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.
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.
The state of India’s school education does not paint a very pretty picture. No doubt a whopping 97% of all children between the ages of 6-14 years in rural India are enrolled in school. However, national school attendance averaged just about 70%, dipping below 60% for populous states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Performance was much worse. Amongst the standard 5 kids surveyed, over half could not read a standard 2 level text fluently and more than one-third could not do basic standard 2 level subtraction.
India’s problem is not so much about getting children into school anymore. We now face the far more complex issue of keeping them there and ensuring effective learning. Crumbling public infrastructure, poverty, corruption, lack of attractive compensation and training for primary school teachers and a lack of awareness among uneducated rural parents about their child’s progress at school are huge obstacles in the path to educational attainment.
Spending a day at a kindergarten can be eye-opening for an adult. I’ll tell you why.
The school in question is what we, in the Russian Federation, call an inclusive school – where children with special needs are part of a regular kindergarten and participate in the same activities and programs as others. It works! This school was started in 2011 and does not distinguish between children with special needs and others. Both groups are part of the same class, sit at the same table, and participate in the same activities. Not many places in the world do this.
The inclusive model, while not unique, is still rare. But other than that distinctive nature, what’s so special about it?
Saleha Begum was determined. Over the last couple of years, a number of children in her village had tragically died, their families left behind shocked and shattered. Memories were all that remained of these young lives cut short, and Begum was now determined to do her bit to stop the untimely deaths and accidents caused by the proximity of a highway to a community school.
We had arrived at Baishakanda Union Parishad in Dhamrai just before the local community meeting started. (Union Parishads are the lowest tier of local government in Bangladesh.) Begum had already taken her place among men and women from her village. A number of women threw anxious looks toward her. That day, Begum was going to play a vital role in advancing their agenda.
My last two blogs, Lessons on School-Based Management from a Randomized Experiment and Empowering Parents to Improve Schooling: Powerful Evidence from Rural Mexico, have focused on empowering parents to help increase accountability in schools. However, too often, decentralization programs are designed without adequately conveying the messages about their purpose to the intended audiences; or, it is done in such a way that the program is rendered useless.