In some fragile states, where the education sector has faced direct attack, physical monitoring of development programs becomes a hugely complex and dangerous task. In this context, Afghanistan is an excellent example of how investment in Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) can strengthen overall monitoring systems in a country. In some provinces, there has been an improvement in accountability and transparency but challenges remain.
The title of the recent blog written by my colleague Harry Patrinos couldn’t be more direct and clear: “Make the Rich Pay for University”! This is an idea that makes sense. However, is this idea as easy to implement as it sounds? Are there any disadvantages or limitations? What is the rationale used in countries that have opted for the opposite direction?
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Migration and Remittances
- Labor and Social Protection
- Financial Sector
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- East Asia and Pacific
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Sri Lanka
This post is also available in French.
“I’ve seen some of the highest performance bicycles in the world, but I believe the most powerful bicycle is the one in the hands of a girl fighting for her education, or a mother striving to feed her family.”
- F.K. Day, Founder of World Bicycle Relief
The rainbow jersey, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, or Vuelta a Espana—that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of cycling. However, elite cycling is only one small spoke of a much larger wheel.
By some estimates, there are already more than two billion bikes in use around the world. By 2050, that number could be as high as five billion. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike. In China, 37.2 percent of the population use bicycles. In Belgium and Switzerland, 48 percent of the population rides. In Japan, it is 57 percent, and in Finland it’s 60 percent. The Netherlands holds the record as the nation with the most bicycles per capita. Cyclists also abound in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is considered the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. It’s known as the “City of Cyclists,” where 52 percent of the population uses a bike for the daily commute. Bicyclist commuters are generally healthier than those who drive motor vehicles to work. They also remain unaffected by OPEC decisions about crude oil production or the price per barrel.
Due to the size of China’s population, and the need for bicycle transportation, statistics on the country’s bikeshare program are staggering. In a database maintained by Russell Neddin and Paul DeMaio, more than 400,000 bikeshare bikes are used in dozens of cities on the Chinese mainland, and the vast majority of those bikes have been in operation since 2012. There are an estimated 822,000 bikeshare bikes in operation around the world. China, therefore, has more bikeshare bikes than all other countries combined. The country with the next-highest number of bikes is France, which has just 45,000.
Melinda and Bill Gates have made an annual tradition of publishing their thoughts on international development and its key challenges. Given the substance, I assume these letters reflect an annual manifesto for the organisation they head, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Last year, I wrote about how the Gates Annual Letter was disappointing, perhaps not in the context of what the BMGF itself does, but what it ought to be doing, given its $42 bn muscle and its influential promoter, Bill Gates.
This year, the letter makes four “big bets” for 2030: child deaths will go down by half, and more diseases will be eradicated than ever before; Africa will be able to feed itself; mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives; and better software will revolutionise learning. In short, fast-tracking the identification technological fixes and expanding their reach over the next fifteen years will deliver a better world.
Unfortunately, these bets seem to me to be wildly optimistic. I may be quibbling, but from what we have learnt from research, there seem to be many reasons to suggest that we should be cautious with our optimism regarding what we can achieve with technology. The complexities of working on power, politics and implementation find no mention in the letter. Let us look a little more closely at each one of the bets to find out why that matters so much.
During a recent trip to India, we met with Professor Anil Sahasrabudhe, a dynamic, positive man who will likely remind you of a favorite uncle. In 2004, he was in the less satisfactory position of being director at the College of Engineering in Pune (COEP), located 150 km southeast of Mumbai. At that time, the institution had no financial or academic autonomy, no governance structure, and no administrative freedom. Ten years later, in 2014, the institution had turned around, garnering national awards and recognition. What helped spark the change? While several factors made an impact, Professor Sahasrabudhe mentions good governance first.
I recently read in a newspaper about a video of an obese 12-year-old who collapsed at school in Mexico and later died from a heart attack. Although the newspaper could not certify the veracity of the video, it is an awful reminder of the large burden of overweight and obesity, suffered not only by adults but children in Mexico and other developing countries.
At a time when students, parents and governments are looking with concern at ever increasing levels of student loan debt, the returns to schooling seem to be declining, on average, at least slightly.
The value one gets from an education, in terms of future earnings, has been decreasing over time. The returns to another year of schooling tend to decline as the level of schooling rises in an economy.
Engaging individuals to share their knowledge and learning on development challenges and solutions with the wider community is a core value of the WBG’s Open Learning Campus. In this context the story is often a powerful learning tool. This idea is not a new one; in fact, stories have been a universal form of knowledge transfer for over 100,000 years as a way of connecting people and creating a common perspective on social, economic, political and cultural issues that they care about.
However, the above statements apply only to effective storytelling, which requires sustained engagement with the community, and adequate influence over the learning and knowledge accretion process of the community. Research has shown that information alone—even critically valuable information—without the context, relevance, and engagement provided by effective story structure—is markedly ineffective in changing core attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors (in influencing).