2010 was a banner year for education as global attention brought by the UN Millennium Development Goals summit in New York City spotlighted the catalytic role education plays in fighting poverty and meeting a number of critical development goals. As countries and development partners alike strive to maximize development effectiveness, investing in education has emerged as a clear priority for this reason -- as well as as part of the solution to rising unemployment, a point echoed by US President Barack Obama in last week's State of the Union. The World Bank's forthcoming Education Strategy, which launched global consultations in 2010, takes special aim at the critical need for learning to translate into skills for work and life. While the global economic downturn has threatened to slow hard-won progress, the World Bank scaled up development assistance with over $5 billion in support to education during FY2010.
East Asia and Pacific
Blogging from the World Bank's Indigenous Peoples Research Dissemination Workshop in Washington DC.
As is well known, there are more 300 million indigenous peoples in the world. While they make up fewer than 5 percent of the global population they account for about 10 percent of the world’s poor. Next year, Cambridge University Press will publish my book with Gillette Hall on the state of the world’s indigenous peoples.
As part of the dissemination process, we have brought together most of the contributors to our volume for a workshop in Washington D.C. today, to share their research with each other and with an audience of World Bank staff, researchers and others from the development community. We expect a lively discussion on our forthcoming publication, which covers countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 survey results were released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA tests 15 year olds in reading, math and science.
Pisa 2009 results focus on reading, as they did in 2000 when the tests were first applied. In reading, as the OECD reports, Korea and Finland are the highest performing OECD countries, with mean scores of 539 and 536 points. However, as noted in today's New York Times, Shanghai-China outperforms them by a significant margin, with a mean score of 556. Top-performing economies in reading include Hong Kong-China (533), Singapore (526), Canada (524), New Zealand (521), Japan (520), Australia (515) and the Netherlands (508).
At the US release of the PISA results in Washington DC, which I was fortunate to attend today, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría, discussed the importance of the results in terms of competitiveness and growth.
The Seoul G20 summit in November ended with some homework for the World Bank. We were asked to work with the ILO, OECD and UNESCO to develop internationally comparable indicators of skills that can help countries in their efforts to better match education and job training to market needs. The G20 was right to make this a priority.
In this post-financial crisis period, jobs play an important role in recovery. Making sure that people have the right skills to get these jobs is the other side. Developing countries, especially, know that skills development is necessary if they are going to attract investment that will create decent jobs and raise productivity.
Last week I attended a brainstorming meeting as part of the World Bank's 'Apps for Development' initiative, in preparation for a competition that will be announced in October to bring software developers and development practitioners together to develop useful software tools and data visualizations that use World Bank data. This is (hopefully!) just the first stage in a broader initiative over time exploring how approaches to 'open data' (and not just those generated or warehoused by the World Bank) can help contribute to creation of useful software tools to help with a variety of development challenges.
Blogging from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York City.
As world leaders gathered this week at the UN for the MDG Summit, the World Bank called critical attention to the state of indigenous peoples throughout the world - who show higher poverty rates and lower schooling rates than their peers - with a session that reviewed key findings from a new global study.
There are approximately 300 million indigenous peoples in the world. They make up fewer than 5 percent of the global population, but account for about 10 percent of the poor. Nearly 80 percent of indigenous peoples in the world live in Asia. Indigenous groups in China and India alone account for more than two-thirds of the world’s indigenous population.
Around the world, aid from international donors buys textbooks, hires teachers, and opens schools - all worthy and necessary contributions in the fight to educate every child. But largely, the development equation remains fundamentally the same.
A new book presented at the World Bank recently by the Center for Global Development flips that equation on its head with proposed progress-based aid for education. In essence, the idea entails paying a country not for inputs such as pencils or classrooms - but once each child educated passes certain bars such as completion of his or her grade level.
Investments in education and human capital have long been recognized as precipitators of future economic growth. Rapid development in Korea in the second half of the 20th century, for instance, has been traced by scholars back to high levels of investments in schooling and training, creating the enabling environment for industrialization and further specialization.
There is no doubt that commitment to education for economic development requires both long-term funding and the multiplying effects of time.
But what causes countries with similar levels of sustained spending to achieve vastly different outcomes? It's a question that burns in the minds and wallets of governments and development efforts around the world.