisis

Throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we celebrate the strides made since the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Despite significant advances in programming and policy, gender-based violence remains pervasive, especially in crisis-affected populations. The ongoing conflict in Syria and the risks of gender-based violence for Syrian refugees challenge us as a global community to focus our attention and intensify our efforts and activism against gender-based violence.
 
Photo: Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) International

The 16 Days of Activism campaign also allows us to reflect on the important role of research in activism. Without rigorous research, activism against gender-based violence may be misguided or misaligned with individual or community perceptions and needs.
 
What is meant by rigorous research?

Rigorous research has been defined as research that applies the appropriate research tools to investigate a set of stated objectives. While some researchers may argue that quantitative research methodologies generate more rigorous data, using this definition we can see that qualitative research methodologies can also generate rigorous data to inform programming, policy and activism.

Our project, funded by the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence, aims to do just that—generate rigorous data using qualitative research methodologies to better understand the gender, social, and cultural norms that contribute to intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees. Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) International in collaboration with academic and organizational partners in Turkey and Greece will collect data using focus group discussions and participatory action learning activities in order to inform future interventions targeting intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

How to tackle a growing HIV epidemic with limited resources?

Clemens Benedikt's picture

An experience from Belarus on how allocative efficiency analysis changed HIV budgets

Belarus’ HIV response is faced with the need to provide treatment to a larger number of people living with HIV than ever before and to simultaneously continue scaling up prevention. How to do this in a context of limited resources, poses a major challenge for any planner. Most recent HIV estimates from Belarus illustrate the rapidly growing challenge. UNAIDS estimated that the number of PLHIV in Belarus increased from 5,600 in the year 2000 to 35,000 in 2015. New HIV infections increased from 1,700 per year in 2000 to 2,600 in 2010 and then doubled again to reach 5,300 in 2015.


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