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To unlock student potential in East Asia Pacific, be demanding and supportive of teachers

Michael Crawford's picture

Among the 29 countries and economies of the East Asia and Pacific region, one finds some of the world’s most successful education systems. Seven out of the top 10 highest average scorers on internationally comparable tests such as PISA and TIMSS are from the region, with Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (China) consistently among the best. 

But, more significantly, one also finds that great performance is not limited to school systems in the region’s high-income countries. School systems in middle-income Vietnam and China (specifically the provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong) score better than the average OECD country, despite having much lower GDP per capita. What is more, scores from both China and Vietnam show that poor students are not being left behind. Students from the second-lowest income quintile score better than the average OECD student, and even the very poorest test takers outscore students from some wealthy countries. As the graph below shows, however, other countries in the region have yet to achieve similar results.

Raising awareness to root out violence against women and girls

Paula Tavares's picture
A Girl Entering a High school Courtyard © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank
A student leader in her school's anti-violence and coexistence project entering the school's courtyard     © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank

We live in a world where one in every three women has suffered some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime. This statistic translates to a staggering 1 billion women globally who have been abused, beaten or sexually violated because of their gender. 
Every November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we are reminded that gender-based violence continues to be a global epidemic with dire consequences for women, their families and entire communities. It leads to negative mental and physical health consequences for women and limits their decision-making ability and mobility, thereby reducing productivity and earnings. Beyond the individual harm, it also has substantial economic costs. Global estimates suggest the cost of gender-based violence to be as high as 3.7 percent of GDP – or $1.5 trillion a year.

Lessons From Mapping Geeks: How Aerial Technology is Helping Pacific Island Countries Recover From Natural Disasters.

Michael Bonte-Grapentin's picture

For many Pacific Island countries, natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis, are an all-too common occurrence. Out of the top 15 most at-risk countries for natural disasters globally, four are Pacific Island countries, and Vanuatu is consistently at the top.

In 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, and knowing the extent of damage was vital for the government to identify and plan reconstruction needs. A team of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) experts were sent out to quickly establish credible estimates of the damages and losses. Many damage reports were already available from the field, but with varying quality, and the challenge was to consolidate and verify them, within a very tight timeframe. Cloud cover also prevented us from getting satellite images, so we mobilized two UAV teams to fly below the clouds and capture high-resolution footage showing the impacts on the ground in the worst affected islands in Tafea and Shefa province.

Challenges continued throughout, from needing to coordinate airspace with those flying relief goods into affected areas, to transferring massive datasets over low internet bandwidths. But with team-effort and ingenuity, solutions were found; the UAV teams were able to capture valuable damage footage within sampled areas during the day, which were analysed overnight by volunteers of the Humanitarian Open Street Map (HOT) and the Digital Humanitarian Network; new workflows were developed to collate the data and to feed the outputs into the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment.   

Interpreted damage information post-Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, 2014: red – destroyed houses, orange – partially damaged houses, blue – no obvious damage to house.

Resilient transport investments: a climate imperative for Small Island Developing Countries

Franz Drees-Gross's picture
This blog post was co-authored by Franz Drees-Gross, Director, Transport and ICT Global Practice, and Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.

Transport in its many forms – from tuk-tuks in Thailand to futuristic self-driving electric cars – is ubiquitous in the lives of everyone on the planet. For that reason, it is often taken for granted – unless we are caught in congestion, or more dramatically, if the water truck fails to arrive at a drought-stricken community in Africa.

It is easy to forget that transport is a crucial part of the global economy. Overall, countries invest between $1.4 to $2.1 trillion per year in transport infrastructure to meet the world’s demand for mobility and connectivity. Efficient transport systems move goods and services, connect people to economic opportunities, and enable access to essential services like healthcare and education. Transport is a fundamental enabler to achieving almost all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is crucial to meet the objectives under the Paris agreement of limiting global warming to less than 2°C by 2100, and make best efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

But all of this depends on well-functioning transport systems. With the effects of climate change, in many countries this assumption is becoming less of a given. The impact of extreme natural events on transport—itself a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—often serve as an abrupt reminder of how central it is, both for urgent response needs such as evacuating people and getting emergency services where they are needed, but also for longer term economic recovery, often impaired by destroyed infrastructure and lost livelihoods. A country that loses its transport infrastructure cannot respond effectively to climate change impacts.

Disasters, funds, and policy: Creatively meeting urgent needs and long-term policy goals

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture

Photo: tro-kilinochchi / Flickr

When it comes to responding to disasters, time is of the essence. Help needs to come immediately to save lives; recovery and reconstruction have to start swiftly to lessen the impact.

However, while money is critical to this response, it’s not just about funding. Indeed, funds need to match the event scale, target the right areas and sectors, and smoothly flow to communities in need. But in order for that to happen, sound public policy on risk and frameworks have to be in place.  

To address both urgent financial needs while pursing strategic disaster risk management policy goals, countries have been using the World Bank’s development policy loan with a catastrophe deferred drawdown option or, more widely known as the Cat DDO.  

Why we should invest in getting more kids to read — and how to do it

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates.
Data shows that huge swaths of populations in developing countries are not learning to read. Scaling up early reading interventions will be a first step toward addressing these high illiteracy rates. (Photo: Liang Qiang / World Bank)

It is estimated that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labor markets .

Climate is changing… So the way we manage roads needs to change as well

Chris Bennett's picture
Photo: Christopher R. Bennett/World Bank
Few things are more depressing than seeing the damage caused by cyclones on transport infrastructure. Especially when it is a causeway that was only formally opened less than one month before the storm. That is what I found in early 2014 when participating in the Tonga Cyclone Ian Post Disaster Needs Assessment. The cyclone was a typical example of the heavy toll that climate change is taking on transport infrastructure, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.

Engineers are taught that water is the greatest enemy of transport infrastructure, and unfortunately climate change is leading to an increase in floods and storms, especially within the South-East Asia region. For example, the figure below shows the number of floods and storms for some Asian countries between 2000 and 2008. The significant increase in the number of floods is self-evident.

How do we achieve sustained growth? Through human capital, and East Asia and the Pacific proves it

Michael Crawford's picture
Students at Beijing Bayi High School in China. Photo: World Bank

In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had  almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the  average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in  the EAP  region put themselves on a path that focused on growth  driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in  schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While  improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in  labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades  EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no  slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.

High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation  are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore  the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central  determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means  to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the  demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not  enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and  average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity  and growth without stoking inequality.

Honoring (and learning from) leaders who make a difference

Donna Barne's picture

What kind of leader can bring people together for the common good, even amid clashing opinions or real conflict?

That question was at the heart of the 2017 Global Leadership Forum March 6 on the growing need for “collaborative leadership” in an age of increasingly polarized societies.

The event at the World Bank was organized with the Global Partnership for Collaborative Leadership in Development. It explored how to bridge often wide divides to arrive at inclusive solutions, and featured guests such as Festus G. Magae, a former President of Botswana and a South Sudan peace negotiator, and Frank Pearl Gonzalez, Chief Negotiator in the Colombian Peace Talks.

Investing in early years learning: It can be done!

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Early investment in the lives of disadvantaged children will help reduce inequality, in both the short and the long run. —James Heckman

Investments in the early years of children’s lives and in the first grades of their education are among the most important actions governments can take.  So said the Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Tonga, the Honourable Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

Pacific countries are doing well in terms of getting their children into primary school and ensuring completion.  Despite this progress over the years, however, decision-makers are concerned over learning outcomes.