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Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2016

Michael Trucano's picture
come on in, hopefully you'll find something you like
come on in, hopefully you'll find
something you like
The World Bank's EduTech blog seeks to "explore issues related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to benefit education in developing countries". Over the past eight years, it has highlighted an eclectic batch of related new research and explored emerging 'good practices' (and more than a few bad ones as well). Along the way, it has briefly documented and analyzed a wide variety of interesting projects and programs around the world seeking to use new technologies in the education sector. In doing so, it has perhaps posed (and re-framed) many more questions than it has it has provided hard-and-fast 'answers'.

Given the fast-changing nature of so much of our world today, and the expectation that the pace of technology-enabled change is unlikely to slow, it is an abiding conceit of this blog that our individual and collective ability to ask better questions related to the use of new technologies and technology-enabled approaches in education (not only about what we should be doing, and when, and where, but especially about the why and the how) will become an increasingly critical skill to develop and cultivate. There is no shortage of edtech-related 'solutions' marketed around the world, but are they addressing the right problems and most critical challenges? As Wadi Haddad likes to ask: If technology is the answer, what is the question?

The blog seeks, perhaps rather presumptively, to inject an evidence-based, practical tonic into various debates and deliberations about the use of new technologies in the education sector that are, in many places, often characterized by ideological extremes and a general lack of knowledge about what's actually happening 'on-the-ground', especially in many emerging economies and so-called 'developing countries' around the world. While the blog deliberately attempts to adopt a general tone and perspective of fairness and objectivity, 'balance' can admittedly be a rather elusive goal when trying to navigate between the giddy utopianism of many techno-enthusiasts (especially among many in Silicon Valley, and more than a few politicians) and the sometimes rather crotchety conservatism of the reflexively anti-technology (indeed, often anti-change) crowd. In theory, there should be a vast space between these two poles; in practice, such middle ground can often be hard to find, or negotiate, in many places in the world. 

The historian Melvin Kranzberg famously opined that technology is neither positive nor negative, nor is it neutral. What is clear, however, is that there will increasingly be much more of it, all around us -- including in our schools, and embedded within teaching and learning practices in communities pretty much everywhere: rich and poor, urban and rural. Yes, technology-fueled 'revolutions' in education have been promised for almost a century now, but even if the related change (for better and/or worse) has been long in coming, there is little denying that there is much change afoot these days (again, for better and/or worse).  How can we make better decisions about what's important, and what isn't, and how we can tell the difference? By highlighting some interesting things happening in parts of the world that you may not have heard (or thought much) about, the EduTech blog continues to try, in an admittedly modest and incomplete way, to help provide fodder for related discussion, discourse and disagreement in educational policymaking circles in many countries. 

What follows below is a quick outline of the top EduTech blog posts from 2016. If you're new to the blog, please do feel to browse our 'back catalog' as well, as many of the 'hits' from past years continue somehow to draw in large numbers of readers, in a number of cases even more than for the new stuff. (Here, for what it's worth, are links to the top posts of 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; and 2009.)

The blog went on a bit of a hiatus for part of 2016, so there is much in the queue that will appear in the early months of 2017. As always, the best way to be notified when new posts appear is to subscribe to us on Twitter (@WBedutech) and/or enter your email address into the 'subscribe by email' box that appears in the right column of your screen if you are reading this on a desktop (the mobile-optimized version of the blog omits this functionality, unfortunately). If you want a sneak peek at topics in the pipeline, as well as links to related news, projects and research papers, you may want to check out the Twitter account of the blog's principal author

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit this blog -- and good luck with whatever projects or decisions you may be considering for the New Year!
 
Top World Bank EduTech Blog Posts of 2016

Building the foundation for better early childhood care and education in Sri Lanka

Renu Warnasuriya's picture
 
Playtime of the students of the Nipuna preschool in Welampitiya, Sri Lanka
Playtime of the students of the Nipuna preschool in Welampitiya, Sri Lanka. Credit: Renu Warnasuriya / World Bank
The Little Rose preschool is situated at the base of a fifty-foot high landfill in Colombo’s Kolonnawa Division. Despite being next to one of Sri Lanka’s largest waste sites, the one room preschool is spotless. Inside, 23 children from ages 3 to 5 sit on colorful plastic chairs, dressed immaculately in ‘Little Rose’ uniforms.

