As I write these lines, I am sitting in an airplane returning from my first mission in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. My mission was for the education sector, and included visiting a few lower secondary public schools. As I listen to the pilot’s welcoming message, I find myself thinking about the children I met at the schools, and trying to assess the odds of their becoming pilots, engineers or scientists.
Most parents in Africa will tell you that their children’s education is the most important investment they can make. Over the past decade, great progress has been made in terms of getting children into school, with countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia recording primary net enrollment of over 90 percent. But across the continent, primary school completion and youth literacy rates remain unacceptably low.
Ed: This guest post is by Professor Eric A. Hanushek, a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Join us online on January 28, 2016 to listen to Prof. Hanushek as he discusses his latest book “The Knowledge Capital of Nations”.
In September 2015, the United Nations adopted an aggressive development agenda that included 17 separate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to guide investment and development over the next 15 years. Two of these assume particular importance because they will determine whether or not the other 15 can be achieved.
This year, Indonesia celebrates the first decade of its school grant scheme BOS (Bantuan Operasional Sekolah). The program aims to ensure that schools have sufficient funds to operate, reduce the education costs faced by households and improve school based management. The program is huge and covers approximately 43 million primary and secondary school students across Indonesia. Every year, schools receive $50 for each primary and $60 for each junior secondary school student. This translates into an annual grant of about $20,000 for the average junior secondary school.
Since I arrived in Indonesia we have visited schools regularly to check on the progress of BOS. I have talked with poor parents about how the program has helped to lower the education costs they face. School Principals have shared with me the many ways BOS has enabled them to provide the training opportunities their teachers need to improve classroom practice. School visits have also highlighted some of the challenges the program has faced in ensuring funds are used transparently. In one school, the necessary public noticeboard displaying information on the use of BOS funds was pulled out from behind a cupboard and contained information that was a year out of date.
Now that the dust has settled around the PISA results we have been thinking about the reasons behind Indonesia's poor showing. For those of you who haven't seen them, Indonesia ranked lower than all participating countries except Peru in mathematics and science, and was fifth from last on reading. Perhaps more worrying were the low absolute levels of learning reported for 15-year-olds. In mathematics, three-quarters of students were rated at or below the lowest benchmark – a level associated with only rudimentary levels of proficiency and a lack of higher order thinking skills.
Financed by the mining boom, government spending on new infrastructure in Mongolia has increased 35-fold in the past 10 years. But you would not know this from driving the pot holed streets of Ulaanbaatar or inhaling the smog filled air of the city, particularly in the ger areas.
A new World Bank report I co-authored examines why this increased spending is not resulting in equivalent benefits for the citizens of Mongolia in terms of better roads, efficient and clean heating, and improved water and sanitation services.
|Axel talks about his trip to Myanmar in a video below.|
You can feel the energy in Myanmar today—from the streets of Yangon, in the offices of government ministries and in rural villages. Dramatic political and economic changes are sweeping the country.