In South Asia, a region where girls are now going to school in unprecedented numbers, Malala means many things to many people. To parents who send their daughters to school with difficulty, she validates a growing belief in power of girls’ education to liberate families from poverty. To schoolgirls in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal, she is an icon of victory and hope. And to governments and development partners, she represents the millions of girls who arrive in school every morning trusting that education will prepare them well for life, and also those so poor or disadvantaged that they do not enroll even at the primary level.
When it comes to measuring student learning outcomes, you often hear critics refrain “you can’t fatten a cow by weighing him all the time,” in an attempt to say that you cannot truly educate students by spending all the time getting ready for testing and recording test scores. Of course not. But as the management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.”
As countries strive to grow, build well-being and fight inequality, it is clear that education must adapt to changing global needs. This is true in all country contexts, including in advanced economies such as the Republic of Korea, where a high-performing education system already turns out skilled students who top the charts in international learning assessments such as PISA and TIMMS.
Photo courtesy UNRWA
Palestine refugee students continually and consistently outperform public school students by a margin equivalent to more than one additional year of learning. How does a disadvantaged group maintain such a high achievement level? One factor that is important in explaining this result is the concept of resilience. Resilience starts with adversity. The capacity for resilience in people helps negotiate adversities with the support of relevant opportunities and services.
“The child who has gone to a preschool can study in primary school with more ease than a child who joins a primary school directly.” Unfortunately, “preschool fees range from 50,000 to 150,000 Shillings (US$ 20-60) per term of three months. Most parents cannot afford this, so many of them wait until their children are of age to start primary school.”
These quotes from Ugandan villages illustrate how parents value investments in young children, but often cannot afford them. The same is true for healthcare and nutrition. Early years are essential for children’s development. The reality is that investments in early childhood development (ECD) remain low in most countries, in part because of the complexity of the field. ECD policies and programs are managed by multiple public and private service providers, regulatory agencies, and ministries. It is of course not necessary for everyone to be experts on all matters related to ECD, but more awareness of the comprehensive nature of these investments would help in improving ECD programs and marshalling more resources towards them.
“I want my children to be able to go to school. I don't want them to suffer like me.” Little by little this dream disappears as a piece of sugar, as water that runs through your hands. The long lists of material, a simple button that is missing on a shirt, this can be the end of a dream for learning to read and write.
By educating girls, we reduce poverty, improve maternal and child health, prevent HIV and AIDS, and raise living standards for everyone. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of girls’ education, however, 37 million school-age girls around the world are not in class.
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of World Teachers' Day. Since 1994, the day, which is celebrated on October 5, has been an occasion to mobilize support for teachers. Teachers are not only tasked with imparting knowledge, they often have the power to inspire or suppress intellectual curiosity. Primary school teachers in particular help to lay the foundations upon which pupils’ attitudes towards education are built.
A good quality basic education equips students with the foundational skills (reading, writing and numeracy) they need to function in today’s society and prepare them for lifelong learning. But in many parts of the world, schooling alone is not yielding the expected results, and countries are experimenting with innovative learning and teaching tools, including online platforms.
In Brazil, a Portuguese version of the Khan Academy’s free online education platform (see World Bank Group President Jim Kim’s post last week) is helping thousands of students master basic skills. This effort has been spearheaded by the Fundação Lemann (Lemann Foundation), an organization dedicated to improving the country's education quality.