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Education’s hollow promise of social mobility in Europe

Christian Bodewig's picture
The new PISA data shows that, in many countries in the European Union, the promise of social mobility continues to be a hollow one. (Photo: Flore de Préneuf /World Bank)

This blog originally appeared in the Brookings Institute blog on December 7, 2016.

As 2016 draws to a close, few questions are asked with greater urgency in Europe than this: How can countries tackle inequality? Education usually tops the list of most promising solutions to inequality between rich and poor or between advanced and lagging regions. Education equips children and youth, regardless of their social background, with the skills to get a good job. As such, it is an engine of social mobility. So goes the theory. But what about the practice? 

Five innovative education trends from Korea

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Students in Korea (Photo: World Bank)

Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. It also lays the basis for sustained growth.  Better schooling investments raise national income growth rates.  In nearly all countries, though to varying degrees, educational progress has lagged for groups that are disadvantaged due to low income, gender, disability or ethnic and/or linguistic affiliation.  However, there is an on-going education revolution occurring. 

The latest PISA results: Seven key takeaways

Marguerite Clarke's picture
International assessments aren’t perfect but they offer useful insights into how countries can help all students learn to high levels. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)


Results for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exercise were released on December 6. The results are instructive, not only because of what they tell us about the science, mathematics, and reading knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world, but also in terms of how they compare to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which were released a week ago (click here to read my blog on key takeaways from the TIMSS results).

Working on early childhood development in Mali

Daphna Berman's picture
An evaluation measuring the impact of daily micronutrient supplements combined with parent education on children’s development is underway. (Photo by:  Curt Carnemark / World Bank)

Natalie Roschnik was a newly minted graduate student when she accepted her first job with Save the Children in Mali. Nearly 20 years later, Roschnik knows Mali well: it’s one of the countries she travels to often as a Senior Research and Impact Advisor for Save the Children.

Nine takeaways from the 2015 Trends in International Math and Science Study Results

Marguerite Clarke's picture
The highest performing countries are paying extra attention to the quality of their teachers. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the results of its latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) yesterday, November 29. TIMSS 2015 assessed more than 600,000 students in grades four, eight, and the final year of secondary school across 60 education systems.

If we build it, they may not come: implementing effective education programs and policy

Ben Durbin's picture
Could lessons learned from top performing schools in a country really be replicated in another country? (Photo: Charlotte Kesl/World Bank)

Ed’s note: This guest blog is by Ben Durbin, Head of International Education for the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

In September this year, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) published an impressive new review of education programmes in low and middle-income countries. It is a rich resource, which stands out in its sheer scope, covering studies investigating a diverse set of interventions and educational outcomes.

Women in science: Africa needs more role models

Madiha Waris Qureshi's picture
There is inadequate encouragement of girls to pursue math and science in school. (Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank)

UNESCO estimates that barely 30 percent of Africa’s women pursue research in science and engineering fields. I am inspired by one of them – a woman who is among the few female PhDs in the West African nation of Togo, and is helping more girls in her country enroll into science and technology fields.

How do you solve a problem like over-age enrolment?

Peter Darvas's picture
Also available in: Français
Over-age enrolment has continued to remain a civil war legacy ( Katie Meyler, More Than Me)


Leah is a diligent 13-year-old student in rural Liberia.  She walks to the school near her village every day. She pays attention in class. She hopes to be a teacher one day. Yet, there is a problem. Leah is still in first grade.    

Five ways to improve parenting education in Indonesia

Heather Biggar Tomlinson's picture
A parenting education workshop is underway in Indonesia.

Ed's note: This guest blog is by Heather Biggar Tomlinson (Executive Director, Roshan Learning Center) and Syifa Andina (Chairperson, Foundation for Mother and Child Health)

There is a dynamic and growing energy in Indonesia focusing on parenting education, particularly for low-income families. However, little is known about parenting styles and related outcomes, much less the coverage and effectiveness of various parenting education approaches.

Investing in early years learning: It can be done!

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Early investment in the lives of disadvantaged children will help reduce inequality, in both the short and the long run. —James Heckman

Investments in the early years of children’s lives and in the first grades of their education are among the most important actions governments can take.  So said the Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Tonga, the Honourable Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

Pacific countries are doing well in terms of getting their children into primary school and ensuring completion.  Despite this progress over the years, however, decision-makers are concerned over learning outcomes. 

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