As countries strive to grow, build well-being and fight inequality, it is clear that education must adapt to changing global needs. This is true in all country contexts, including in advanced economies such as the Republic of Korea, where a high-performing education system already turns out skilled students who top the charts in international learning assessments such as PISA and TIMMS.
East Asia and Pacific
Vietnam’s education system is receiving a lot of international attention following the country’s strong performance in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Vietnam’s 15 year-olds performed as well in mathematics, reading and science as their peers in much richer Germany and Austria, and better than the international average. In an earlier blog I reviewed possible explanations for this success.
New analysis of data for Vietnam from the World Bank’s Skills Toward Employment and Productivity (STEP) skills measurement surveys confirms the message from PISA.
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.
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Since the UN’s High Level Panel announced its vision for the post-2015 development agenda in May, much debate has centered on the absence of a goal for inequality among the panel’s list of 15 proposed goals. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, commenting on the goals in Jakarta last June, stressed that the principle of “no one left behind” was central to the panel’s vision, and that each of the U.N.’s goals focused on tackling inequality. The proposed education goals, in fact, include a commitment to ‘ensure every child, regardless of circumstance, completes primary education able to read, write and count well enough to meet minimum learning standards’.
I travel to many developing countries in the context of my work for The World Bank. I visit schools that receive financial support and technical assistance from the Bank to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of students. Each time, I ask teachers in these schools what they think would make the biggest difference in the learning outcomes of their students. The most common answer is “better parents.” I often wonder if this response is, in some conscious or unconscious way, an excuse to help teachers explain the poor outcomes of their students (especially those from the poorest households) and their low expectations of what their students can achieve. However, both common sense and solid research indicate that parents matter.
There is certainly one way to really get to know our school systems, and fast – through a scandal. A recent article in The Economist reports on a case in Atlanta, USA, where it was found that teachers had engaged in wide-spread cheating since at least 2001, all to improve student test scores.
Some teachers gave pupils answers. Some filled in answers themselves. Some pointed to answers while standing over pupils’ desks. Others let low-scoring children sit near—and copy from—higher-scoring ones. One group of teachers had a test-changing party over the weekend.
(Low Marks All Round, The Economist, July 14th 2011.)
My team and I presented a better, albeit less dramatic way to get to know our schools at a conference in Bali this summer. The System Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results (SABER) program is a flagship initiative of the World Bank’s new Education Strategy 2020. SABER enables policy makers to look inside the black box of their education systems, and better understand the different policy domains that make up the whole.
At the launch of the World Bank's new Education Strategy for 2020 during the "What Works in Education” Policy Research Colloquium this spring, World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged the international development community to focus on interventions that produce learning results and emphasized the vital role that evidence must play in propelling smart investments in education. The strategy also emphasizes the Bank's role in helping countries move beyond the provision of inputs to a system-level approach for improving the quality, performance, and outcomes of education programs.
To improve learning for all, we are rolling out an innovative assessment tool to help our partners use knowledge more effectively to drive education reform.
The System Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results (SABER) initiative is being designed to help countries systematically examine and better understand their education system's policies. SABER's policy diagnostics are being built upon a solid evidence base and draws from research on the education policies of well performing or rapidly improving education systems. By leveraging global knowledge, SABER fills a gap in the availability of policy data and evidence on what policies matter most to improve the quality of education and achievement of better results.
Bali was the scene for an exciting international event this week, as the World Bank launched the first phase of its flagship Systems Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results (SABER) initiative in East Asia and the Pacific. Joined by education policymakers from 14 East Asian economies, we presented the first ever region-wide diagnosis of policies in place in East Asian countries and an assessment of how to improve their education systems.
The four-day conference took stock of progress in student achievement levels in the region and beyond, documenting the policies in place in several education policy domains including – information systems, assessment, teacher policies, autonomy and accountability, information and communication technology (ICTs), vocational tracking and tertiary education systems – and compared East Asian education systems. Indonesia’s Minister of Education, Mohammad Nuh, opened the ministerial forum and was joined by education experts from the World Bank, UNESCO, the OECD, the Asian Development Bank, and AusAID, as well as experts from Australia, China, Colombia (represented by former Education Minister Cecilia Maria Velez, pictured above), Japan, Korea and Poland, all of whom shared lessons of successful education reform from their own country experience.
In the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region, the World Bank’s newly-launched Education Strategy 2020 is consistent with our own strategic direction in recent years and presents us with the chance to expand and build upon vital work.
Across the region we have been responding to the needs of a growing cohort of middle-income countries looking to maximize the productivity of their people, the lifeblood for national prosperity and well-being. At the same time, we have seen important progress in first generation reforms in low-income countries, fragile contexts and small states — where we are helping build the capacity of education systems to get all children in school. Across a spectrum of EAP countries we are supporting life-long learning, including early childhood development, basic and secondary education, second-chance education, skills development and vocational training, and science, technology and innovation.