One big reason the learning crisis persists is that many education systems across the developing world have little information on who is learning and who is not. As a result, it is hard for them to do anything about it. And with uncertainty about the kinds of skills, the jobs of the future will require, schools and teachers must prepare students with more than basic reading and writing skills. Students need to be able to interpret information, form opinions, be creative, communicate well, collaborate, and be resilient.
The World Bank’s vision is for all children and youth to be learning and acquiring the skills they need to be productive, fulfilled, and involved citizens and workers. Our focus is on helping teachers at all levels become more effective in facilitating learning, improving technology for learning, and strengthening the management of schools and systems, while ensuring learners of all ages—from preschool to adulthood—are equipped for success.
“It’s never too late for young people to have opportunities to learn. Our youth deserve to be equipped with the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly demanding and uncertain job world. Given that today’s students will be tomorrow’s citizens and leaders, a good and relevant education is essential to turn aspirations into reality.”
Technology offers new possibilities for teaching and learning
Rapid technological change is raising the stakes. Technology is already playing a crucial role in providing support to teachers, students, and the learning process more broadly. It can help teachers better manage the classroom and offer different challenges to different students. And technology can allow principals, parents, and students to interact seamlessly. Millions of students are benefiting from the effective use of technology, but millions more in the developing world are not.
We know learning happens best when instruction is personalized to meet the needs and strengths of each child, individual progress is tracked, and prompt feedback is provided. Adaptive technology was used to evaluate students’ initial learning level to then walk them through math exercises in a dynamic, personalized way, based on artificial intelligence and what the student is ready to learn. After three months, students with the lowest initial performance achieved substantial improvements. This shows the potential of technology to increase learning outcomes, especially among students lagging behind their peers.
In a field that is developing at dizzying speeds, innovative solutions to educational challenges are springing up everywhere. Our challenge is to make technology a driver of equity and inclusion and not a source of greater inequality of opportunity. We are working with partners worldwide to support the effective and appropriate use of educational technologies to strengthen learning.
When schools and educations systems are managed well, learning happens
Providing quality education requires building systems that deliver learning, day after day, in thousands of schools, to millions of students. Successful education reforms require good policy design, strong political commitment, and effective implementation capacity. Of course, this is extremely challenging. Many countries struggle to make efficient use of resources and very often increased education spending does not translate into more learning and improved human capital. Overcoming such challenges involves working at all levels of the system.
At the central level, ministries of education need to attract the best experts to design and implement evidence-based and country-specific programs. District or regional offices need the capacity and the tools to monitor learning and support schools. At the school level, principals need to be trained and prepared to manage and lead schools, from planning the use of resources to supervising and nurturing their teachers.
However difficult, change is possible. Supported by the World Bank, public schools across Punjab in Pakistan have been part of major reforms over the past few years to address these challenges. Through improved school-level accountability by monitoring and limiting teacher and student absenteeism, and the introduction of a merit-based teacher recruitment system, where only the most talented and motivated teachers were selected, they were able to increase enrollment and retention of students and significantly improve the quality of education. “The government schools have become very good now, even better than private ones.
No change can happen without data. Governments need to know what their education systems are missing — or what’s being done right — to take the right steps to improve. The World Bank, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UK’s Department for International Development, is developing the Global Education Policy Dashboard. This new initiative will provide governments with a system for monitoring how their education systems are functioning, from learning data to policy plans, so they are better able to make timely and evidence-based decisions.