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East Asia and Pacific

The latest PISA results: Seven key takeaways

Marguerite Clarke's picture
International assessments aren’t perfect but they offer useful insights into how countries can help all students learn to high levels. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)


Results for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exercise were released on December 6. The results are instructive, not only because of what they tell us about the science, mathematics, and reading knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world, but also in terms of how they compare to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which were released a week ago (click here to read my blog on key takeaways from the TIMSS results).

Doing Business Trading Across Borders and Logistics Performance Index: similar yet different

Valentina Saltane's picture


People who look at the Doing Business report’s Trading Across Borders indicator and the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) often wonder why one country can perform well on one of the rankings but not so well on the other although they both measure trade and logistics. In fact, earlier this year, the Doing Business team organized a workshop at the World Bank Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Kuala Lumpur to clarify the differences between the two datasets.

Let’s start off with a few definitions:

The Doing Business report is a World Bank Group flagship publication, which covers 11 areas of business regulations. Trading Across Borders is one of these areas. It looks specifically at the logistical processes of exporting and importing. Data is updated annually and the latest edition covers 190 economies. Doing Business collects data from local experts and measures performance as reported by domestic entrepreneurs, while taking into consideration factual laws and regulations.

The Logistics Performance Index is a benchmarking tool which focuses on trade logistics. It is created to help countries identify the challenges and opportunities they face as they relate to customs, border management, transport infrastructure, and logistics services. Updated biennially, the latest data and report cover 160 economies. Data is collected from global freight forwarders and express carriers who provide feedback on the logistical “friendliness” of the countries they operate.

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

Nine takeaways from the 2015 Trends in International Math and Science Study Results

Marguerite Clarke's picture
The highest performing countries are paying extra attention to the quality of their teachers. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the results of its latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) yesterday, November 29. TIMSS 2015 assessed more than 600,000 students in grades four, eight, and the final year of secondary school across 60 education systems.

Embracing diversity through new LGBTI surveys in Thailand

Piotr Pawlak's picture
Photo: Talashow / Shutterstock


Social inclusion: a core development objective in its own right, the foundation for shared prosperity, and a major player in poverty alleviation.
 

 
As we observe the International Day for Tolerance this month, let’s remind ourselves that tolerance for diversity represents the first step on the path to social inclusion, and that diversity should not just be tolerated—it should be embraced and celebrated.
 
Yet, around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people confront multifaceted challenges that prevent them from fully participating in markets, services, and spaces. In some countries, although tolerated, these groups are often at risk of increased discrimination, exclusion, violence, and other vulnerabilities. This robs them of dignity and prevents them from capitalizing on opportunities to lead a better life.
 
For instance, Thailand is a country with multiple regional linguistic, geographical and socio-economic diversities, natural beauty and historical riches, and many localized traditions and cultural practices. Often called the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand, in the eye of the outsider, is a paradise of tolerance, where many sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions are truly to be seen. However, while the demand and support for positive self-identity are growing in Thailand, people with diverse sexual orientations, gender expressions, and identities experience varying degrees of social inclusion.

Sustainable Growth in Lao PDR Will Lead to Poverty Reduction and Better Lives for All

Victoria Kwakwa's picture



My visit to Lao PDR this week has convinced me that this nation is moving toward the right path to sustained economic growth, which could lead to less poverty and better lives for all of its people.
 
Over the past two decades, Lao PDR has made significant development progress. It is one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia, with GDP growth averaging 8 percent a year since 2000. Lao PDR also successfully met the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty, based on its national poverty line, to below 24 percent by 2015 from 33.5 percent in 2002.
 
As I have witnessed during my trip, people are enjoying better living conditions, with improved access to water supply, sanitation, roads, and power. Indeed, Lao PDR’s electrification program is one of the most successful in the world, and more than 90 percent of households now have access to electricity. Lao PDR also has built 50 percent more road surfaces in the last decade, and two-thirds of all Lao villages are now connected by all-season roads.

Papua New Guinea: Improving Water and Sanitation in the land of the unexpected

Karl Galing's picture
Coming together to improve water and sanitation: Villagers in the remote Torricelli Mountains in West Sepik, Papua New Guinea transporting water tanks to their community (Photo: Tenkile Conservation Foundation, Lumi)

I have been traveling in and out of Papua New Guinea for almost over two years to help tackle the country’s water and sanitation challenges.
 
I’m constantly surprised by the complexity and cultural diversity of this country. It’s like trying to solve a deep mystery, with a surprise always ahead of you. No wonder they call this ‘the land of the unexpected’.

Papua New Guinea missed its Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation. More than 60% of the country’s population (4.6 million people) have no access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. In over two decades since 1990, the increase in access to safe drinking water has been miniscule (6%) while improved sanitation coverage even dropped by 1% in 2015. Sadly, PNG has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators among the 15 developing Pacific Island nations.

Integrated Financial and Procurement Audits for Bank Financed Projects - The China Experience

Jingrong He's picture
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) for Bank financed projects have carried out financial and procurement audits. In Poland, this initially started more than a decade ago and there have been several other examples over the past years in other countries.

By the end of FY16, China National Audit Office (CNAO), the SAI in China, had successfully completed its third year of integrated financial and procurement audits for 27 Bank financed projects and accounting for 28% of the total active portfolio of China. This is a big leap from only 3 projects in the first year of FY14.

Rome was not built in a day. CNAO has been the external auditor of all Bank-financed projects in China since 1984. It conducts project audits in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards of the P.R. China and the International Standards on Auditing. The Foreign Funds Application Audit Department and the Audit Service Center of CNAO, and the Provincial Audit Institutions conduct audits on Bank financed projects and issue the audit reports in their names. There are about 120-130 financial audit reports submitted to the Bank every year. CNAO's audit reports not only include the auditor's opinion on project financial statements, they also include opinions on procurement compliance as this is an important aspect of the review of the eligibility of expenditures. This procedure is in full compliance with the Audit Law of P. R. China, which requires auditing of authenticity, legality and beneficial results of the budgetary revenues and expenditures or financial revenues and expenditures of public funds. It was under this context that in FY 14, we started piloting the use of CNAO for integrated financial and procurement audits in some Bank-financed projects.

On Display: The Highs and Lows of Indonesia’s Urbanization

Gauri Gadgil's picture
Photo Credit: Andres Sevtsuk, Harvard City Form Lab


Last weekend I visited Bogor, 60 km (37 miles) outside of Jakarta. It only took an hour and fifteen minutes to leave the city. Due to traffic caused by heavy rains, the drive back was almost three times as long.                
Elsewhere in Indonesia’s capital, neighborhoods were flooding. Cars were trapped overnight in basement parking lots of the cafes and restaurants of Kemang, a chic neighborhood where a poorly designed drainage system and lack of green space causes recurrent flooding.

Such is life in fast-growing Jakarta, a bustling metropolitan area that looks set to displace Tokyo in 2028 as Asia’s largest city by population.


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