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Latin America & Caribbean

Are Alternative Pathways into Teaching Bad for Students?

Emiliana Vegas's picture

In the vast majority of education systems, there is a well-defined path to become a teacher. In most cases, this path begins early on in an individual’s career choices. At the time of graduation from high school or entrance into higher education, individuals enter initial teacher training programs. When the profession is attractive (based on not just salary but also working conditions and career opportunities), competition into these programs can be very intense, such as in Finland, Korea and Singapore.  In these cases, systems can be selective in who they admit into teaching, and new teachers are among the brightest, best educated, hardest working, and most motivated workers in society.

But the profession is very attractive in only a few countries. In most other nations, the number of teacher applicants does not exceed the number of teacher positions by much, and when it does (as in India), selection processes to assign the teacher positions are seldom set up to choose the very best. As a result, in many countries around the world, the best and the brightest are entering professions other than teaching. This is troubling because a substantial body of research convincingly shows that teacher quality is the most important school-based predictor of student learning. Indeed, several consecutive years of outstanding teaching can even offset the learning gaps between advantaged (socio-economically, racially or ethnically, by gender) and disadvantaged students. 

Remembering Brazilian Education Minister Paulo Renato Souza

Barbara Bruns's picture

In an age of cynicism about politics, it is bittersweet this week to reflect on the life and legacy of Brazil’s former minister of education, Paulo Renato Souza.  Paulo Renato died on June 25 of a massive stroke, at the far too young age of 65.  It is a shock that all of us who knew and loved him will need a long time to overcome. 

His imprint on Brazilian education cannot be exaggerated.   As someone said this week:  “The history of education in Brazil has two parts: before Paulo Renato and after Paulo Renato.”   For those of us who knew Brazil before,  Paulo Renato’s eight year tenure as Minister of Education under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso from 1994-2002 was an eye-opening introduction into the potential  for a single individual at the right moment in history to create political room for maneuver where previously there was none.   Topics that had been “on the table” only in World Bank reports – such as the deep inequalities in education finance in Brazil, or the complete lack of student learning assessment – suddenly  were tackled with sweeping, full-frontal reforms.   

How the Private Sector Can Help Achieve Learning for All

Svava Bjarnason's picture

The World Bank Group’s new Education Strategy 2020 champions learning for all and recognizes that global progress towards this goal will require the commitment of all actors – including governments, communities and private entities. The strategy acknowledges the vital role the private sector can play in helping expand and improve educational opportunity. Private sector participation in education is a growing part of education systems and has helped make significant educational advancements possible in many countries.

How can we leverage the valuable contributions of the private sector to help realize the goal of Learning for All?

Podcast: Can We Get All Children in School and Learning by 2020? Harvard interviews Halsey Rogers

Christine Horansky's picture

How we can make the next decade one in which all children, everywhere, are in school and learning? The World Bank's Lead Economist for education, Halsey Rogers, joins the Harvard EdCast from Washington to discuss the new Education Strategy 2020 and a global agenda for learning.

Indigenous Peoples: Rights, Education and Some Promising Progress from Mexico

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

At this week's United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting, the tenth such gathering of the world’s indigenous peoples, the UN launched a new initiative, the UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership, to promote the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.  The goal of the partnership is to strengthen the institutions and ability of indigenous peoples to fully participate in governance and policy processes at local and national levels. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted at the launch that “indigenous people suffered centuries of oppression, and continue to lose their lands, their languages and their resources at an alarming rate.”  The UN highlights that indigenous children are less likely than other children to be in school and more likely to drop out of school. Indigenous girls are at even greater risk of being excluded from school. This resonates as well with the recent World Bank Global Monitoring Report, which devoted a chapter to the issue of indigenous and vulnerable peoples and the need to address their needs in order to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Can Disseminating Information Lead to Better Learning Outcomes?

Deon Filmer's picture

When my wife and I were looking for where to live in Washington DC, an important part of the decision was the quality of the local public school that our children would (eventually) attend.  But how to judge quality?  Talking to lots of people was the first step.  Taking schools tours was another.  But researching test scores was a key factor.  We wanted a school with a good learning environment, a sense that parents had a positive feeling about the place—but also wanted to know that the school had a track record of good learning outcomes.  Thankfully, the performance of public schools in Washington DC is accessible online and can be compared across schools.  This information was an important input into our decision.  And it remains an important way in which we monitor school performance.  We pay close attention to our own children’s academic development, talk to their teachers regularly, and try to be attentive to the many subtle indicators of the quality of education that they are receiving.  But the annually released test scores provide an externally validated stock-taking of one aspect of that quality.

Education: the 2010 Year in Review

Christine Horansky's picture

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.

Good News: We have bad news!

Ariel Fiszbein's picture

We all love good news.  This simple fact of life explains a well known syndrome known as publication bias:  studies with positive results are more likely to be published than those with negative results.  But the syndrome goes beyond academic publications. 

In education as well as in other areas of public policy, the pressure to show results (and to justify budgets) creates strong incentives to report on positive stories over and above those showing a lack of results.  It is, indeed, easier and more pleasant to write about what works than about what doesn’t work.

A few months ago we launched a new note series, "Evidence to Policy," (or E2P for short) to present in non-technical language results from impact evaluation studies the World Bank has conducted of human development programs.  From the start, I wanted to ensure that E2P remains a vehicle for evidence-based development policy and not a vehicle for intellectual bragging and biased reporting. 

Can Teachers Unions Change? Can The World Bank Change?

Emiliana Vegas's picture

In December 2006, I travelled to Santiago, Chile, with a small team to conduct consultations with education stakeholders on a study we were carrying out at the request of the Chilean Government to help them identify lessons from high-performing countries on how to strengthen the institutional arrangements for education quality assurance. I was the Task Team Leader (at the Bank this is the title of the Project Manager) and also heading the trip. I was joined by an external expert consultant, Joseph Olchefske who is a former Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and was during this period at the American Institutes for Research, and a Junior Professional Associate, Erika Molina. Among the round of meetings we held with all stakeholders ranging from government officials (legislative and executive), business sector leaders, think- tanks (both from the right and left of the political and economic spectrum), student organizations, academic leaders, and opinion leaders, we met with the leaders of the national Teachers Union, the Colegio de Profesores.

Quality Education is Unfinished Homework for Latin America, says World Bank's VP for the Region

Christine Horansky's picture

In conjunction with the Ibero-American Summit this month, Pamela Cox, Vice President for Latin American and Caribbean, emphasizes the urgent need to focus on education quality in a recent op-ed that appeared in major news outlets across the region:

If education were simply a matter of attending classes, Latin America and the Caribbean would have already done its homework. Most regional countries have made enormous progress towards achieving universal access to basic education. There is also clear progress at the secondary and tertiary levels.

But more than access, the key goal of education is learning. Making sure that children and youngsters perform according to the requirements of the day is a necessary condition for the advancement of society. In that respect, the region still has some unfinished business. 

 

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