In my last blog I wrote about how empowering parents helps increase accountability in schools in rural Mexico. Although I said evidence was sparse, it is accumulating. In Africa, a number of rigorous impact evaluations are underway and starting to report findings.
These days, there is a lot of talk about skills and their importance for a country’s development. Not too long ago the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called skills and knowledge “the driving forces of economic growth and social development in any country.” Last week, President Obama in his State of the Union address mentioned, once again, the critical importance of upgrading workers skills as part of his call for ‘An America Built to Last’.
In a bid to provide quality education for all, several programs to increase accountability in schools have been piloted. So far the evidence is sparse. Recent evaluations suggest that even in rural settings, school autonomy and accountability can help improve learning outcomes. This is further supported by a series of evaluations of programs that attempt to alter the power balance between consumers (parents) and providers of schooling services. Recent studies show that autonomy and accountability can improve education outcomes.
I just returned from the Education World Forum with its tied-in British Education Technology Trade (BETT) show. This is an annual, London-based conference focusing on the use of technology for education, bringing together 63 ministers of education from across the world, along with educators, politicians, researchers, and lots of executives from firms producing some of the most innovative products and solutions on the use of technology in schools and school systems.
A recent OECD note on PISA results, School autonomy and accountability: Are they related to student performance?, suggests that greater school autonomy in decisions relating to curricula, assessments and resource allocation tend to be associated with better student performance, particularly when schools operate within a culture of accountability.
At the High-Level Forum on aid effectiveness (known as HLF4) a few weeks ago in Busan, South Korea, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on education and aid. Unlike the HLF4 plenaries, our session didn’t involve Hillary Clinton or Tony Blair or Ban Ki-Moon, nor did we help to hammer out the Busan outcome documents. But what we saw in our panel on aid for education, and in the one-day pre-conference that informed it, was very encouraging: it showed how Korea’s lessons about student learning are influencing international education policy.
The event had been given the title “Dream with Education!” by our hosts in the Korean government. The exclamation point may seem over-exuberant, but in the Korean context, it’s not. Korea’s universal high-quality basic education and high rates of participation in higher education have helped it achieve development that would have exceeded any dreams fifty years ago, when rapid growth started. Between 1960 and 2001, Korea’s economy grew at an average of more than 7% per year. Equally important, Korea has achieved rapid progress in many other areas of life, from technological to social to political. While the country’s success has brought new challenges, as a recent Economist article pointed out, its ascent to this point has been remarkable.
I travel to many developing countries in the context of my work for The World Bank. I visit schools that receive financial support and technical assistance from the Bank to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of students. Each time, I ask teachers in these schools what they think would make the biggest difference in the learning outcomes of their students. The most common answer is “better parents.” I often wonder if this response is, in some conscious or unconscious way, an excuse to help teachers explain the poor outcomes of their students (especially those from the poorest households) and their low expectations of what their students can achieve. However, both common sense and solid research indicate that parents matter.
I recently spoke with Barbara Bruns, lead education economist to the LAC region, about an impact evaluation she is managing on teacher performance pay in Pernambuco, Brazil.
Across the world, teacher’s salaries are almost universally determined by educational background, training, or years of experience, rather than performance. Yet a growing body of research shows that these measures are poor proxies for a teacher’s actual effectiveness in the classroom. They show surprisingly little correlation with teachers’ ability to raise their students’ learning.
This content is abstracted from the HIV/AIDS and Education topic page.
The positive impact of education reforms are greatly reduced by the presence of HIV/AIDS. This epidemic is damaging education systems by killing teachers, increasing rates of teacher absenteeism, and creating orphans and vulnerable children who are more likely to drop out of school or not attend school at all.
At the request of countries affected by HIV/AIDS, the UNAIDS Inter Agency Task Team (IATT) for Education was established as a mechanism for coordinating action on AIDS and education among the UNAIDS co-sponsors, bilateral donors and Civil Society. In 2002, the IATT established a Working Group, coordinated by the World Bank, with the specific operational aim of helping countries to “Accelerate the Education Sector Response to HIV/AIDS in Africa”.
The World Bank works with several developing countries to create stronger links between education and other sectors, especially health, to mainstream HIV and AIDS in new programs, and to make resources for HIV and AIDS available to the education sector. Since November 2002, education teams from 34 national governments and 49 state governments in Africa have sought the assistance of the Working Group to assist them in undertaking situation analyses and strengthening education sector strategies, policies and work plans. The work focuses on thematic areas including AIDS prevention, workplace policy and ensuring education access for orphans and vulnerable children.