Parents in Ghana, as in any other country around the world, want the best for their children. Most parents believe education is the answer to their children leading a more prosperous life. But does it matter if education is provided by the government or the private sector? What is the role of the government in ensuring access to quality education?
Just hours after the release of PISA test scores last week showed Finland’s students slipping in the international rankings from a ten-year perch at the top, a Finnish headline read “Golden Days Where Finland’s Education A Success Are Over". The Economist's headline was more concise: "Finn-ished." Is it time to relegate Finland to the dustbin of educational history?
The issue of inclusion was at the heart of the discussions around the World Bank's Education Sector Strategy 2020: Learning for All. One of the strategy’s main messages is that "there are indisputable benefits to ensuring that [...] disadvantaged populations have an equal opportunity to learn and excel in order for households, communities, and nations to prosper" and, therefore, the development of learning environments friendly to these populations is an essential part of our efforts to increase access to, and improve the quality of, schools worldwide.
The Bank is focusing its efforts on girls, ethnic minorities and disabled children. However, it’s also important for the Bank to look at the extent to which bullying, and homophobic bullying in particular, is a cause of exclusion and at ways to address it.
In the Nigerian state of Ekiti, my World Bank colleagues and I recently visited schools that had twice as many teachers as needed. In Bauchi, we saw rural schools that had only language teachers rather than those versed in science or mathematics. In Anambra, there was no single science or mathematics teacher in the rural schools we visited.
Why were these things happening? How can such issues exist within a vast and wonderful country that should have the potential of providing knowledge and expertise throughout the continent and the world? The Systems Approach to Better Education Results (SABER) initiative provided tools and analysis to help identify some ways forward.
The headlines started to stream as soon as the PISA results were in: “Asian countries top OECD's latest PISA survey.” “Poor academic standards.” “Students score below international averages.” It depends on the country, of course. A time to celebrate for some, a time to lament for others.