Are we effective in presenting education data to help tackle the real issues that developing countries are facing? The education community continues to be puzzled by two realities: (1) crucial data is often not available and (2) available data is often hard to digest.
In education, perhaps even more than in other social sectors, not every parent is looking for the same standardized service. All parents want their children to learn and benefit from a great education.
But for some parents, other dimensions matter as well. In many developing countries faith and values are important for families and local communities. It is therefore not surprising that the number of faith-inspired schools appears to be growing, with various types of schools within a tradition providing different services (for example, madrasas usually focus on religious education while Franco-Arab schools also teach secular topics).
Over the past several decades, developing countries have made remarkable progress in achieving quantitative education targets. Since the turn of the millennium, almost 50 million children around the world have gained access to basic education – and most are reaching completion. But as recent PISA data shows, this is not typically the case for qualitative improvements in education. A persistent learning gap remains for an estimated 250 million children who are unable to read and do math, even after spending three or more years in the classroom.
In my career as an educator, social scientist and university president, I have worked primarily as an organizational designer and architect. And in doing so, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to study how universities and other organizations are structured, how decisions related to their design can shape their visions and accomplishments, and how organizations can work together as partners to achieve more than they could alone.
It is my belief that, as the pace and complexity of our global society increases exponentially, there is an urgent need to realign the design and infrastructure of education with the needs of the people our educational systems are intended to serve. While universities have long been vital and powerful drivers of global innovation and economic development, they must now be willing to break free from outmoded paradigms if they hope to continue achieving meaningful progress.
This morning I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote speech at the Education World Forum in London, a large annual gathering of education decision-makers from around the world. More than 80 ministers of education are attending the forum, plus many more high-level participants from donor agencies, private business and academia. I spoke about how much the global education community has to celebrate—the developing world has tripled the average years of schooling of an adult in just two generations, and in the past 15 years the ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education rose from 84 to 96 percent—but also about how much there is left to do less than a year to 2015.
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.