Learning for all: shared principles for equitable and excellent basic education systems

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More than 200 participants – including government officials, policymakers and education experts from over 20 countries gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the global conference Learning for All: Shared Principles for Equitable and Excellent Basic Education Systems.

The conference addressed themes related to improving learning outcomes for all students, including how to support effective teaching and early childhood development, balancing school autonomy and accountability, and how education systems can build the skills needed for the 21 st century.   

For the host country, Indonesia, the forum provided a valuable chance to look more closely at issues facing its education system.

While Indonesia has made considerable progress on access and education funding (with a commitment to allocate 20% of its budget to education), it faces critical challenges including efficiently using resources in a highly decentralized context, investing in early childhood, and needing to boost teacher quality along with learning outcomes.

Senior officials from Indonesia’s government ministries shared insights into Indonesia’s current reforms including teacher policies, school operating grants, conditional cash transfer programs, and early childhood development strategies.

From the experiences shared as well as research presented, participants were able to draw many relevant lessons to help strengthen their education systems. An overview of education performance in the region from the World Bank’s forthcoming regional Education Flagship Report showed that EAP countries are among the top performers on PISA, and that they have invested heavily in creating excellent education systems. Among these lessons, the conference revealed that high performing systems:

  • carefully select, groom and value their teachers by attracting high performing students into the teaching profession and providing relevant pre-service and in-service training in pedagogy and subject content;
  • create a structure and culture that promotes collaboration between teachers;
  • strategically use targeted measurements to promote accountability and drive reform;
  • invest early in children’s development;
  • view schools and parents as partners in education;
  • and are innovating to connect with industry, in order to link education systems to employment.
Former and current ministry officials also shared relevant lessons from middle income countries including Peru – which embarked on ambitious system-wide changes to promote equity and quality after placing last on PISA in 2012—and Mexico, which has developed a program to give teachers tools to build the socioemotional skills of adolescents in school. These countries face many of the same challenges as Indonesia and other countries in the region and offered important practical lessons and strategies for participants. Harry Anthony Patrinos, Education Manager, World Bank also shared examples from five reforms across the globe.  

The role of measuring education systems was a key topic of discussion as well. Australia shared a critical framework for balancing autonomy and accountability using clearly defined and targeted measures that are transparent and fair.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the OECD presented an in-depth look at the latest PISA 2015 data. The analysis revealed a range of trends linked to education outcomes and areas with high impact on outcomes including commitment to universal achievement, resource provision where it matters most, and use of incentive structures and accountability systems that work.  

At the same time, a key message emerged from the countries and policymakers present: PISA is not about rankings—success on PISA means learning from PISA. PISA itself is evolving to capture broader aspects beyond math, science and reading (such as well-being and collaborative problem-solving).  These skills are ever more important as trends such as technology and automation continue to shape the labor market of the 21 st century. High performing countries such as Singapore are looking to expand their education systems beyond cognitive skills to promote student well-being.

Citing the value of having achievement data to support education reform, India shared its roadmap to strengthen learning outcomes, and its intention to re-join PISA in 2021. A discussion theme, highlighted by India and others throughout the three days, was how many countries have been using IT to innovatively address gaps, such as through computer based testing, capturing and analyzing data, and creating portals to facilitate information sharing.

Participants noted that the conference helped them identify education priorities and policy change opportunities in their own countries, for example Vietnam highlighted that there is still much work to do in the country to link graduates with jobs, and its intention to use data to diagnose its system.   

A follow up conference is tentatively planned for 2018.


Raja Bentaouet Kattan

Advisor to the Education Global Practice

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