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.
Europe and Central Asia
Turkey’s remarkable economic growth over the last decade has been a much quoted success story. One often hears that the country trebled its per capita income, and has become the 16th largest economy in the world. One hears less often that this economic growth has been inclusive, accompanied by reduced poverty and expanded access to social services in health and education. And yet even these debates on expanded social services rarely move beyond quoting the headline numbers to look at the dynamics of change in the sector(s). This omission is unfortunate because the dynamics of change in the social sectors can be a harbinger for future progress. I want to draw the reader’s attention to the unheralded progress in the education sector.
The World Bank’s new Education Strategy, Learning for All, invites us to invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all. It proposes fostering a comprehensive view of education – a systems approach strengthened by a knowledge base on what works to improve education systems that can be shared amongst the global community.
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.
The following piece appeared as a guest blog in the UK's Guardian this past week.
A good public education system means public spending – but not necessarily public provision.
In OECD countries, more than 20% of public education expenditure goes to private institutions – communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations, trade unions, private companies, small informal providers and individual practitioners – and about 12% is spent on privately-managed institutions.
But does private participation mean higher quality education? Does it bring better exam results? Can it encourage greater equality?
Following the recent launch of the World Bank’s new Education Strategy for 2020 by President Robert Zoellick, we now turn to thinking about how the new strategy translates into action on the ground around the world. In Europe and Central Asia (ECA), how can the principles of learning for all make a difference for this rapidly transforming region?
Against overwhelming odds, the efforts of countries and donors to pursue the Education for All (EFA) goals over the last decade have paid off. The number of out of school children has dropped by the tens of millions, enrollment rates have surged, first grade entry has jumped substantially, completion rates have shot up, gender disparities have diminished, and other types of equity have improved in many countries, including in very large countries like China, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Of course the six EFA goals and Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 still remain to be achieved so we are anything but complacent. Nonetheless, we have seen substantial progress.
It is really important to recognize that in education we are talking about broad, system-wide outcomes – not just narrowly defined (albeit incredibly important) specific outcomes – for example in the health sector, improved outcomes on a few diseases. Scores of countries around the world have made great leaps forward on education results, despite poverty, despite the fact that many donors did not meet their funding targets, and despite the fact that EFA doesn't have a Bono, a Bill Gates, or an Angelina Jolie to promote its importance.
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.
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.