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Stories from the Unfinished Revolution: Tunisian Farmers have the Know-how but Lack Support

Antonio Nucifora's picture


Hassen Abidi crumbles a sickly-looking ear of wheat in his hand. He doesn't need an agronomist to tell him it's infected with a fungal blight known to local farmers as “septoria”. "I know more about growing things than any doctor knows about medicine, but I'm at my wit's end with all this," he says. "I sometimes wonder why I carry on planting."

Education & Technology in an Age of Pandemics (revisited)

Michael Trucano's picture
consider this picture
MOOCs -- massively open online courses of the sort that can simultaneously enroll thousands, even tens of thousands, of learners simultaneously -- have been a hot topic of discussion for a few years now in both the worlds of education and 'international development' (and, for what it's worth, the subject of numerous related posts here on the World Bank's EduTech blog). Recent news that edX, one of the prominent MOOC platforms, is to start offering courses aimed at high school students suggests that the potential usefulness and impact of things like MOOCs may soon extend beyond the realm of higher education, out of which MOOCs originally emerged and where most related activity has occurred to date.
 
There is much (potentially) to be excited about here. Few would argue against having greater access to more learning opportunities, especially when those opportunities are offered for 'free', where there is latent unmet demand, and where the opportunities themselves are well constructed and offer real value for learners. As with MOOCs at the level of higher education, however, we perhaps shouldn't be too surprised if these new opportunities at the high school level are first seized upon *not* by some of the groups with the greatest learning needs -- for example, students in overcrowded, poorly resourced secondary schools in developing countries, or even students who would like a secondary education, but for a variety of reasons aren't able to receive one -- but rather by those best placed to take advantage of them. This has been largely been the case for initial adopters of MOOCs. (One of the first studies of this aspect of the 'MOOC Phenomenon', which looked at MOOCs from the University of Pennsylvania, found that students tended to be "young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries.")
 
As a practical matter, some of the first types of beneficiaries may, for example (and I am just speculating here), be homeschooling families in North America (while not necessarily comparatively 'rich' by local standards, such families need to be affluent enough to be able to afford to have one parent stay at home with the kids, and generally have pretty good Internet connectivity); international schools around the world (which can offer a broader range of courses to students interested in an 'American' education); and the families of 'foreign' students looking to apply to college in the United States (the edX course “COL101x: The Road to Selective College Admissions” looks, at least to my eyes, tailor made for certain segments of the population of learners in places like China, Korea, Hong Kong, etc.). In other words, at least in the near term, a Matthew Effect in Educational Technology may be apparent, where those who are best placed to benefit from the introduction of a new technology tool or innovation are the ones who indeed benefit from it the most.
 
Longer term, though, it is possible to view this news about movement of a major MOOC platform into the area of secondary education as one further indication that we are getting further along from the 'front end of the e-learning wave' (of which MOOCs are but one part) to something that will eventually have a greater mass impact beyond what is happening now in the 'rich' countries of North America and the OECD.
 
Learning with new technologies has of course been around for many decades but, broadly speaking, has not (yet) had the 'transformational' impact that has long been promised. "Gradually, then suddenly" is how one of Ernest Hemingway's characters famously describes how he went bankrupt. Might this be how the large scale adoption of educational technologies will eventually happen as well in much of the world?
 
I
black swan
black swan
f so, one credible potential tipping point may be a 'black swan' event that could push all of this stuff into the mainstream, especially in places where it to date has been largely peripheral: some sort of major health-related scare. (For those unfamiliar with the term, which was popularized by Nicholas Taleb, a 'black swan' is a rare event that people don't anticipate but which has profound consequences). One of the first ever posts on the EduTech blog, Education & Technology in an Age of Pandemics, looked at some of what had been learned about how teachers and learners use new technologies to adapt when schools were closed in response to outbreaks involving the H1N1 influenza virus: the 'swine flu' that afflicted many in Mexico about six years ago; and an earlier outbreak of 'bird flu' in China. I have recently been fielding many calls as a result of the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa asking essentially, 'Can we do anything with technology to help our students while our schools are closed?', and so I thought it might be useful to revisit, and update, that earlier post, in case doing so might be a useful contribution to a number of related discussions are occurring.
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Good Research, Great Video: What’s the Best Way to Motivate Community Health Workers?

Duncan Green's picture

Some more innovative work from the London School of Economics. This genuinely thought-provoking 8 minute video describes a collaboration between the LSE-hosted International Growth Centre and Zambia’s Ministry of Health. The background academic paper is here.

Researchers and officials worked together to answer an important question: to motivate people in rural villages to become rural community health workers (CHWs), is it best to appeal to their community spirit, or to their hopes for individual career development? If you do the latter, will people lose their link to the community, and replicate the problem with more standard professional health workers, many of whom hate working in rural areas, and head for the city?

