Did you have a favorite teacher at school? What made that teacher so special? Teachers are the single most important resource we have to ensure that children learn. But the reality is that many kids across the world don’t get a good quality education.
Today the U.K. government and UNICEF jointly hosted the first Girl Summit to mobilize efforts to end child, early, and forced marriage as well as female genital mutilation. According to a 2013 report by UNICEF, 30 million girls are at risk of suffering genital mutilation over the next decade. Recent reports by UNFPA and UNICEF suggest that more than one-third of girls are married before age 18.
The incidence of child marriage is dropping, but only slowly. In many countries, laws have been adopted to prevent marriage below 18 years of age, but they are often not well-enforced and more needs to be done. There is widespread consensus that child marriage violates the rights of girls, limits their school attainment, learning, and future earnings, and has negative impacts on their’ health and that of their children. Child marriage clearly contributes to poverty and limits economic growth. And yet the practice continues to be perceived mostly as a social issue, not an economic one.
In my view, if we are really interested in Learning For All, it is important to consider the role of the private sector in education. It is not private provision per se that we at the World Bank are interested in – the World Bank remains the world’s largest source of multilateral funds supporting public education in middle and low income countries around the world – but rather what we can learn from private education providers who are innovating and adding value. The World Bank's efforts in this space are organized around ways to explore and better understand private provision of various kinds in a deeper light.
Our schools are central to the mission of building knowledge societies. Yet, we don’t know enough about how teachers and schools are being influenced by the social forces around them. Organizing schools, creating systems of accountability, and focusing on results that matter for parents involve actions outside the school system.
Education reform is often thwarted by forces that affect policy design, finance and implementation. These political economy issues are often acknowledged, but rarely systematically addressed in research or policy dialogue.
The World Cup games being played in Brazil send a hopeful message that teams from Ghana, Nigeria, Ecuador and Honduras can qualify to play against much better funded teams from Europe and North America. Talent, hard work, ambition and years of building a team can make a winner of teams from poorer nations – at least, enough to feed the dreams of a boy in the favelas of Rio or the slums of Lagos.
The appearance of Vietnam last year in the PISA league tables with scores above the OECD average also sent a hopeful message that even those countries with less than half the average GDP per capita in the OECD countries can do well by its students. As with football or soccer, talent, hard work, ambition and effort at building a competent teacher force can improve student performance dramatically. If a country focuses on one education goal with the fervor that nations, teams and individuals devote to the World Cup, focusing their best talent and resources as needed, could it not achieve such an important goal by 2030?
Today marks the beginning of the G7 Summit, during which the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission will convene in Brussels to discuss matters of the global economy.
A few weeks ago news broke about another horrendous attack in schools in Nigeria. More than 200 teenage girls were abducted from a school in the remote north-east of the country. In November last year more than 40 schools were burned and destroyed in an attack that also killed around 30 teachers. Those attacks belie strong national support for education and its strong link to the country’s economic growth and poverty reduction. This support was expressed compellingly by students, employers and national leaders at the Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja in March. The message was that transforming education will determine Nigeria’s place in Africa and in the world.
Child marriage in developing countries remains pervasive. One-third of girls are married before age 18. That’s 39,000 girls each day, with 1 in 9 marrying before age 15. Among countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with three years of schooling or less are up to six times more likely to marry young than girls with secondary education. The causality runs both ways: child marriage reduces educational attainment, and, conversely, girls with less access to quality education are more likely to marry early.
It’s been said that learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century. Sound a little exhausting? The fact is that there are fewer and fewer jobs being created that rely on rote tasks and memorization. There are more and more jobs that require creativity, teamwork, problem solving, and ongoing learning. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Children need to start acquiring these skills and attitudes early on, which is why education systems around the world are increasingly focused on reforms that involve setting and measuring new goals for learning that will better ensure their graduates’ success in today’s world.
The total number of out-of-school children worldwide has declined from 108 million in 1999 to 57 million today. While this is tremendous progress, a critical question remains: Are they learning? According to the latest estimates from UNESCO, more than 250 million school-aged children cannot read.
But there is some good news. In a previous post I highlighted my recent paper with Noam Angrist, “An expansion of a global data set on educational quality: a focus on achievement in developing countries,” where we use existing sources of test score information to show that there are less-developed countries that have made major educational gains. In that post our comparison of test score gains from 1995-2010 for 128 countries gives the following list of top performers over the last 15 years: Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tanzania, to name a few.