My nephew Reuben was born on December 9, 2017. Reuben is a member of generation Alpha, a cohort that is younger than smartphones, cryptocurrency, and synthetic human cells. Reuben was born in Australia only a few short months after Sophia became the first robot citizen of Saudi Arabia. Reuben will take his first steps in a pair of self-tying shoes to walk into a world of self-driving (maybe even flying!?) cars, digital assistants, and augmented reality. Yet, this is only the beginning. Reuben will encounter an exponential rate of change that will continue until approximately 2101.
The early years are a critical period for development of children’s brains and bodies and the cognitive, linguistic, socio-emotional, and motor skills they need to thrive in school and succeed later in life. Too often, poverty and its associated problems, such as poor health services, weak education systems and lack of parental knowledge, limit the support, care, and stimulation that children require for healthy development.
Early childhood programs are aimed at helping children get what they need to reach their potential. Designing and evaluating the impact of programs requires first understanding how to measure and track children’s development. This is the challenge. Measuring early childhood development in low- and middle-income countries requires trade-offs and choices that can be difficult to manage for even the most experienced researchers. A new toolkit released by the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund aims to help researchers and development practitioners understand how to assess early childhood development accurately and reliably.
Today, for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we celebrate the progress made towards reducing the gender gap in computer science, and we urge schools worldwide to help balance the scales in this critical 21st century subject.
Two years ago, 23-year-old Pedro Flores became a technician specializing in renewable energy—all thanks to a degree from a technical institute in Maule, located in one of Chile’s poorest regions. After completing his degree in just two years, Flores became the only person in his family to obtain an advanced degree. Today, he lives in Santiago and works for a private solar energy multinational corporation, where he earns a competitive salary that is only slightly below the average for entry-level professionals in his field, most of whom spent over five years in university.
The world is facing a learning crisis, particularly in middle and lower income countries, and though theories abound on how best to address it, one things is clear: policymakers and practitioners alike need more and better information to sufficiently address the challenges ahead.
Several important international standardized achievement tests such as PISA and TIMSS provide critical data, but these tests are limited because they often exclude developing countries and only date back to the mid-1990s.
Our new working paper, A Global Dataset on Education Quality (1965-2015), addresses that information gap. In it, we present the largest and most current globally comparable dataset on education quality, with harmonized learning scores for 163 countries and regions that covers more than 90 percent of the world’s population. This new World Bank dataset offers a longer time horizon and includes more countries, especially lower income, than any other previous attempt to capture educational information on so granular a level.
Countries/areas covered by the dataset
Photo: Ravinder Casley Gera
Alberto Gwande and his students at Khuzi school in Malawi need more teachers. The school is severely understaffed, with only six teachers for nearly 800 students. “I was supposed to receive new teachers last year, but they never came,” recalls Alberto, the headteacher.
Khuzi is 20 kilometres away from Nathenje, the nearest large village with a trading center, and its Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) is 131 pupils per teacher. In contrast, Chibubu school, located four kilometers from Nathenje, has a PTR of 65, while Mwatibu school, located inside the village, has a PTR of just 49. And yet, despite the shortage at Khuzi, it was Chibubu which received four new teachers last year.
As the editor of the World Bank’s education blog, I get weekly submissions from our education experts from all corners of the globe. Provocative and informative, our bloggers write about some of the education sector’s most hotly debated issues today.
Here are 2017’s most-read blog posts:
#10 There are cost-effective ways to train teachers
Teachers are the single most important factor affecting how much students learn. However, talent and heart aren’t enough to make a good teacher- as in all professions, one must train (and continue to train!) to be truly effective. This can be a big challenge in countries with fewer resources for education. Read about how 8,000 teachers in disadvantaged districts in Ghana upgraded their skills while simultaneously teaching in schools.
The first time a World Bank education team tried classroom observations in Brazil, it nearly provoked a state-wide teachers’ strike. It was October 2009 in the northeast state of Pernambuco and two members of the team, Barbara Bruns and Madalena Dos Santos, had handed out stopwatches to school supervisors newly trained in using the Stallings “classroom snapshot” method to measure teacher activities.
Two days later, the stopwatches were on the front page of Pernambuco’s leading newspaper: the teachers’ union called for a state-wide strike to protest an evaluation tool they dubbed the “Stalin method.”
“I thought the grant money we had used to train observers was down the drain,” recalled Bruns, a World Bank retiree now a visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development. “But the governor, Eduardo Campos, was unfazed. He publicly declared: ‘No one is going to stop me and my secretariat from going into public schools to figure out how to make them better.’ The union backed down and the fieldwork went ahead.”