With the Incheon Declaration recommending governments to allocate between 15 – 20% of total public expenditure to education, how can governments improve the efficiency of their education systems?
Tan solo tres semanas después de que me nombraran ministro de Educación de Perú, mi equipo y yo recibimos los resultados de la ronda de 2012 del Programa Para la Evaluación Internacional de Alumnos (PISA). Perú ocupaba el último lugar. No era el anteúltimo, no estaba en el 10 % más bajo. Era el último.
La educación, que nunca aparecía en los titulares de los diarios del país, figuraba ahora en la primera plana. Para algunos medios, el hecho de sólo países ricos y algunos países de ingresos medios participaban en las pruebas PISA no era importante; eso era solo una nota al pie. En los periódicos, los alumnos peruanos tenían los peores niveles de aprendizaje del mundo.
Just three weeks after becoming Minister of Education in Peru, my team and I received the results from the 2012 round of PISA. Peru was ranked last. Not next to last, not bottom 10%. It was last.
Education, which never made headlines in the country, was on the front pages. For some people in the media, the fact that PISA was only administered to a subset of rich and middle-income countries around the world was not important, that was just a footnote. For them, Peruvian students were the worst in the world.
Public school teachers in Brazil, Indonesia or Peru have stable jobs, enjoy high level of legal protection, and are part of teacher unions that shield them politically. Public school teachers in Finland also have stable jobs and are rarely fired. They are represented by a powerful teacher union, which is very influential among other stakeholders in policy discussions. Why do student learning outcomes among these countries vary dramatically?
Comparing two middle-income countries is not unusual, but two that are geographically far and are apparently different is less common. However, both Turkey and Peru have had the highest growth in their respective regions in recent years, aspire to become high-income economies in the next decade, depend on trade. Both countries face downside risks if structural changes—in the education and training system, and the economy more broadly—are not made to ensure that contributions to economic growth come from improvements in productivity. Both countries recognize there is a large gap between their productivity levels and the global productivity frontier, and both have growing populations that are not adequately equipped to meet labor market needs, with average productivity levels. Given these (similar) challenges, both countries have as their development goal, central to their development agenda, to improve productivity to continue growing in a sustainable manner.
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.”
Last Wednesday, the World Development Report 2018, Learning to Realize Education’s Promise (WDR) was released. It argues that there is a learning crisis: in many developing countries, children learn very little, educational opportunities are unequal, and educational progress is still very slow. What do we need to change this? We need prepared learners, who receive adequate nutrition and stimulation in their early years. We need well managed schools that create an environment conducive to learning. We need adequate inputs so that schools can operate effectively. But above all, we need motivated and well-prepared teachers. In classrooms around the world, white boards and screens have replaced black boards and notebooks are increasingly commonplace. But in this 21st century, with increased use of technology, there is one constant that determines, more than anything else, whether children learn at school: teachers. Indeed, teachers remain central to the classroom experience. And yet in many countries, the teaching profession needs attention and reform.
El miércoles pasado se lanzó el Informe sobre el desarrollo mundial 2018: Aprender para hacer realidad la promesa de la educación. El mundo enfrenta una crisis de aprendizaje. En muchos países del mundo en desarrollo, los aprendizajes son insuficientes, las oportunidades de aprendizaje son desiguales, y el progreso es todavía muy lento. ¿Qué se necesita? Que los estudiantes lleguen a la escuela habiendo tenido una nutrición y un estímulo adecuado durante los primeros años de vida; escuelas bien administradas que generen un entorno conducente al aprendizaje; insumos adecuados para que esas escuelas operen de manera efectiva; y, lo más importante, maestros motivados y bien preparados.
Y es que hoy, en el siglo XXI, con la revolución de las comunicaciones y la tecnología, el elemento esencial para lograr un aprendizaje efectivo en el aula sigue siendo el maestro. Como se discute en el informe, la tecnología puede facilitar el proceso de aprendizaje, ayudando, por ejemplo, a que en el aula estudiantes con distintos niveles de competencia tengan el estímulo que necesitan para avanzar. Pero esto simplemente complementa a un maestro que debe de saber utilizar la tecnología.
Over the past decades, education investments in the developing world have led to unprecedented enrollment rates. Yet, even with these historic investments, children sit in classrooms every day without learning. More than a schooling crisis, we face a learning crisis. Despite progress in countries as diverse as Vietnam, Colombia and Peru, millions of children leave school without knowing how to read a paragraph or solve a simple two-digit subtraction.