The first time a World Bank education team tried classroom observations in Brazil, it nearly provoked a state-wide teachers’ strike. It was October 2009 in the northeast state of Pernambuco and two members of the team, Barbara Bruns and Madalena Dos Santos, had handed out stopwatches to school supervisors newly trained in using the Stallings “classroom snapshot” method to measure teacher activities.
Two days later, the stopwatches were on the front page of Pernambuco’s leading newspaper: the teachers’ union called for a state-wide strike to protest an evaluation tool they dubbed the “Stalin method.”
“I thought the grant money we had used to train observers was down the drain,” recalled Bruns, a World Bank retiree now a visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development. “But the governor, Eduardo Campos, was unfazed. He publicly declared: ‘No one is going to stop me and my secretariat from going into public schools to figure out how to make them better.’ The union backed down and the fieldwork went ahead.”
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.
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.