Over the past several decades, developing countries have made remarkable progress in achieving quantitative education targets. Since the turn of the millennium, almost 50 million children around the world have gained access to basic education – and most are reaching completion. But as recent PISA data shows, this is not typically the case for qualitative improvements in education. A persistent learning gap remains for an estimated 250 million children who are unable to read and do math, even after spending three or more years in the classroom.
This morning I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote speech at the Education World Forum in London, a large annual gathering of education decision-makers from around the world. More than 80 ministers of education are attending the forum, plus many more high-level participants from donor agencies, private business and academia. I spoke about how much the global education community has to celebrate—the developing world has tripled the average years of schooling of an adult in just two generations, and in the past 15 years the ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education rose from 84 to 96 percent—but also about how much there is left to do less than a year to 2015.
The headlines started to stream as soon as the PISA results were in: “Asian countries top OECD's latest PISA survey.” “Poor academic standards.” “Students score below international averages.” It depends on the country, of course. A time to celebrate for some, a time to lament for others.
I recently came across a report card from my secondary school days in Ireland. It was an interesting read. My progress in areas as diverse as mathematics, singing, Irish language, and physical education was reported on in the form of marks, grades, and narrative feedback. Some teachers provided little information on my learning. Others went into detail. I was impressed by the number of areas in which my progress had been assessed (less so by my lack of singing ability, which, evidently, had been spotted early on!).
Flash forward to 2013, and there is a conversation raging in the development community about how to measure and report on learning globally. A huge concern is the fact that too often children leave school without acquiring the basic knowledge and skills they need to lead productive lives. To make matters worse, there is a global data gap on learning that is impeding efforts to better understand this crisis and how to achieve learning for all.
When the words “private sector” and “education” come together, they conjure up the widening chasm between the rich and poor: elite education in private schools. An article in The New York Times, for example, describes a growing education gap as contributing to a “kind of cultural divide” in the United States. A smart kid growing up without access to good education, the argument goes, will be limited for life, regardless of how bright or motivated he or she is.
Do longer classroom hours equal good grades? Spending more time in school is a subject currently being discussed as one solution to improving students' academic performance with the ultimate goal of making countries more competitive in the global economy.
This is true for emerging and advanced economies alike.
In the early 20th century Helen Todd, a factory inspector in Chicago, interviewed 500 children working in factories, often in dangerous and unpleasant conditions. She asked children the question: “If your father had a good job and you didn’t have to work, which would you rather do—go to school or work in a factory?” 412 said they would choose factory work. One fourteen year old girl, who was interviewed lacquering canes in an attic working with both intense heat and the constant smell of turpentine, said “School is the fiercest thing you can come up against. F
Have you ever had the feeling of being overwhelmed because you got more, much, much more than what you were expecting? Well, I hadn’t, till I came for the World Bank and IMF Annual meetings.
Usually, any long, monotonous sessions would lull me to sleep, but somehow, I was wide awake in every session that I attended, despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived! Be it the youth capacity building session with the IMF officials, or getting a chance to mingle with the IMF sponsored youth leaders and CSOs, the learning only in the first 5 hours of the meetings was phenomenal. I must confess, my mind was boggled, and I felt a little dizzy, either due to sleep-deprivation or due to the information overload, I can’t truthfully say!
It wasn’t until the second day that things came back to normal. Maybe it was the jet lag wearing off; maybe it was the fact that all the other World Bank youth delegates had gelled in so well, as if we had known each other for ages, but there was something about the place that started feeling like home.
|Parents and community members are more willing to support a school from having full knowledge about the school's resources.|
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Years and years ago, when I was still in school, the interaction my parents had with the school was only during report card day, and perhaps the odd times I got into trouble. That was it. Although my son is only a year and a half old, I’ve been on the lookout for a school and I would rather not have him study at the type of school I went to.
I started working in Angola just before the peace treaty was signed in 2002. Luanda was a dangerous city at the time, and armed youths were a common sight on the street corners. Traveling within the country was almost impossible as roads were either destroyed or mined. The authorities had little control over service delivery, and in many provinces, the population had migrated and there were very few villages left. But now, nine years after the peace treaty, Angola is a very different country. It is about this new country that I want to tell you, about a school in one of the most remote villages in Angola, where a silent revolution is taking place – a learning revolution.
I must first introduce you to Lucinda Alves, a primary school teacher. Lucinda is 26 years old, and like many of her fellow villagers, returned to Ongiva, in the southern province of Cunene, after the war. After attending eight years of school, she is now a primary school teacher. She is one of about 70,000 new teachers who were recruited by the Ministry of Education between 2004 and 2008. Like many of her colleagues all over the country, Lucinda is an auxiliary teacher. This is a new teacher category that is supposed to include those with a minimum qualification of 12 years of schooling and no pedagogical training. The next category, teacher with a diploma, allows auxiliary teachers to upgrade their academic and pedagogical qualifications and develop their careers. All teachers in Lucinda’s school are auxiliary including the head teacher.