Running a preschool in one of Colombo’s biggest slums isn't easy, but head teacher R. A. Shalika Sajeevani exudes positivity. “The children don’t always bring snacks, so once a week, I make lunch for all of them at my home. It’s not a big deal – I cook for my own two sons anyway, I just put in a little extra for them,” she says.

The students  are supposed to pay LKR 500 ($3.40) per month as school fees, but most are only occasionally able to do so. In spite of this, Sajeevani ensures that the preschool doors are open to all children in the neighborhood as many parents in this underserved community cannot afford to pay.

She pays her assistant and covers other expenses from the money collected and retains the rest as salary, a meagre amount of LKR 5,000 ($34) a month. Though this is barely enough to survive in Sri Lanka’s fast growing capital, she has come to work everyday for the last ten years.
 
3.	Students of the Sri Sambuddhaloka Preschool sit down to have morning snacks
Students of the Sri Sambuddhaloka Preschool settle down on the floor for their mid-morning snack. With minimal facilities, this school is currently serving 97 toddlers from one of Colombo’s many low income communities. Credit: Renu Warnasuriya / World Bank

Challenges in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE):

In a country with a well-structured free education system covering primary, secondary, and tertiary education, the state has traditionally provided little in terms of preschool education and care. However, evidence and experience has shown that ECCE improves school readiness and learning outcomes, which ultimately translates into better occupational status and earnings and yields much higher rates of return on investment.

According to the recent report, “Laying the Foundation for Early Childhood Education in Sri Lanka: Investing Early, Investing Smartly, and Investing for All”, Sri Lanka’s public spending on education as a percentage of its economy was the lowest in South Asia and its spending on early childhood education (ECE) is significantly lower than the global average.

While the country boasts of a near universal primary school enrollment rate, only about half of its 3 to 5 year-olds are enrolled in preschools which  are not primarily covered by the state. Around 60 percent of preschools are run by the private sector and 24 percent by the  other organizations and religious groups.   

Income and location are found to be among the key determinants of access to ECCE. Children from the richest 20 percent of the population are 17 percent more likely to be enrolled in preschools than children from the poorest 20 percent. Enrollment rates in urban areas is 10 percent higher than enrollment in rural or estate areas. Many centers in the country do not have adequate learning materials and quality teachers, coupled with the lack of standardized curricula and teaching facilities. Many teachers to their credit, have to depend on their own creativity to develop activities and teaching methods.    
 

Imagining infrastructure services in 2017

Laurence Carter's picture
Video: #IMAGINE a better future for all children | UNICEF


One of my favorite songs when I was growing up was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A few months ago, UNICEF created a project around it to highlight the plight of millions of refugee children. As 2016 drew to a close, I couldn’t help but imagine a world with high-quality, affordable, sustainable, well-maintained infrastructure services for everyone.

I’m not sure a video of infrastructure projects set to “Imagine” would fire people up as much as the UNICEF video does. But there is value in reflecting on what we have accomplished in 2016, and what we might hope for and imagine in 2017, to bring this vision closer to reality for millions of people.

Journalists, economists and making the news

Daphna Berman's picture
Wenceslaus Mushi (center) during a television program.

When Wenceslaus Mushi watches the evening news on the television at his home in Dar es Salaam, he often finds himself shouting out tips to the reporters.  “They aren’t asking the right questions,” says Mushi, a 40-year news veteran and former managing editor of the government-owned Daily News.  

Year in Review: 2016 in 12 Charts (and a video)

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Between the social, political, and economic upheavals affecting our lives, and the violence and forced displacement making headlines, you’d be forgiven for feeling gloomy about 2016. A look at the data reveals some of the challenges we face but also the progress we’ve made toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. Here are 12 charts that help tell the stories of the year.

1.The number of refugees in the world increased.

At the start of 2016, 65 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes, up from 60 million the year before. More than 21 million were classified as refugees. Outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, most refugees live in cities and towns, where they seek safety, better access to services, and job opportunities. A recent report on the "Forcibly Displaced" offers a new perspective on the role of development in helping refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities, working together with humanitarian partners. Among the initiatives is new financial assistance for countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that host large numbers of refugees.


