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Meet four women leading the drive for open data in Africa

David Mariano's picture

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog from Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute. This article was first published by This is Africa on 17th January 2017​.

 
Nkechi Okwuone

Across Africa, innovators are using open data to gain greater insight into local issues, and create new public services. From government open data platforms to startup accelerator programmes, open data is increasingly recognised as a tool for tackling challenges across a range of sectors including health, education and agriculture.

This autumn, in six cities across South Africa the Responsive Cities Challenge encouraged designers and entrepreneurs to use open data to develop solutions that will improve local government services. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, the CartEau project is using open data to map safe drinking water points and latrines across the country for the first time. These examples show how open data is a powerful vehicle for addressing complex problems.

Increasing digital connectivity is important for economic growth, education and democratic participation but the equalising force of the Web is only meaningful when everyone is included in the digital sphere. According to the Web Foundation, women face disproportionate barriers to access, with poor women in urban areas in 10 developing countries they looked at 50% less likely to be connected to the Internet than men in the same age group.

Open data – data anyone can access, use or share – is transformative infrastructure for a digital economy that is consistently innovating and bringing the benefits of the Web to society. Open data often goes hand in hand with open working cultures and open business practices. While this culture lends itself to diversity, it is important that those who are involved in open data make sure it addresses everyone's needs. It is therefore encouraging to see that open data initiatives in African countries are being led by women.

Quality education for all: measuring progress in Francophone Africa

Raja Bentaouet Kattan's picture
 
Despite notable gains in expanding access, countries in West Africa still face a great challenge in providing a quality education for all. Photo: Ami Vitale / The World Bank


Quality education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality; yet it remains elusive in many parts of the world. The Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems (PASEC), which is designed to assess student abilities in mathematics and reading in French, has for the first time delivered an internationally comparable measure around which policy dialogue and international cooperation can aspire to improve. The PASEC 2014 international student assessment was administered in 10 countries in Francophone West Africa (Cameroon, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger).

10 Knowledge Products from Sub-Saharan Africa You Don’t Want to Miss

Daniella Van Leggelo-Padilla's picture
Examine, evaluate, analyze, and explore… The World Bank Group’s comprehensive research, reports, and knowledge products do just that, providing policy makers and stakeholders from all sectors across Africa access to reliable evidenced-based data to assist in their decision-making processes.

Skilled workforce and strong R&D keys to Thailand 4.0 success

Dilaka Lathapipat's picture



Several of the government’s recent economic initiatives have the potential to kick-start Thailand’s economy. To achieve the economic transformation it has been aspiring for, having a skilled workforce and much more strategic investments in research and development (R&D) will be important.

Following nearly four decades of impressive economic growth at 7.7 percent, the Thai economy has slowed sharply to 3.3 percent over the last decade from 2005-2015. At this rate of growth, it would take Thailand well over two decades to achieve high-income status.

A new World Bank report “Getting Back on Track: Reviving Growth and Securing Prosperity for All” cites that a main reason for the slowdown is a loss of competitiveness.

Ten years ago, Thailand was ahead of its neighbors and peers on virtually all the competitiveness indicators tracked by World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness rankings.

Today, other middle-income countries have caught up, while more advanced economies in the region have surged further ahead, particularly in technological readiness, higher education and training, innovation, financial market development, institutions, and business sophistication.

Voices of Youth: Restoring my belief in One South Asia

Nishant Khanal's picture
 7 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
Students from Nepal are in their national dress and preparing for their cultural show at the 13th South Asia Economics Students' Meet (SAESM) held in Kathmandu, Nepal last week. SAESM brought together top economic undergraduates to share research, learn from one another, experience a neighboring country, and make friends. 

Last November, when the SAARC summit that was supposed to be held in Pakistan was canceled, I thought regional cooperation in South Asia would lose its momentum. Tensions between members not only postponed the SAARC Summit, but also hampered the South Asian Economics Students (SAESM) meet. SAESM was scheduled to be held in India in December where I was supposed to be a participant. I started believing in news, media and opinion pieces that said ‘there’s no future for South Asian integration as there is so much mistrust in the region.

