A good quality basic education equips students with the foundational skills (reading, writing and numeracy) they need to function in today’s society and prepare them for lifelong learning. But in many parts of the world, schooling alone is not yielding the expected results, and countries are experimenting with innovative learning and teaching tools, including online platforms.
In Brazil, a Portuguese version of the Khan Academy’s free online education platform (see World Bank Group President Jim Kim’s post last week) is helping thousands of students master basic skills. This effort has been spearheaded by the Fundação Lemann (Lemann Foundation), an organization dedicated to improving the country's education quality.
Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.” On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out. Similar points are made about business regulations, education, agriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself. And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog.
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive. But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now. For these policies didn’t come about by accident. Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them. And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”
Each year on 8 September, groups around the world gather together to celebrate "International Literacy Day", which is meant to highlight the importance of reading, and of being able to read. In the words of UNESCO, the UN organization which sponsors International Literacy Day, "Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration." As contentious as issues around education around the world can be at times, there is little debate about the fundamental importance of literacy to most human endeavors.
New technologies can play important roles in helping to enable efforts and activities to teach people to learn how to read -- and to provide people with access to reading materials. As part of its communications outreach on International Literacy Day this year, for example, UNESCO highlighted recent experiences in Senegal targeting illiterate girls and women, where it has found that "mobile phones, computers, internet and TV make literacy courses much more attractive for illiterate women."
The potential for mobile phones and other mobile devices like e-readers to aid in literacy efforts has been a recurrent theme explored on the EduTech blog. In so-called 'developing countries', books may be scarce and/or expensive in many communities -- and reading materials that *are* locally available may not be of great interest or relevance to many potential readers. The fact that increasing numbers of people in such communities are carrying small portable electronic devices with them at all times capable of displaying text, and which indeed can hold tens, even thousands of digital 'books', has not gone unnoticed by organizations seeking to increase literacy and promote reading.
Two recent publications -- Reading in the Mobile Era and Mobiles for Reading: A Landscape Review -- attempt to take stock of and learn from many of the leading efforts around the world in this regard.
The Bangladesh government wants to enhance support for university research as a part of its strategy for higher education (Strategic Plan 2006-2026). Supported by the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) under the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP), researchers in Bangladeshi universities are conducting advanced research on some of the most pressing economic challenges in key sectors of the country such as agriculture, environment, and health. With upgraded research facilities and equipment, Bangladeshi faculties are publishing more on international scientific journals and training competent PhD graduates.
Sally McGregor was a newly trained physician when she moved to Jamaica in 1965 from England for what she called a one-year “adventure.” She ended up marrying and staying 35 years. It’s a good thing she did. The impact evaluation of a program she designed to improve the development of chronically malnourished toddlers in Jamaica is changing how the development world views – and tries to improve – the problems faced by disadvantaged children all over the world.
The University of Kelaniya, my seat of higher education, sadly was never considered the ‘cream of the crop’ in Sri Lanka when I attended; certainly not the Departments of Humanities and the Social Sciences! After listening to decades of unproductive lip service on the need for marketable graduates, I encountered a remarkable transformation in higher education at my very own university.
I witnessed a complete shift in attitude, professionalism and drive, among academics and students at a launch of The Certified Professional Marketing Graduates (CPMG) Program organized by the Department of Marketing and Management. It’s one of the many projects implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education under the Higher Education for the Twentieth Century (HETC) Project, with support from the World Bank. It was not just the launch of this new degree program that moved me, but it was the total quality and professionalism in the event management. It was indeed knowledge in action.
Vietnam’s education system is receiving a lot of international attention following the country’s strong performance in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Vietnam’s 15 year-olds performed as well in mathematics, reading and science as their peers in much richer Germany and Austria, and better than the international average. In an earlier blog I reviewed possible explanations for this success.
New analysis of data for Vietnam from the World Bank’s Skills Toward Employment and Productivity (STEP) skills measurement surveys confirms the message from PISA.
This is a group that is in a transition period from childhood to adulthood. Since this period (ages 15-24) affects adulthood more directly than childhood, youth-related data can provide insights into how we can better address their future opportunities and challenges.
"The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation."
– Ray Wilbur, American educator
Where are the highest concentrations of young people?
In 2013, people who were born between 1989 and 1998 accounted for 17% of the world's total population – 1.2 billion. While the world's population continues to grow, the youth population has declined gradually after it peaked in 2010. The youth population in high-income countries decreased by 6 million between 2010 and 2013, a reflection of the aging population trend in this income group.