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.
Last week in Jomtien, Thailand, Ministers of Education and senior education officials from 34 countries, joined by supporters from dozens of international agencies and civil society organizations, reaffirmed their commitment to achieving Education for All by 2015. This high level group was also commemorating the original launch of Education for All twenty years earlier, also in Jomtien. But education leaders committing themselves to education is preaching to the choir.
In my last post, 'Rockstars for Reading,' I argued that some of the most successful economies in the world are those that have invested most wisely in the education of their people. So what are the education investment secrets of the most successful countries? To put it another way, imagine if a finance minister from one of the most successful economies – such as Korea, Singapore, Brazil, or Mauritius -- were to assume the same post in another country. What might he or she tell the head of state to encourage more and smarter investment in education?
Twenty years ago when I was a relatively new economist at the World Bank, I was part of the Bank’s delegation to Jomtien, Thailand, where the heads of several multilateral development agencies, bilateral aid agencies, and leaders of 155 developing countries came together to declare their commitment to universal primary education.
I remember that the mood was upbeat—and not only because the venue was set along Thailand's sunny coast. There was a strong shared feeling that it was time to recommit to education as a basic human right, as highlighted by James Grant, the Executive Director of UNICEF at the time, and as a powerful instrument for reducing poverty and promoting development, as outlined by Barber Conable, World Bank President at the time.
Last week, I traveled to New York City to attend the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession hosted by the US Department of Education, the OECD, and Education International, a global teachers union. Of the 16 countries represented, all were top-performers in the international PISA tests, or rapid improvers, such as Poland and Brazil. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the meeting to learn from what other countries are doing to improve teaching and learning, a sign that not only is this task complex and challenging, but that it is critical to countries at all levels of development.
So how do these top-performers and rapid-improvers manage their teaching forces to achieve high learning outcomes? The goal of the Summit was to have frank and open discussions about what works. Each country’s delegation included both government and teacher representatives, thus recognizing from the start the need for collaboration in the design and implementation of teacher policy reforms.
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The following piece is cross-posted at USAID's IMPACTblog, where World Bank Education Director Elizabeth King is a special guest blogger for International Women's Day.
This week we celebrate International Women’s Day and it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves of the remarkable accomplishments toward achieving gender equality—and of the challenges that remain to ensuring that the 3.4 billion girls and women on our planet have the same chances as boys and men to lead healthy and satisfying lives.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “equal access to education, training, and science and technology,” is a powerful affirmation of the many benefits of educating girls, which come from improving women’s well-being, such as through better maternal health and greater economic empowerment.
How to make schools accountable for results is a hot issue in both rich and poor countries. The debate is often highly charged and ideological -- witness the discussions in Washington DC around the reforms promoted by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. It is thus refreshing when new and rigorous evidence is used to bring some light into the debate.
Building on over six years of hard work by World Bank teams working across several countries and regions, Barbara Bruns, Deon Filmer and Harry Patrinos have produced a major volume entitled Making Schools Work: New Evidence on Accountability Reforms.
Making Schools Work is part of the new Human Development Perspectives book series that will launch early next week. An initiative of the Human Development Network, the series will present key research in the field of human development. By linking evidence to policy, publications in this series will help developing countries and their partners get more mileage and impact out of their investments in human capital.
What keeps kids from learning? It’s a question that is on everyone’s mind – and an important one -- as the global community looks to move beyond universal access to universal educational achievement. Watch below as Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, interviews Rakesh Rajani of the East African NGO Twaweza, who gives an excellent overview of the learning problem faced in Tanzania and by many other low-income countries around the globe.
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.