World Bank warns of 'learn­ing cri­sis' in global ed­u­ca­tion

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria re­port­ing

Mil­lions of young stu­dents in low and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries face the prospect of lost op­por­tu­nity and lower wages in later life be­cause their pri­mary and sec­ondary schools are fail­ing to ed­u­cate them to suc­ceed in life. Warn­ing of “a learn­ing cri­sis” in global ed­u­ca­tion, a new World Bank re­port says school­ing with­out learn­ing was not just a wasted de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity, but also a great in­jus­tice to chil­dren and young peo­ple world­wide.

The World De­vel­op­ment Re­port 2018: “Learn­ing to Re­al­ize Ed­u­ca­tion's Prom­ise” ar­gues that with­out learn­ing, ed­u­ca­tion will fail to de­liver on its prom­ise to elim­i­nate ex­treme poverty and cre­ate shared op­por­tu­nity and pros­per­ity for all. Even af­ter sev­eral years in school, mil­lions of chil­dren can­not read, write or do ba­sic math. This learn­ing cri­sis is widen­ing so­cial gaps in­stead of nar­row­ing them. Young stu­dents who are al­ready dis­ad­van­taged by poverty, con­flict, gen­der or dis­abil­ity reach young adult­hood with­out even the most ba­sic life skills.

“This learn­ing cri­sis is a moral and eco­nomic cri­sis,” World Bank Group Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim said. “When de­liv­ered well, ed­u­ca­tion prom­ises young peo­ple em­ploy­ment, bet­ter earn­ings, good health, and a life with­out poverty. For com­mu­ni­ties, ed­u­ca­tion spurs in­no­va­tion, strength­ens in­sti­tu­tions, and fos­ters so­cial co­he­sion. But th­ese ben­e­fits de­pend on learn­ing, and school­ing with­out learn­ing is a wasted op­por­tu­nity. More than that, it's a great in­jus­tice: the chil­dren whom so­ci­eties fail the most are the ones who are most in need of a good ed­u­ca­tion to suc­ceed in life.”

The re­port rec­om­mends con­crete pol­icy steps to help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries re­solve this dire learn­ing cri­sis in the ar­eas of stronger learn­ing as­sess­ments, us­ing ev­i­dence of what works and what doesn't to guide ed­u­ca­tion de­ci­sion-mak­ing; and mo­bi­liz­ing a strong so­cial move­ment to push for ed­u­ca­tion changes that cham­pion 'learn­ing for all.'

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, when third grade stu­dents in Kenya, Tan­za­nia, and Uganda were asked re­cently to read a sen­tence such as “The name of the dog is Puppy” in English or Kiswahili, three­quar­ters did not un­der­stand what it said. In ru­ral In­dia, nearly three-quar­ters of stu­dents in grade 3 could not solve a twodigit sub­trac­tion such as “46 – 17” – and by grade 5, half still could not do so. Although the skills of Brazil­ian 15-year-olds have im­proved, at their cur­rent rate of im­prove­ment they will not reach the rich­coun­try av­er­age score in math for 75 years. In read­ing, it will take 263 years.

Th­ese sta­tis­tics do not ac­count for 260 mil­lion chil­dren who, for rea­sons of con­flict, dis­crim­i­na­tion, dis­abil­ity, and other ob­sta­cles, are not en­rolled in pri­mary or sec­ondary school.

While not all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries suf­fer from such ex­treme learn­ing gaps, many fall far short of lev­els they as­pire to. Lead­ing in­ter­na­tional as­sess­ments on lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy show that the av­er­age stu­dent in poor coun­tries per­forms worse than 95 per­cent of the stu­dents in high-in­come coun­tries – mean­ing such a stu­dent would be sin­gled out for re­me­dial at­ten­tion in a class in those coun­tries. Many high­per­form­ing stu­dents in mid­dle-in­come coun­tries – young men and women who achieve in the top quar­ter of their groups – would rank in the bot­tom quar­ter in a wealth­ier coun­try.

The re­port, writ­ten by a team di­rected by World Bank Lead Econ­o­mists, Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, iden­ti­fies what drives th­ese learn­ing short­falls – not only the ways in which teach­ing and learn­ing breaks down in too many schools, but also the deeper po­lit­i­cal forces that cause th­ese problems to per­sist.

