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Unleashing the Potential of the Human Mind with Learning

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  • World Bank launches new education strategy for the next decade, with a focus on preparing youth for the jobs market.
  • Economic growth, reduced poverty depend on the knowledge and skills that people gain, not the years spent in a classroom, says strategy.
  • New middle-income countries are anxious to boost their economic competitiveness by training more skilled, adaptable workforces.

April 12, 2011 – With a record 210 million people out-of-work worldwide and employers reporting too few workers to hire with the right skills, the World Bank Group today appealed to governments, donors, community leaders, and employers to focus more on education that prepares young people for the jobs market with the right skills rather than emphasizes the number of years they spend in school.    

Launching its education strategy for the next decade, the Bank Group said that better learning for all students worldwide is vital because economic growth, better development, and significantly less poverty depend on the knowledge and skills that people gain, not the years spent in a classroom. According to the strategy, “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 have a healthy, fulfilling life, an educated family, and be involved in their community as citizens and voters.”

The Bank’s new Education Strategy for 2020 will chart the Bank’s education course for the next ten years during an especially turbulent period worldwide.

“The bottom line of the Bank’s new education vision for 2020 is: invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all,” says Elizabeth King, the World Bank’s Education Director and lead author of the new strategy. “In today’s competitive global economy, getting maximum value for each education dollar demands smart investments that are proven to contribute to learning. Learning quality needs to be front and center of these education investments, and ‘Learning for All,’ the title of our new strategy, means ensuring that all students, not just the most privileged or clever, gain the knowledge and skills that they need to get jobs and succeed in life.”

Although millions more children are now in school than were ten years ago, with conditions in the world changing rapidly—from a record surge of young people at the secondary and tertiary levels in the Middle East and many emerging economies, to the rise of new middle-income countries anxious to boost their economic competitiveness by training more skilled, adaptable workforces—developing countries must transform these gains in schooling into improved learning outcomes.

The number of out-of-school children of primary school age fell from 106 million in 1999 to 68 million in 2008. Even in the poorest countries, average primary school enrollment rates surged above 80 percent and completion rates above 60 percent.

A successful driver of development is what people learn, both in and out of school, from their very first years of life all the way through school, into the jobs market, and throughout their working lives, says Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group.

"For developing countries to fully reap the benefits of education—both by learning from ideas and through innovation—they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education,” says Zoellick.

The new strategy calls for stronger systems to improve the quality and reach of education, including prioritizing and financing reform of countries’ education systems as a whole to improve the quality of student learning, matching new education financing with results, and building an evidence base of what works and what doesn’t in education reform.

Education and finance ministers worldwide have endorsed the strategy, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who shares a similar education vision, and Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, Nigeria’s Minister of Education.

“I strongly endorse the key messages of the World Bank’s new education strategy,” says Rufai. “ For my country, Nigeria, ‘Learning for All’ is our goal—to ensure that all our children, girls and boys, poor and well-to-do, north and south, can go to a good school and can learn what they need to have successful and happy lives.”