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Why we should invest in getting more kids to read — and how to do it

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates.
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates. (Photo: Liang Qiang / World Bank)


It is estimated that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labor markets .

Four cautionary lessons about education technology

David Evans's picture
 Charlotte Kesl / World Bank
Technology in education is often seen as a solution. It holds promise, but caution is warranted.
Photo: Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


There is no denying that governments around the world are expanding investments in education technology, from inputs that students use directly (like Kenya’s project to put tablets in schools) to digital resources to improve the education system (like Rio de Janeiro’s school management system). As public and private school systems continue to integrate technology into their classrooms, remember that education technology comes with risks. 
 

How to use evidence to improve student learning

David Evans's picture
Access to education is improving but so must the quality of learning. (Arne Hoel/World Bank)

See if you can spot the pattern:
  • “Although the quantity of schooling has expanded rapidly, quality is often abysmal.” (Kremer et al.)
  • “Between 1999 and 2009, an extra 52 million children enrolled in primary school…Yet the quality of education in many schools is unacceptably poor.” (Krishnaratne et al.)
  • “Progress over the last decade in regards to school access and enrollment has been promising.” But “current learning levels for primary as well as secondary school students are extremely low in much of Sub-Saharan Africa” (Conn)
  •  “The most consistent focus of investment has been on increasing primary and secondary school enrollment rates… More recently, however, attention has begun to swing toward the quality of schools and the achievement of students—and here the evidence on outcomes is decidedly more mixed.” (Glewwe et al.)
  • “Over the past decade, low- and middle-income countries have made considerable progress in increasing the number of children and youth who enroll in school and stay long enough to learn basic skills… Learning in many low- and middle-income countries remains appallingly low.” (Murnane & Ganimian)

Again and again, we hear the refrain: access is improving, but learning lags. Thankfully, an increasing number of studies reveal interventions that work – and those that don’t – to improve learning around the world.

PBS Documentary follows students around the world for 12 years as they fight to get basic education

Nina Chaudry's picture
 2003 – 2016


The idea for this 12-year documentary project, Time for School, came after Pamela Hogan (our producer) read an op-ed in which economist Amartya Sen argued that investing in education was key to promoting a country’s economic and social growth.

Quality education needed to boost women’s economic empowerment

Keiko Inoue's picture
Better educated women secure brighter futures for themselves and lift entire households out of poverty.



While Hillary Clinton is cracking the glass ceiling, if not yet shattering it entirely, in the United States by becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, recent analysis on U.S. women in the workforce presents a more sobering finding.

Globally, periods are causing girls to be absent from school

Oni Lusk-Stover's picture
Also available in: Español  |  Francais
Student at primary school in Freetown Sierra Leone. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.

Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating. Should young women miss twenty percent of school days in a given year due to a lack of facilities or a lack of information or a lack of sanitary products?

School nutrition programs are the first line of defense against diabetes

Linda Brooke Schultz's picture
Children having meals in school in Ghana. Photo: © Arne Hoel/The World Bank



April 7th is World Health Day, a day to highlight emerging global health concerns. The focus this year is raising awareness on the diabetes epidemic, and its dramatic increase in low- and middle-income countries.

Are citizen-led assessments raising learning levels?

Marguerite Clarke's picture



Citizen-led assessments (CLAs) emerged in India in 2005 as a way to raise awareness and advocacy around low learning levels, and to act as a force for bottom-up accountability and action that would improve education quality and learning. Thousands of volunteers traveled to rural districts and administered simple reading and math tests to the children in households they visited. The dismal results, published in the 2005 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), helped stimulate debate and prioritize learning in national policy.

Insights from Brazil for skills development in rapidly transforming African countries

Claudia Costin's picture
Young Brazilians learning hairdresser skills under a vocational program run by Sistema S
Young Brazilians learning hairdresser skills under a vocational program run by Sistema S.
Photo credit: Mariana Ceratti/World Bank

While Brazil faces a difficult fiscal and economic situation right now, I would like to view national progress on employment and incomes from a long-term perspective, which is valuable when addressing Education and Human Development issues in a broader sense.

Do we have any idea how to get kids into school?

Donald Baum's picture
 Arne Hoel/ World Bank
In the seven years between 2000 and 2007, the world undertook a massive push to increase enrollments for all children in primary school. This organized effort was successful in reducing the worldwide number of out-of-school children by 40%. Surely, for many, the hope (and even the expectation) at that time was for a fast-approaching elimination of this global dilemma.
 
So, what of our progress in the last seven years?

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