2017 in review: The top ten World Bank education blogs

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Celebrating education. (Photo: World Bank)

As the editor of the World Bank’s education blog, I get weekly submissions from our education experts from all corners of the globe. Provocative and informative, our bloggers write about some of the education sector’s most hotly debated issues today.

Here are 2017’s most-read blog posts:

#10 There are cost-effective ways to train teachers

Teachers are the single most important factor affecting how much students learn. However, talent and heart aren’t enough to make a good teacher- as in all professions, one must train (and continue to train!) to be truly effective. This can be a big challenge in countries with fewer resources for education. Read about how 8,000 teachers in disadvantaged districts in Ghana upgraded their skills while simultaneously teaching in schools.

#9 Higher education is at a crossroads

New research reveals that, in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), there are more students in universities and higher education institutions than ever before…but quantity does not ensure quality. One of the authors of the study traveled extensively throughout LAC to talk with policymakers, faculty, students, business and industry representatives. She says that people throughout the region want and are demanding more from their institutions of higher education. Read about what she has to say.

#8 Mobile technologies are transforming education- but not in the way most would assume

No, this isn’t about budget-friendly educational tablets or learning apps. Allô École! (‘Hello, school!’ in French), is a mobile social accountability platform launched in 2017 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through this, parents with basic mobile phones are providing the government with feedback about their children’s schools: if textbooks have been delivered and distributed to students or if teachers are consistently absent. Close to 10,000 users have already tried it and more users are joining the free service. A member of the World Bank team behind the project shares her thoughts and would like to hear about similar initiatives.

#7 There are skills that matter in the race between education and technology

Technology is rapidly changing the workplace and the skills demanded, immediately making current workers less employable. Meanwhile, education systems are slow to change in terms of the creation of new skills. World Bank education expert Harry Patrinos challenges readers to think about the kind of work that technology cannot replace. He also outlines six specific ways to prepare students for the future world of work. Read about it here.

#6 Early childhood education has an impact on employability

KPMG, a company that employs over 189,000 people around the world, and hires about 40,000 people every year, is concerned with early childhood education. Why? Several research points to the impact of early childhood programs on health, education, cognitive ability, and emotional development. A study by Nobel Laureate James Heckman found that participants in an early childhood program in Jamaica had 25% higher wages – 20 years later. Our guest blogger, the COO of KPMG, emphasizes that early childhood needs to be a key economic priority.

#5 Why we should care about non-cognitive skills

Do the non-cognitive skills- which cover a range of abilities such as conscientiousness, perseverance, and teamwork- have a place in an increasingly tech-driven, automated world? Absolutely, says World Bank education expert Raja Kattan. Research is showing that there are concrete benefits to non-cognitive skills, both in education and labor market outcomes. The World Bank’s STEP survey work, for example, has found concrete payoff for skills such as “grit” (a combination of passion and perseverance) in the job market. Education systems are already adapting. Singapore schools, for instance, are looking beyond cognitive skills testing and are incorporating character and citizenship education, with a holistic focus on children’s well-being and the “development of the whole person.”

#4 Five education reforms that have worked

No public service agency is expected to do as much as we expect of education. But how are education systems around the world faring? The most recent release of international student test data (TIMSS and PISA) show that there is  still an urgent need for education system improvements in most countries.  The World Development Report 2018 warns of a global learning crisis. This blog looks at what countries have done right and the lessons that other can pick up from them- from Poland’s education reform that produced some of the world’s top teachers to giving more parents voice and participation in Mexico’s schools.

#3 Three critical ingredients for successful education systems

World Bank Senior Director for Education, Jaime Saavedra, reminds us about just why education systems are extremely complex. These must deliver a quality service, every single day, to millions of children. This is no easy task, especially when aiming to transcend cultural, geographic and socioeconomic differences, and equalize opportunities by offering excellent services to all. However, these challenges can be tackled through three critical ingredients for reform.

#2 Why Finnish education continues to be one of the very best in the world

Finland’s 15-year-olds continue to top in PISA, a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development of students’ aptitudes in mathematics, science, and reading. World Bank education expert Cristian Aedo outlines the many things Finland gets right. For instance, Finland has a comprehensive school system that follows the Nordic strategy for building high quality and equality in education based on a publicly-funded school system. It does this without selecting, tracking or streaming students during their basic education, which lasts until the end of Grade 9.

#1 Education technology is not an end in itself

As public and private schools continue to integrate technology into their classrooms, our blogger warns that that education technology comes with big risks. We may be moving into a more automated world with high technology and robots but technology can never replace teachers. Neither can technology be expected to solve all problems, especially when it’s dumped into schools without much strategy or planning.

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