More than one billion people around the world experience some form of disability. Individuals with disabilities have, on average, poorer health, lower levels of employment and earnings, and higher poverty rates. Children with disabilities are especially at a disadvantage when it comes to enrolling and completing school but also how much they learn while in school. This is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where our latest research, The Challenge of Inclusive Education in Africa, shows that disability gaps in education are increasing.
The message on inclusive education is simple: Every learner matters – and matters equally.
This was the shared spirit when experts from 12 African countries came together in Nairobi, Kenya in late October for the ‘Technical Learning Session on Inclusive Education in Africa’ to share knowledge, ideas, challenges, and priorities toward inclusive education.
The ultimate barrier to education is no schooling at all. Inclusion of children with disabilities can result in significant gains to national economies helping break the cycle of poverty.
At the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund in Bali, Indonesia, the World Bank highlighted the importance of human capital for economic development.
Central to the World Bank’s motivation for the Human Capital Project is evidence that investments in education and health produce better-educated and healthier individuals, as well as faster economic growth and a range of benefits to society more broadly. As part of this effort to accelerate more and better investments in people, the new Human Capital Index provides information on productivity-related human capital outcomes, seeking to answer how much human capital a child born today will acquire by the end of secondary school, given the risks to poor health and education that prevail in the country where she or he was born.
This September I traveled to Beijing and Ningbo, China, to participate in the second Africa China World Bank Education Partnership Forum on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The Forum--co-hosted by the China Institute for Education Finance Research, Peking University, Ningbo Polytechnic and the World Bank Group-- served as a platform for discussion and knowledge exchange to encourage stronger partnership efforts between African TVET institutions and some of China’s best ranking TVET centers and industries.
We are living in a learning crisis. According to the World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report, millions of students in developing countries are in schools that are failing to educate them to succeed in life. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, there are 617 million children and youth of primary and secondary school age who are not learning the basics in reading, two-thirds of whom are attending school. The urgency to invest in learning is clear.
In the first season of The Wire, an American crime drama television series, a young girl who lives in a poor and crime-ridden neighborhood asks Wallace, a teenaged drug dealer, for help with a math problem. It's a word problem that has multiple passengers getting on and off a bus and that asks how many passengers are on the bus at the end of it. The girl is lost. Wallace reframes the problem for her, describing a situation in which different buyers and sellers of crack cocaine take and give her different numbers of vials. When she answers correctly, Wallace asks her why she can't do the same problem when it's in her math book. She explains that if she gets the vial count wrong, the drug dealers will hurt her, so she must get it right.
Cuando tenía 13 años, mi profesora de literatura, Estela, propuso a la clase el siguiente ejercicio: observar dos dibujos y escribir una historia sobre cada uno de ellos. Miré los dibujos: uno era de un hombre con traje y corbata que cargaba un maletín y usaba un lindo reloj. El otro era del mismo hombre, pero tenía barba crecida, ropa rasgada y zapatos gastados. Escribí la primera historia sobre un hombre exitoso con una familia increíble, y la segunda sobre un hombre pobre, triste y sin amigos. Estela pareció decepcionada y me preguntó si las personas se definen por su ropa. Ese día, mi profesora habló sobre prejuicios y yo aprendí algo que no olvidaré jamás.
When I was 13, my literature teacher Estela asked the class to look at two drawings and write down a story about each one them. I looked at the drawings: one was of a man in a suit and tie who was carrying a suitcase and wearing a watch. The other was of the same man but he had a beard, torn clothes and broken shoes. I wrote the first story about a successful man with an amazing family, the second about a poor, sad man who had no friends. Estela seemed disappointed and asked me if people are defined by their clothes. That day, my teacher spoke about prejudices and I learned something that I won’t forget.
En todos los países hay maestros dedicados y entusiastas que enriquecen y transforman la vida de millones de chicos. Son héroes silenciosos que suelen no estar entrenados, no tener materiales didácticos adecuados, o no recibir reconocimiento por su trabajo. Son héroes que desafían las estadísticas y hacen posible que los chicos aprendan con alegría, rigor y propósito.