To do that, they divided up 160 villages targeted for recruitment. In half they put up posters that stressed ‘come and serve your community’, in the rest they put the emphasis on careers (see above: figures 1a and 1b of the paper). Sure enough, the posters attracted different kinds of people to apply for CHW training.

Prospects Daily: Developing-country stocks set for longest decline since November, German investor confidence plunges to weakest since 2012, India’s trade deficit widens as gold import surge

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
Financial Markets

U.S. Treasury price volatility rose to a 5-month high as the market is concerned about the Fed meeting today and Scotland votes on independence the following day. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch’s Move index, which monitors price movements in U.S. government bonds based on option trading, climbed to 66.09 yesterday, the highest level since April 2.

Carbon Taxes and Investment in Public Transport

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture

Economists often recommend fuel taxes to curb greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles in cities. But the effectiveness of these taxes depends heavily on other factors, like the availability of public transportation, and the density of a city. In the following podcast interview, I discuss my paper, co-authored with Paolo Avner and Jun Rentschler, and explain why taxes are twice as effective when accompanied by an investment in public transport. Please listen in.

It’s Not the How; It’s the Why

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.”  On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out.  Similar points are made about business regulations,educationagriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself.  And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog
 
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive.  But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now.  For these policies didn’t come about by accident.  Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them.  And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”

Climate Action Does Not Require Economic Sacrifice

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
New Climate Economy Report

Action is urgently needed on climate change, but it does not have to come at the expense of economic growth.  This is the central message of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate of which I am privileged to be a member. 
 
The New Climate Economy, a new report released by the commission, reinforces the view that major structural and technological changes in the global economy are now making it possible to achieve both: lower-carbon development and better economic growth. 

Global child mortality rate dropped 49% since 1990

Emi Suzuki's picture

The under-5 mortality rate worldwide has fallen by 49% since 1990, according to new child mortality estimates and press release launched today. This information is also summarized in the report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014 by the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).  Put another way, about 17,000 fewer children under-5 died each day in 2013 than in 1990.

These rates are falling faster than at any other time during the past two decades: from a 1.2% annual reduction during 1990-1995 to a 4% reduction during 2005-2013. 

More children making it to their fifth birthday
The major improvements in under-5 child survival since 1990 are attributable to better access to affordable, quality health care, as well as the expansion of health programs that reach the most vulnerable newborns and children.

The 49% drop – from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 46 deaths in 2013 – means that a baby born today has a dramatically better chance of survival to age 5 compared with a baby born in 1990.   

More progress needed to achieve the global Millennium Development Goal 4 target
Four out of 6 World Bank Group regions are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which is to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.  Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are two regions where the rates of decline remain insufficient to reach MDG 4 on a global scale.  In 2013, the highest under-5 mortality rate was in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 92 deaths per 1,000 live births or where 1 in 11 children die before reaching the age of 5.

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Cities can lead on climate change to build a more resilient future

Gregor Robertson's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | 中文

Mayor Gregor Robertson. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver

By Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, Canada


Around the world, cities are taking the lead on addressing the challenge of climate change. While senior governments stall, urban leaders are responding to the urgent need to make our cities more resilient as climate change impacts intensify. 
 
In Vancouver, we are aggressively pursuing our goal to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. It's a bold goal, but in working toward it, we are protecting our environment and growing our economy. The successful cities of the future will be those making the investments and changes necessary to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Climate change poses a serious risk to global economic and social stability, and resilient cities will prove to be attractive draws for people and capital. 
 
With decisive leadership, the everyday decisions of city governments can prepare our communities for climate change. By considering climate change when we evaluate new development or infrastructure proposals, cities can save lives, create jobs, and improve our streets and neighbourhoods.
 
A clear price on carbon enables governments, businesses, non-profits and citizens to make smarter decisions that will have real impact. Innovative businesses aren't waiting for governments to act; many are already internally pricing greenhouse gas emissions to gain a competitive edge. The forward-thinking businesses and regions that price carbon today will have more flexibility and capacity to respond to the uncertain conditions tomorrow.

Stories from the Unfinished Revolution: Regulations Leave Bitter Taste for Tunisian Candy Makers

Antonio Nucifora's picture


​Tunisian sugar beet and Sudanese sesame seeds are the main ingredients of the halwa made by Tunisia’s Grand Fabrique de Confiserie Orientale (GFCO) company. Great globs of sesame seeds, mixed with nougat, are put in cans bearing pictures of a gazelle. The Ottoman Turks left behind a taste for this sweet not just in Tunisia but in Libya and Algeria too, and this brand of halwa has long made its own way onto their markets, according to the company's director, Moncef Ayoub.

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