The World Bank recently launched its ‘Education Strategy 2020’ which focuses on achieving ‘learning for all’ over the next decade. The strategy emphasizes looking beyond inputs (classrooms, teacher training, textbooks, computers) to outputs such as cognitive skills and skills for critical thinking (read Elizabeth Kings’ post  on this). The strategy emphasizes this approach through the slogan ‘invest early, invest smartly, invest for all.’
This approach is particularly critical in achieving the second Millennium Development Goal, which focuses on universal primary education. The Global Monitoring Report 2011 (GMR), which tracks progress being made on the MDGs, points out that while 55 countries are on target and 38 others are close to being on target, 19 countries are far behind.
The number of out-of-school children of primary school age fell from 106m in 1999 to 68m in 2008, and even in the poorest countries, average primary school enrollment rates surged over 80 percent. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, primary completion rates linger at about 60 percent, and the region remains far behind the global target when it comes to progress on gender equality in education.
The GMR points out that ‘although primary and secondary school enrollment rates have improved, in some cases dramatically, learning outcomes of school children remain poor.’ The new education strategy’s emphasis on job-related skills – rather than the years spent in a classroom - ties in well with this observation.
See below a map on progress being made on MDG 2:
Source: GMR 2011. Click here  to enlarge the image.