The power of art: A call to action on the Early Years

Dirk Wouters's picture
View a slideshow of photos by Lieve Blancquaert here

Ed’s note: This guest blog is by Dirk Wouters, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the United States of America in Washington DC
 
A Kenyan mother seated in the hallway of a hospital, holding a newborn. She looks troubled, the baby has one thin arm up in the air. An Indian mother is resting after giving birth to twin girls. She already has two daughters at home. A Cambodian family looks to the future with hope as they take their newborn child back to their village. Nine babies, wrapped in colorful blankets, have been placed on a hospital bed in Kenya’s Pumwani hospital just after their birth. In this hospital, a 100 children are born every day.

Interactive poverty maps at your fingertips: The case of Bangladesh

Monica Yanez-Pagans's picture
Education indicators screenshot from the interactive poverty maps for Bangladesh
Education indicators screenshot from the interactive poverty maps for Bangladesh

Poverty maps are a useful tool to visualize and compare poverty rates across geographic areas, and learn about how poverty is distributed within a country, which is often times masked in national or aggregated statistics. For instance, the national poverty rate in Bangladesh in 2010 was 31.5 percent, which is the latest year for which a household survey was collected by the government to produce official poverty numbers.

However, a look at zila (district) and upazila (sub-district) level poverty rates suggests that poverty levels differ quite substantially across the different areas of the country with large pockets of poverty concentrated in the north and south-west part of the country. For example, some of the zilas in the north belonging to the Rangpur and Dhaka divisions are among the poorest in the country with poverty rates well above 50 percent while some of the zilas in the south-east belonging to the Chittagong division have poverty rates well below 20 percent.

While country level poverty maps are generally widely available, accessing the underlying information is not always easy or is unavailable in a user-friendly format. Moreover, there is not a straightforward way to link these disaggregated poverty statistics with other socio-economic indicators and even if one attempts to do, it might take a substantial amount of time to put together all this information.

Specifically, poverty maps are often times disseminated in the form of printed reports, which do not allow users to directly access the data in a digitized format or link it to other socio-economic statistics. Lowering barriers to access poverty statistics and facilitating the linking of these indicators to other non-monetary living standards statistics is important to facilitate the use of poverty statistics, make them more relevant for policy and program planning, and promote more evidence-based policymaking.


 

Let’s turn the lights on! The PISA test and FYR Macedonia

Bojana Naceva's picture
 

In 2015, over half a million students—representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies—took the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. The Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia has participated in international large scale assessments since 1999.

Debates about the country’s performance have always focused on a comparison with other counties’ mean scores; and, after a few days, everyone - including the education authorities – have continued with business as usual.  The available data was rarely used to underpin policy decisions or shape reforms.

The system has operated in the dark for decades.Addressing these challenges requires the mobilization of all available expertise in the country, regardless of political or ethnic affiliation. The time is now, tomorrow may be too late.

On International Migrants Day, unlocking prosperity through mobility

Manjula Luthria's picture
We are at the cusp of entering an era of increased mobility.  Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Stories and anecdotes of how migrants contribute to our economies are everywhere. A recently released McKinsey Global Institute report put some numbers to it. Migrants account for only 3.4% of the global population but produce 9.4% of the world output, or some $6.7 trillion. That’s almost as large as the size of the GDP of France, Germany and Switzerland combined. Compared to what they would’ve produced had they stayed at home, they add $3 trillion – that’s about the economic output of India and Indonesia combined.

Learning more with every year? Estimating the productivity of schooling in developing countries: Guest post by Abhijeet Singh

This is the fourteenth in our series of job market posts this year. 

Despite massive increases in school enrolment in developing countries, learning levels have lagged behind. But the range in average student achievement is large: In the 2012 PISA assessment (of 15-year-olds), Vietnamese students got higher scores than those in the US and the UK, but Peru ranked last (OECD 2012). The magnitude of the gap between these two developing countries was 1.4 standard deviations (SD); for comparison the difference between the US and Finland was 0.38SD.
 
My job market paper answers the question of how much of this gap reflects differences in the productivity of the schooling systems, as opposed to other factors such as nutrition, early childhood shocks, or endowments – a critical policy question relevant to the substantial education spending around the world.


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