As donors, developing country governments, civil society and private sector representatives gather in Copenhagen for the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), I feel both a sense of pride and urgency.
Last month the World Bank hosted Mr.Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Human Resources and Development. Sibal spoke to a packed audience about India’s contributions to the global knowledge economy and discussed some of his widely publicized education reforms and plans for the Indian education system. The highlight of the event was Sibal’s display of the $35 tablet PC which he hoped to launch soon as a technology aide to help bridge quality gaps in secondary education. The event was chaired by Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, Vice President of the Human Development Network, and moderated by Mr. Michal Rutkowski, Sector Director for Human Development in the South Asia Region.
Creating jobs and increasing productivity are at the top of policymakers’ agenda across the world. We heard this message during the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings and during the UN General Assembly meetings in New York last month. We read about disaffected youth in rich and less rich countries who have university education but can’t find jobs. I’m not going to argue that education holds the key to these current issues. Undoubtedly, current high unemployment rates owe a lot to the ongoing global economic slump.
Nonetheless, the current economic crisis forces us to examine why too many workers are unprepared to meet the demands from the modern workplace, particularly in increasingly competitive economic environments. Evidence suggests that education systems in many countries are failing young people with respect to basic skills as well as high-level cognitive skills such as critical analysis, problem solving and communication.
When I published my first book on World Class Universities two years ago, I certainly did not anticipate the world-wide exposure it received. Now, I sometimes worry about having contributed to raising expectations about the importance of world-class universities.
When I visited Nigeria last year, I was told that the country wanted to have 20 World Class Universities by 2020. Recently, Sri Lanka announced that it would increase its higher education budget in the hope of having at least one world-class university. Today we launched The Road to Academic Excellence, a new book I edited with Professor Phil Altbach, and already, the burden of guilt regarding the possible consequences of the new book haunt me.
Many have argued this past week for an increased financial boost to achieve the education Millennium Development Goals -- universal primary completion and gender parity in education. But what should spending focus on, and how can we get the best from both public and private financing?
Not only are we missing the mark in terms of the MDGs for education – currently 69 million children of primary age are out of school, but this is only part of the story. Millions of children drop out early every year, and many of those who do graduate are still not mastering the basic skills in reading and math that are necessary to help them find gainful employment. As we scale up efforts, we must leverage the resources and participation of all, including private and non-state actors, to help reach these goals.
Although the gender gap in education has been decreasing over the past decade, many girls continue to lag behind their male counterparts in equal access to schooling and acquisition of basic skills such as literacy. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 17 million girls are still out of school; in South Asia, another 9.5 million are shut out.
What would equal educational opportunity mean for women and girls around the world?
Want to watch the expansion of schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past three decades? Or chart the difference in growth of educational attainment between South Korea and Mexico? Maybe you just want to easily compare with one click whether a bar or line graph better communicates your data. Now you can! EdStats, the World Bank's free database for global education statistics, has launched EdStats StatPlanet -- an exciting new data visualization and mapping dashboard for exploring country, regional and global performance on 19 key education indicators through interactive, animated world maps, charts and tables.
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?
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.
There is certainly one way to really get to know our school systems, and fast – through a scandal. A recent article in The Economist reports on a case in Atlanta, USA, where it was found that teachers had engaged in wide-spread cheating since at least 2001, all to improve student test scores.
Some teachers gave pupils answers. Some filled in answers themselves. Some pointed to answers while standing over pupils’ desks. Others let low-scoring children sit near—and copy from—higher-scoring ones. One group of teachers had a test-changing party over the weekend.
(Low Marks All Round, The Economist, July 14th 2011.)
My team and I presented a better, albeit less dramatic way to get to know our schools at a conference in Bali this summer. The System Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results (SABER) program is a flagship initiative of the World Bank’s new Education Strategy 2020. SABER enables policy makers to look inside the black box of their education systems, and better understand the different policy domains that make up the whole.