Despite tremendous progress in getting children into the classroom, we are experiencing a global learning crisis, where a large share of children complete primary school lacking even basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. What explains this phenomenon? To answer this question, consider the following examples of classrooms that are unlikely to put students on a path to success.
In the first season of The Wire, an American crime drama television series, a young girl who lives in a poor and crime-ridden neighborhood asks Wallace, a teenaged drug dealer, for help with a math problem. It's a word problem that has multiple passengers getting on and off a bus and that asks how many passengers are on the bus at the end of it. The girl is lost. Wallace reframes the problem for her, describing a situation in which different buyers and sellers of crack cocaine take and give her different numbers of vials. When she answers correctly, Wallace asks her why she can't do the same problem when it's in her math book. She explains that if she gets the vial count wrong, the drug dealers will hurt her, so she must get it right.
Despite Thailand’s success in expanding educational access, new empirical evidence suggests that much more needs to be done to maximize the potential of its students. The 2012 PISA reading assessment reveals that almost one-third of Thai 15 year-old students were “functionally illiterate,” lacking critical skills needed for employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. Furthermore, the performance gap among schools has been widening in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the disadvantaged and poorer-performing students are concentrated in small rural village schools.
For far too long, women and girls in Africa have faced discrimination and inequalities in the workforce which have not only hurt them, but their families, communities and their countries as a whole. As we begin 2015, the African Union’s Year of Women’s Empowerment, one thing is clear: we will not reduce poverty without working to achieve gender equality.
While most governments in Africa acknowledge that empowering women and girls is a key contributor to economic development, the fertility transition in Africa ─ an important factor in sustained economic growth ─ has been much slower than in other regions of the world. Access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls – typically results in improved economic opportunity for women and lower fertility. Some governments in Africa are seeking innovative ways to accelerate the demographic transition. In Niger, for example, where the fertility rate (7.6 children per woman) is among the highest in the world, “School for Husbands”, an education program delivered by trusted, traditional community leaders are flourishing across the country and highlighting the benefits of family planning and reproductive health.
My relationship with the Philippine Department of Education’s (DepdEd) Alternative Learning System is one of ignorance, humiliation and inspiration.
As a young economist joining DepEd back in 2002, I was full of ideas on how to improve the country’s education system. I was coming in as a junior staff for a World Bank-funded project focusing on elementary education in poor provinces.
At around the same time, I had been hearing about this ALS program, which was providing basic education to out of school youth and adults, but I really paid no mind to it. All I knew about it was that it was largely non-formal, that it was conducted periodically through modules and that it was too small to make any significant statistical impact on globally-accepted education performance indicators.
Dear Africa Can readers, we’ve heard from many of you since our former Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan left the region for a new Bank position that you want Africa Can to continue highlighting the economic challenges and amazing successes that face the continent. We agree.
Today, we are re-launching Africa Can as a forum for discussing ideas about economic policy reform in Africa as a useful, if not essential, tool in the quest to end poverty in the region.
You’ll continue to hear from many of the same bloggers who you’ve followed over the past five years, and you’ll hear from many new voices – economists working in African countries and abroad engaging in the evidence-based debate that will help shape reform. On occasion, you’ll hear from me, the new Deputy Chief Economist for the World Bank in Africa.
We invite you to continue to share your ideas and challenge ours in pursuit of development that really works to improve the lives of all people throughout Africa.
Here is my first post. I look forward to your comments.
In 1990, poverty incidence (with respect to a poverty line of $1.25) was almost exactly the same in sub-Saharan Africa and in East Asia: about 57%. Twenty years on, East Asia has shed 44 percentage points (to 13%) whereas Africa has only lost 8 points (to 49%). And this is not only about China: poverty has also fallen much faster in South Asia than in Africa.
These differences in performance are partly explained by differences in growth rates during the 1990s, when emerging Asia was already on the move, and Africa was still in the doldrums. But even in the 2000s, when Africa’s GDP growth picked up to 4.6% or thereabouts, and a number of countries in the region were amongst the fastest-growing nations in the world, still poverty fell more slowly in Africa than in other regions. Why is that?
- Central African Republic
- Burkina Faso
- Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Congo, Republic of
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- Gambia, The
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- africa growth
- East Asia
- cash transfers
Timor-Leste is making great progress in education, which is considered an important
asset as the country looks to achieve sustainable, long-term development.
Eleven years since the restoration of Independence, Timor-Leste has now emerged from the ashes of destruction that devastated the country. During the conflict, most of the country’s infrastructure was demolished with over 95 percent of schools burnt to the ground.
Lack of infrastructure was only one of the many challenges facing Timor-Leste’s education. During the period of occupation most skilled teachers were not native Timorese and at the end of the conflict many evacuated, leaving very few trained teachers. Only a small number stayed on in the hope of driving education out of the darkness.
Twelve months ago, Milome Brilliere Elementary in Port-au-Prince was still operating out of a temporary structure made of canvas and old wood. When we visited a few weeks ago -as part of a mission to record the progress of reconstruction in Haiti- new concrete walls had been constructed and a permanent roof was finally in place.
Clémont Renold, an unemployed father of three, stood out front. "It's a great relief," he said of the new school and the international efforts to boost Haiti's education system.
At a candid discussion yesterday with African ministers of education and a range of education experts from the public and private sectors, one thing was very clear – that higher education was recognized by everyone in the room as being critical for Africa’s development in the 21st century. All participants—from the Gambia’s education minister, who pointed out that his country went without a university for 30 years after independence and was facing a severe resource gap, to his counterpart in Senegal who wanted to catch up with Tunisia on the number of students enrolled in universities—agreed that higher education was key to diversifying Africa’s growing economies and reducing their dependence on natural resource extraction.
There’s another reason higher education is so important in Africa—the region has burgeoning numbers of young people, some 7 to 10 million of whom knock on the doors of the labor market every year. These young people constitute a huge opportunity for Africa. Yet of today’s unemployed in the region, a full 60 percent are youth. Good quality, relevant education that goes well beyond the primary stage will turn out the types of employable graduates and professionals that Africa so urgently needs. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs—but also agriculturists and environmentalists. This morning’s news about intensifying drought in West Africa’s Sahel region, with 10 million people thought to be short of food, only underscores the great urgency to build human resource bases in each country that can help tackle the environmental and health issues that confront Africa.