As the editor of the World Bank’s education blog, I get weekly submissions from our education experts from all corners of the globe. Provocative and informative, our bloggers write about some of the education sector’s most hotly debated issues today.
Here are 2017’s most-read blog posts:
#10 There are cost-effective ways to train teachers
Teachers are the single most important factor affecting how much students learn. However, talent and heart aren’t enough to make a good teacher- as in all professions, one must train (and continue to train!) to be truly effective. This can be a big challenge in countries with fewer resources for education. Read about how 8,000 teachers in disadvantaged districts in Ghana upgraded their skills while simultaneously teaching in schools.
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.”
I believe that people who are constantly on the lookout for new models of education should also look to the past at something that was started over 40 years ago. In the 1970s, the “New School” model was born in rural Colombia.
New School – Escuela Nueva in Spanish – is recognized for its innovative nature and for improving the education of millions of children around the world. Originally designed to provide cost-effective schooling to small rural schools in Colombia, it focused on cooperative learning and leadership, feedback, social interaction – all now hallmarks of so-called 21st century learning.
In many ways, girls’ education is a success story in global development. Relatively simple changes in national policies – like making primary schooling free and compulsory – have led to dramatic increases in school enrollment around the world. In Uganda, for example, enrollment increased by over 60 percent following the elimination of primary school fees.
As more young people have enrolled in school, gaps in educational attainment between boys and girls have closed. According to UNESCO, by 2014, “gender parity (meaning an equal amount of men and women) was achieved globally, on average, in primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary education.”
Yet, more than 250 million children are not in school. Many more drop out before completing primary school. And many young people who attend school do not gain basic literacy skills. These challenges remain particularly acute for poor girls.
In a new paper, published in Population and Development Review, we explore recent progress in girls’ education in 43 low- and middle-income countries. To do so, we use Demographic and Health Survey data collected at two time points, the first between 1997 and 2007 (time 1), and the second between 2008 and 2016 (time 2).
December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Every year, on this day, the international community comes together to take stock of the progress that has been made to advance the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
At the World Bank, we commemorate the signing of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and underscore our commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), to “ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities” by 2030. Yet, despite these international commitments, globally, too many students with disabilities still face significant barriers when it comes to attending school.
All schools are different. I’m not referring to the building, the number of students or teaching practices. I’m talking about the school’s spirit. When you walk into a good school, the building is often well-organized and clean. The students look busy and happy. You don’t see strict discipline; ideally, you see organized chaos.
When you see a well-functioning school, most likely, there is a good principal behind it. A leader who sets a vision for the school and sets clear objectives. Someone who creates the space that fosters teachers’ professional and personal development, and encourages students’ personal growth, creativity, and their own journey of discovery.
Running a school efficiently is a very difficult challenge. A principal must be a pedagogical leader to dozens of teachers: observing them in the classroom, evaluating institutional performance, and helping them get the professional development opportunities they need. Principals have to deal with hundreds of students and their personal and academic challenges. They need to respond to parents, each with their own expectations for the school. And principals also need to contend with the administrative and financial burdens imposed by the bureaucracy.
Todas las escuelas son distintas. No hablo del edificio, del número de estudiantes, ni del enfoque pedagógico que siguen. Hablo del espíritu de la escuela. Al entrar a un buen colegio, uno a veces ve que todo está bien organizado y limpio. Los estudiantes se ven ocupados, y al mismo tiempo, felices. No necesariamente se observa disciplina estricta, idealmente, uno ve un caos organizado.
Cuando una escuela funciona bien, en gran medida se debe a que existe un buen director. El buen director establece una visión y objetivos para la escuela, y puede hacer de ella un espacio efectivo de desarrollo profesional y personal para los maestros, y un espacio de crecimiento, creatividad y descubrimiento para los alumnos.
Lograr que una escuela funcione bien es una tarea extremadamente compleja. Requiere que el director se constituya en un líder pedagógico de decenas de profesores, observándolos en el aula, monitoreando permanentemente su desempeño con sus alumnos y en su contribución al trabajo institucional. Así podrá el director desplegar las capacidades de su cuerpo docente de manera efectiva y darles apoyo en lo que necesiten. Requiere lidiar con cientos de estudiantes y sus retos personales y académicos; y con los padres de familia de esos estudiantes, que tienen sus propias expectativas sobre la escuela. Además, debe lidiar con los retos burocráticos, administrativos y financieros para hacer funcionar la institución.
In Bulgaria, where just 15 percent of Roma children complete secondary school, Eugenia Volen, 42, knows only too well how hard her job is.
Automation is heralding a renewed race between education and technology. However, the ability of workers to compete with automation is handicapped by the poor performance of education systems in most developing countries. This will prevent many from benefiting from the high returns to schooling.
Schooling quality is low
The quality of schooling is not keeping pace, essentially serving a break on the potential of “human capital” (the skills, knowledge, and innovation that people accumulate). As countries continue to struggle to equip students with basic cognitive skills- the core skills the brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, and reason- new demands are being placed.
Mobile solutions for better governance in education
Let’s look at these pictures together: villagers examining a poster, teachers putting a similar poster on the wall, adding a number to it; government officials choosing designs for a dashboard with a help of a technician. None of these can be described as “cutting-edge technology” but these photos show moments in the life of a cutting-edge, disruptive project.
It’s the kind of project that works technical innovation into the lives of citizens and incentives to respond to the needs of these citizens into the workflows of government officials.
Allô, École! is a mobile platform funded by Belgian Development Cooperation and executed by the Ministry of education of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the help of the World Bank.