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Can we quantify learning globally to measure progress on SDG 4?

Husein Abdul-Hamid's picture

This is a companion blog to the series of blogs from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators. This blog draws on data from the World Bank’s EdStats database.

Many countries are struggling to improve national learning averages in core subjects such as reading, mathematics and science. While the majority of students reach the lowest international benchmark level in core subjects by the age of 14 or 15, a significant proportion do not. For those that fail, they are unlikely to be able to master these skills by the end of their schooling. This will impact on their ability to join the labor force and have productive jobs. Sustainable Development Goal 4 looks to “ensure inclusive and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” in an attempt to widen the talents of a country’s future workforce and set the stage for increased economic growth. Education assessments, while not wholly comparable, shed light on countries’ achievements or gaps in the provision of a high quality and effective education system.

The paradox of higher education in MENA

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Roof of the University of al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world - Patricia Hofmeester l Shutterstock

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was the cradle of higher education.  The three oldest, still-functioning universities in the world are in Iran, Morocco, and Egypt.  The University of Al-Karaouine in Fes has been granting degrees since 859 A.D.  The Ancient Library of Alexandria, in addition to being repository of books and manuscripts, was a center of learning during the Ptolemaic dynasty, with scholars traveling to there from all around the Mediterranean and beyond.  And scholars such as Ibn Khaldoun discovered fundamental economics four centuries before Adam Smith and others. In short, all of us who have benefited from a university education owe a debt to the MENA region.

Blog post of the month: The 2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched last week. What does it say?

Duncan Green's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In June 2016, the featured blog post is "The 2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched last week. What does it say?" by Duncan Green.

This is at the geeky, number-crunching end of my spectrum, but I think it’s worth a look (and anyway, they asked nicely). The 2016 Multi-Dimensional Poverty Indexwas published yesterday. It now covers 102 countries in total, including 75 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.

The Global MPI has 3 dimensions and 10 indicators (for details see here and the graphic, right). A person is identified as multidimensionally poor (or ‘MPI poor’) if they are deprived in at least one third of the dimensions. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty (the percentage of people identified as MPI poor) by the average intensity of poverty across the poor. So it reflects both the share of people in poverty and the degree to which they are deprived.

The MPI increasingly digs down below national level, giving separate results for 962 sub-national regions, which range from having 0% to 100% of people poor (see African map, below). It is also disaggregated by rural-urban areas for nearly all countries as well as by age.

Here’s the evidence that low cost reading programs can have a big impact

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Photo: © Dana Smillie / World Bank

The importance of literacy for economic growth and development is already well established in economic research.  Literacy enables people to access information and improve their productivity.  I believe that literacy is crucial to the diffusion of new technologies, especially among the poor. It produces high economic returns, so much so that early literacy is viewed as a threshold for economic development.

Arab reality show tests humanity and empathy

Bassam Sebti's picture

It’s Ramadan and the Arabic TV channels are festooned with shows that vary from recurring popular soap operas, cooking and competition shows — but one has become the talk of the town.

Al Sadma, or The Shock, the Arabic version of the popular American show What Would You Do, is a reality TV prank show. But it’s not like many other tasteless reality shows that invoke fright and even terror, it is a show that invokes morality and examines humanity.

Striving, struggling and thriving in Nepal

SaileshTiwari's picture


Lahjung Bhotia with her children in Hatiya, Sankhuwasabha. Credit – Jay Poudyal/Stories of Nepal

Lahjung Bhotia is from Hatiya, Sankhuwasabha, a remote mountainous district in Eastern Nepal. She and her husband rent land and grow black cardamom with a third of the production going to the land owner. On the side, the couple runs a small tea shop, selling cold drinks, eggs and biscuits. She and her husband take turns working at the shop and the farm and she claims to be doing okay, not terribly good, but just okay. Her life’s singular objective is to educate her children well enough so that they can work in offices.

A PPP to take pride in: Early education in Brazil

Tomas Anker's picture

Photo: Inova BH

In English, “Belo Horizonte” means “beautiful horizon,” and this is an apt description of the long-term possibilities for educating the children of Belo Horizonte, the sixth largest city in Brazil and capital of the state of Minas Gerais. As a Brazilian who went through the national school curriculum, I believe that this system should be accessible to all citizens, and so I took a particular interest in the goals of this public-private partnership (PPP).

Greater access to education was a widely-shared ambition among the government team as well. The Municipality of Belo Horizonte already believed that a competitive workforce – and a functioning society – depends on good schools. That’s why it made early education a top priority and sought out advisory services from our Brazil-based team to find out if PPPs could help government make the grade. It seemed like this was a proposal the community could stand behind: Demand for better education was already strong, with over 11,000 children, many underprivileged, on a waiting list to enroll in school.