Sig­nif­i­cant progress is pos­si­ble

The re­port notes that when coun­tries and their lead­ers make “learn­ing for all” a na­tional pri­or­ity, ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards can im­prove dra­mat­i­cally. For ex­am­ple, from a war-torn coun­try with very low lit­er­acy rates in the 1950s, South Korea achieved uni­ver­sal en­rol­ment by 1995 in high­qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion through sec­ondary school – its young peo­ple per­formed at the high­est lev­els on in­ter­na­tional learn­ing as­sess­ments. Viet­nam's 2012 re­sults from an OECD test for high school stu­dents in math, sci­ence, and read­ing called PISA, showed that its 15-year-olds per­formed at the same level as those in Ger­many – even though Viet­nam is a much poorer coun­try.

Between 2009 and 2015, Peru achieved some of the fastest growth in over­all learn­ing out­comes – due to con­certed pol­icy ac­tion. In sev­eral coun­tries (such as Liberia, Pa­pua New Guinea, and Tonga) early grade read­ing im­proved sub­stan­tially within a very short time, due to fo­cused ef­forts based on ev­i­dence.

“The only way to make progress is to 'find truth from facts.' If we let them, the facts about ed­u­ca­tion re­veal a painful truth. For too many chil­dren, school­ing does not mean learn­ing,” said World Bank Chief Econ­o­mist, Paul Romer.

Re­ly­ing on ev­i­dence and ad­vice gath­ered dur­ing ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions in 20 coun­tries, with gov­ern­ments, de­vel­op­ment and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions, CSOs, and the pri­vate sec­tor, the re­port of­fers three pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions:

First, as­sess learn­ing, so it can be­come a mea­sur­able goal.

Only half of all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have met­rics to mea­sure learn­ing at the end of pri­mary and lower sec­ondary school. Well-de­signed stu­dent as­sess­ments can help teach­ers guide stu­dents, im­prove sys­tem man­age­ment, and fo­cus so­ci­ety's at­ten­tion on learn­ing. Th­ese mea­sures can in­form na­tional pol­icy choices, track progress, and shine a spot­light on chil­dren who are be­ing left be­hind.

Sec­ond, make schools work for all chil­dren.

Level the play­ing field by re­duc­ing stunt­ing and pro­mot­ing brain de­vel­op­ment through early nu­tri­tion and stim­u­la­tion so chil­dren start school ready to learn. At­tract great peo­ple into teach­ing and keep them mo­ti­vated by tai­lor­ing teacher train­ing that is re­in­forced by men­tors. De­ploy tech­nolo­gies that help teach­ers teach to the level of the stu­dent, and strengthen school man­age­ment, in­clud­ing prin­ci­pals.

Third, mo­bi­lize ev­ery­one who has a stake in learn­ing.

Use in­for­ma­tion and met­rics to mo­bi­lize ci­ti­zens, in­crease ac­count­abil­ity, and cre­ate po­lit­i­cal will for ed­u­ca­tion re­form. In­volve stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the busi­ness com­mu­nity, in all stages of ed­u­ca­tion re­form, from de­sign to im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“De­vel­op­ing coun­tries are far from where they should be on learn­ing. Many do not in­vest enough fi­nan­cial re­sources and most need to in­vest more ef­fi­ciently. But it is not only a mat­ter of money; coun­tries need to also in­vest in the ca­pac­ity of the peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions tasked with ed­u­cat­ing our chil­dren,” said Jaime Saave­dra, a for­mer Peru­vian Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter, and now the World Bank's Se­nior Di­rec­tor for Ed­u­ca­tion. “Ed­u­ca­tion re­form is ur­gently needed and re­quires per­sis­tence as well as the po­lit­i­cal align­ment of govern­ment, me­dia, en­trepreneurs, teach­ers, par­ents, and stu­dents. They all have to value and de­mand bet­ter learn­ing.”

For com­mu­ni­ties, ed­u­ca­tion spurs in­no­va­tion, strength­ens in­sti­tu­tions, and fos­ters so­cial co­he­sion. But th­ese ben­e­fits de­pend on learn­ing, and school­ing with­out learn­ing is a wasted op­por­tu­nity.

Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo (cen­tre) holds up the Nige­rian f lag with school chil­dren at the State House, Abuja, to com­mem­o­rate 2017 Chil­dren’s Day

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