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  • What is the World Bank doing to support education?
  • The World Bank has worked to advance learning in developing countries since 1963. Today, we are the world's single largest provider of external funding for education. We are a major supporter of Education for All, an international effort to provide every boy and girl in the developing world with a full, good-quality, free and compulsory primary school education, and we've worked vigorously with country and global partners to map out the path to reach the Millennium Development Goal for education by 2015. We've also worked to put the Fast-Track Initiative in place, which aims to accelerate progress toward meeting the education development goal.

    Our support for education has a dual focus: to help countries achieve universal primary education and to help countries build the higher-level and flexible skills needed to compete in today's global, knowledge-driven markets, what we call Education for the Knowledge Economy. As with all World Bank assistance, lending is only one part of a broader package of services. We compliment our financial services for education with policy advice; analysis; sharing of global knowledge and best practices; technical assistance and capacity building; and support for consensus-building. These non-financial services are crucial to ensure that countries make effective use of aid.

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  • What is Education for All?
  • Education for All (EFA) is an international commitment first launched in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 to bring the benefits of education to "every citizen in every society." Partners comprised a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank. In response to slow progress over the decade, the commitment was reaffirmed in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000 and then again in September 2000, when 189 countries and their partners adopted two of the EFA goals among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    The six EFA goals are specifically to:

    • Although the MDGs refer only to issues of universal primary education and gender disparity in education, the World Bank recognizes that achievement of all of the MDGs will require support for the full EFA commitment.
    • Ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
    • Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
    • Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
    • Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
    • Although the MDGs refer only to issues of universal primary education and gender disparity in education, the World Bank recognizes that achievement of all of the MDGs will require support for the full EFA commitment.

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  • What is the Fast-Track Initiative?
  • The Fast-Track Initiative is a results-based education initiative launched in June 2002. It grew out of a meeting of heads of state in March 2002 that resulted in the Monterrey Consensus, a commitment by nations to provide the means to attack poverty worldwide. The initiative is driven by a partnership of education donors and low-income countries that are focused on accelerating progress toward the education Millennium Development Goal. This new development compact for education committed donors to coordinate and provide additional policy, data, capacity building and financial support to countries that, in turn, commit to prioritize primary education for all children and implement policies that improve the quality and efficiency of their primary education systems and agree to be accountable for results.

    FTI now has more than 30 bilateral and multi-lateral donor partners and 19 partner countries. An estimated 44 additional countries will be ready to have their education plans endorsed over the next two years, bringing the total to 60 countries. These 60 countries make up 65% of the out of school children or 67 million around the globe. To that end, the government of Kenya recently requested an additional $24 million dollars for 2005, and $85 million dollars more for next year to help close their education financing gap and enable an ambitious expansion of free primary education to proceed.

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  • What is education for the Knowledge Economy?
  • Education for the Knowledge Economy (EKE) refers to World Bank assistance aimed at helping developing countries equip themselves with the highly skilled and flexible human capital needed to compete effectively in today's dynamic global markets. Such assistance recognizes first and foremost that the ability to produce and use knowledge has become a major factor in development and critical to a nation's comparative advantage. It also recognizes that surging demand for secondary education in many parts of the world, creates an invaluable opportunity to build up in large scale a workforce that is well trained and capable of generating knowledge-driven economic growth.

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  • What is the Science, Technology, and Innovation Initiative?
  • The work in Science, Technology, and Innovation aims to enhance a country's capacity to import and use existing technology, improve human capital and education, and build capacity for the creation of new knowledge. The World Bank recognizes an abundant supply of low wage, unskilled labor is no longer a route to rapid growth and national prosperity. In today's world, characterized by intense global competition and rapid technological change, the key to prosperity is a well-educated, technically skilled workforce producing high value added, knowledge intensive goods and services and employed in private enterprises that have the managerial capacity to find, adapt, and adopt modern, up-to-date technology and sell sophisticated goods and services in global markets.

    The phrase, "knowledge intensive activities" is not synonymous with high tech. Assembling computers for export generates high tech exports, but it is a low wage, unskilled, low value added activity that will probably not lead to national prosperity and rising standards of living. On the other hand, fish farming, aquaculture, and tropical flower cultivation all require knowledge intensive production processes, even though they are traditionally classified as low tech activities.

    Specializing in the production of knowledge-intensive, high value added goods and services, irrespective of whether they are in high tech or low tech sectors, will require a concerted effort to augment the Education, Science, Technology and Innovation capacity in the client countries. Four critical dimensions are identified in this area: Education for the Knowledge Economy; Research & Development: Producing new, economically relevant knowledge, Technology Acquisition and Diffusion: Using existing knowledge to improve the competitiveness; and Science & Technology Policy Making Capacity.

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  • What importance does the World Bank give education in its lending programs?
  • Education is central to development. The World Bank has supported education in developing countries since 1963 during which period it has transferred more than US$39 billion in loans and credits for education. In April, 2006, the World Bank was funding 144 operations in 86 countries. Most recent figures estimate that in fiscal year 2006, approximately $ US 2.5 billion in lending will be transferred by the World Bank to developing countries to support the development of policies and strategies, strengthen institutions and service delivery and help countries expand the qualitative and quantitative capacity of their education systems. Lending to the education sector in the past few years continues to show an upward trend with total lending in the sector more than doubling in the past six years - Education lending in fiscal year 2000 totaled US$728 million in fiscal year 2006 it is estimated to reach US$2.5 billion. On average, Education has made up about 8% of total World Bank lending.

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  • Why should countries invest in education?
  • Good quality education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth. Investment in education has many benefits for people, society and the world as a whole. Some of the major benefits of Education include:

    • It enables people to read, reason, communicate and make informed choices
    • It increases individual productivity, earnings and quality of life. Studies show that each year of schooling increases individual earnings by a worldwide average of about 10%.
    • It greatly reduces female vulnerability to ill health. Studies show that each year of schooling lowers fertility by 10 percent; better educated women have healthier babies and experience lower infant mortality; and better educated girls (and boys) exhibit lower rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
    • It is fundamental for the development of democratic societies.
    • It is vital to building up a highly-skilled and flexible workforce-the backbone of a dynamic, globally competitive economy.
    • It is crucial for creating, applying and spreading knowledge-and therefore crucial to a country's prospects for innovation, comparative advantage and foreign investment inflows.

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  • Where can I access resources on the World Bank and Education?
  • The World Bank Education Website portal directs you the most up to date information and resources in the sector. Through this site, one is able to access publications, projects, and statistics related to Education. Also, a research guide has been created to assist those looking for education related resources. For more information visit the World Bank Education website portal.

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Updated: April 2006

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