Friday, April 15, 2011

World Bank Group's new education strategy focuses on ‘learning for all'

From its overarching goal of 'schooling for all' as its education strategy in the past, the World Bank Group made a paradigm shift in its new Education Strategy 2020 to ‘learning for all' in the developing countries. This is driven by the conviction that the driver of development eventully is what individuals learn, "both in and out of school, from preschool through the labour market," the Bank said.

In its Education Strategy 2020 unveiled in Washington on Tuesday with the accent of investing in people's knowledge and skills to promote development, the World Bank Group said since launching a project to build secondary schools in Tunisia in 1962, it had traversed a long way by investing $69 billion globally in education via more than 1,500 projects in developing countries including India over the years.

Its financial support for education has risen over the decade since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set, surging to more than $5 billion in 2010. Alongside, its private sector lending window, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) began focusing on the education sector since 2001, it has invested $500 million in 46 private education projects.

Sector-wide financing

Stating that the Bank Group has not stood still since it adopted its last strategy in 2001 by moving closer to client countries by decentralising its operations with 40 per cent of staff now in country offices, the Bank said it has also innovated financially through greater use of sector-wide financing, pooled funding, performance-based instruments and other approaches. It has also recognised the burgeoning role of the private sector in education by carving out a Health and Education department at IFC.

The new education strategy, while aiming at building on these changes, focuses on learning because "better learning for all students worldwide is vital to economic growth, better development" with ''significantly less poverty depending on the knowledge and skills that people gain, not the years spent in classrooms.''

The strategy explicitly concedes that "while a diploma may open doors to employment, it is a worker's skills that determine his or her productivity and ability to adapt to new technologies and opportunities. Knowledge and skills also contribute to an individual's ability to heave a healthy, fulfilling life, an educated family and be involved in their community as citizens and voters."

It reaffirmed its commitment to helping countries get all children into school by the 2015 deadline for the MDGs. But with conditions in the world changing rapidly — from a record surge of young people at the secondary, tertiary levels in West Asia and emerging economies to the rise of new middle-income countries anxious to boost their economic competitiveness by training more skilled workforces — developing countries must "transform gains in schooling into improved learning outcomes," it cautioned.

New strategy
While skill levels in the workforce predict economic growth rates far better than average schooling levels even as the skills young people acquire in school are inadequate, "the bottom-line of the Bank's new education vision for 2020 is: invest early, invest smartly and invest for all," according to Ms. Elizabeth King the World Bank's Education Director and lead author of the new strategy.

The new strategy calls for robust systems to improve the quality and reach of education in three areas. First, the Bank's Group would prioritise and finance reform of countries' education systems as a whole to improve the quality of student learning. It will thus focus on increasing accountability and results as a complement to provide school buildings, teacher training and textbooks. Strengthening education systems meant aligning their teacher policies, governance, management, financing and incentive mechanisms with the goal of learning for all.

Second, the Bank Group would match new education financing with results. Highlighting instances of recent innovative projects in Bangladesh, Jamaica and Vietnam that have used results-based financing and other spurs to improve student and school performance, it said these could serve as models for other countries.

Finally, the Bank Group will build a leading knowledge base for education reform of what works and what does not in education reform, using impact evaluations, learning assessments and benchmarking tools that are being developed. By benchmarking education reform progress against global best practices, the Bank Group will help countries diagnose the strengths and infirmities in their reform bids and better target future investments.

Source: Business Line, April 15, 2011

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