After a concerted effort from the economics professors from across South Asia with the support of the World Bank, the 13th SAESM of economics students (selected based on top paper submissions) was successfully held in Kathmandu last week. The meet brings together students to share their research, learn from one another, participate in academic competition, and make friends from across the region. Despite regional dynamics, SAESM has never missed any year since its inception in 2004, and it may well be unique in that respect in South Asia.

Testing, testing: How Kosovo fared in its first international assessment of students

Flora Kelmendi's picture
Results of PISA 2015 reveal a wide performance gap between Kosovar students and their peers in the region.
Photo: Jutta Benzenberg / World Bank



A few weeks ago, education policy makers and data analysts around the world were glued to their laptops when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the results of PISA 2015. More than half a million students – from 72 countries and economies representing 28 million 15 year-olds – had taken the test. PISA, an international assessment administered every three years, measures the skills of students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real life problems.  PISA is one of the most influential international student assessments, which provides a rich set of information on the systems strengths and weaknesses, supports development of effective policies – and at the same time, benchmarks country's achievements vis a vis other participating countries.

Can providing information to parents improve student outcomes? 4 recent papers show it can (Chile, Malawi, and US x2)

David Evans's picture
My oldest child started middle school this year, and I suddenly started receiving emails every other week with updates on his grades. I’d never received anything like this before and was overwhelmed (and a little annoyed) by the amount of information. Someone told me that I could go to some website to opt out, but that seemed like too much work. So I continue getting the emails. And sure enough, now I follow up: “Hey, are you going to speak to your teacher about making up that assignment?

Aiming high is Pakistan’s way forward

Kristalina Georgieva's picture

 

The Tarbela dam in Pakistan staddles the Indus River. The earth- and rock-filled structure is almost 500 feet high and 9,000 feet wide
The Tarbela dam in Pakistan staddles the Indus River. The earth- and rock-filled structure is almost 500 feet high and 9,000 feet wide. Credit: World Bank


My visit to Pakistan began last week at the enormous Tarbela dam. Straddling the Indus River, this earth- and rock-filled structure is almost 500 feet high and 9,000 feet wide. It is a monument to Pakistan's scientific and engineering ability. It also illustrates the opportunities and challenges facing Pakistan.

I was last in Pakistan in 2011 and I can see that big changes have happened since then.

The country has worked through three tough years that brought improvements in security and a more stable economy. Much of the economic growth has benefited poor people and Pakistan's levels of inequality compare favourably to many middle-income countries.

 

World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva's meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva's meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Credit:  Pakistan Prime Minister House

Speaking to leaders in government, political parties, civil society, the private sector and various thought leaders, I sensed an optimism that the country had found its footing and is moving up the ladder of development.

This optimism is good news. But optimism needs to be supported by actions. Pakistan can move to a higher level of economic growth that reaches all parts of society, including the most marginalised, and thus fulfilling the dreams of a better life for all.

Three opportunities and challenges for Pakistan

In my discussions with the government in Pakistan we focused on three areas of opportunity and challenge: the first is higher growth and jobs. The government wants annual economic growth of 6 to 7 per cent compared to 4.7 per cent achieved in fiscal year 2016. But this will only happen if investment doubles to 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Investments in energy, such as Tarbela, to end constant power cuts, as well as improvements in the business environment, so that companies hire more people, will be critical to success. A more favorable environment for private investment would open up opportunities for women, youth, and the underserved.

Leave no Ethiopian behind by involving as many citizens as possible, and by solving the country’s challenges

Rediet Firdu's picture



In 2016, World Bank Ethiopia launched a Blog4Dev contest inviting students to share their ideas for how Ethiopia can reach middle-income country status without leaving anyone behind. This is the second of three winning entries.

How can Ethiopia reach middle-income country status without leaving anyone behind?

Four cautionary lessons about education technology

David Evans's picture
 Charlotte Kesl / World Bank
Technology in education is often seen as a solution. It holds promise, but caution is warranted.
Photo: Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


There is no denying that governments around the world are expanding investments in education technology, from inputs that students use directly (like Kenya’s project to put tablets in schools) to digital resources to improve the education system (like Rio de Janeiro’s school management system). As public and private school systems continue to integrate technology into their classrooms, remember that education technology comes with risks. 
 


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