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.
En casi todo el mundo en desarrollo, la inversión en educación se ha traducido en un aumento acelerado de la cobertura educativa. Pero en la mayor parte de los casos, esta inversión no ha tenido todavía un impacto importante en los aprendizajes. Más que una crisis de escolaridad, hoy en día enfrentamos una crisis de aprendizajes. A pesar de las notorias mejoras en países como Vietnam, Colombia o Perú, millones de niños salen de la escuela cada día sin saber leer un párrafo o hacer una resta simple de dos dígitos.
When I visited Peru for the first time last month for a business development trip, I met with the heads of some leading private education institutions. At the end of my visit, I decided to book a cultural tour of Lima. During the tour, I asked our guide Marcos where he learned English as I found him very articulate, knowledgeable and with a good sense of humor. To my pleasant surprise and astonishment, he told me that he learned it by himself, mainly online. He then started practicing with visiting tourists until he became more comfortable leading tours himself.
Intensive “bootcamp” training programs that develop coding and other computer science skills and directly connect students with jobs are becoming increasingly popular. In the U.S, there are already over 90 bootcamps—and they are taking root in Latin America too, helping to close the region’s skills and gender gaps.
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).
This week I was invited to speak at The Economist’s Higher Education Forum in New York to share my thoughts on how higher education can be expanded. I believe that we need a fair and sustainable cost-recovery model at the university level using future earnings to finance current education.
Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of university students and graduates worldwide, which should have led to decrease in the rate of return to investment to higher education – if supply outpaced demand, of course. While there has been some decrease in overall rates of return, investment in education is still a highly profitable investment. Global demand for high levels skills such as working with new information and problem-solving has kept the returns to schooling high in even the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the returns to higher education are higher in lower-income countries – except in the Middle East and North Africa due to rigid labor market regulations.