The last decade brought remarkable progress in education, with millions more children now in school as a result of more effective education and development policies and sustained national investments. 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. The Bank Group remains committed to helping countries get all children into school by the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, but rapid changes around the world demand a new approach. To respond to these changes—including a record 210 million people out of work worldwide, a record surge of young people at the secondary and tertiary levels in the Middle East and many emerging economies, growing urbanization, and the rise of new middle-income countries anxious to boost their economic competitiveness by training more skilled, adaptable workforces—developing countries must transform gains in schooling to improved learning outcomes. Thus the Bank Group’s new strategy (ESS2020) goes beyond increasing access to helping countries improve learning quality, because economic growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people gain, not simply the years spent in a classroom. For example, an increase in one standard deviation in student reading and math scores —roughly equivalent to improving a country’s performance ranking from the media to the top 15 percent—is associated with a very large increase of 2 percentage points in annual GDP per capita growth.
ESS2020 focus on strengthening education systems as means to improve learning outcomes.
First, the Bank Group will prioritize and finance reform of countries’ education systems as a whole to improve the quality of student learning. The Bank Group will focus on increasing accountability and results as a complement to providing critical inputs such as school buildings, teacher training, and textbooks. Strengthening education systems means aligning their teacher policies, governance, management, financing, and incentive mechanisms with the goal of learning for all.
Second, the Bank Group will match new education financing with results. The strategy highlights examples of recent innovative projects in Bangladesh, Jamaica, and Vietnam, which have used results-based financing and other incentives to improve student and school performance, and can serve as models for other countries.
Third, the Bank Group will build a leading global knowledge base for education reform. The Bank Group will develop a proven knowledge inventory of what works and what doesn’t in education reform, using impact evaluations, learning assessments, and new system assessment and benchmarking tools that are being developed. By benchmarking education reform progress against international best practices, the Bank Group will help countries diagnose the strengths and weaknesses in their reform efforts and better target future investments.
By including MDG-focused indicators, the Bank Group’s new education strategy reaffirms its commitment to helping countries meet MDG 2 (universal primary education) and MDG 3 (gender parity in primary and secondary education). In September 2010, at the UN MDG Summit, World Bank President Robert Zoellick pledged that the World Bank would step up its support to help low-income countries achieve the education MDGs by committing an additional $750 million in IDA financing for education through 2015, an increase of more than 40 percent in IDA support for basic education compared to the previous five-year period. To ensure that these additional IDA resources yield high impact, the Bank will work closely with development partners, in particular with the Education for All Fast Track Initiative global partnership. The ESS2020 indicators will be used to measure the Bank’s success and the progress of partner countries over the coming decade. The indicators require the development of relevant knowledge, targeted technical and financial support, and strategic partnerships to help all countries achieve these two MDGs. The Bank realizes that business as usual will not suffice to meet the MDGs. As the world gets closer to universal primary completion, it will be tougher to reach the remaining out-of-school children and ensure quality learning for all. Innovative approaches to raising enrollment rates, primary completion, and learning outcomes that have had results in other countries need to be examined and scaled up. Additional funding from the Bank should prioritize innovative policies, approaches, interventions, and support in areas where evidence indicates that they will have the highest impact.
Yes. Universal access to a quality education is critical and the World Bank remains committed to achieving the EFA goals and the education MDGs. The new thrust of Learning for All implies that all children should both attend school and receive a quality education that provides them with the knowledge and skills to enable them and their families to lead healthy, productive lives. At the same time, the new strategy enables the Bank to differentiate and respond to the specific and varied needs, capacities, and demands of its partner countries. In low-income countries and fragile states, for example, the demographic pattern indicates a great need to continue expanding learning opportunities for children and youth under 15 years of age, while simultaneously improving the quality of those opportunities and expanding post-basic education services to accommodate the graduates who want to attain more education. In middle-income countries, where the demographic profile is generally older and basic education is already universal, the most pressing demands are frequently expanding access to secondary and tertiary education, improving the learning and skills outcomes of those levels of education, and reducing disparities in these outcomes. Middle-income country data indicate that demand for education at these levels is growing rapidly.
During the last 48 years, the World Bank Group has substantially contributed to educational development around the world. Since launching its first education project in 1962 to build secondary schools in Tunisia, the Bank has invested $69 billion globally in education via more than 1,500 projects. Using zero-interest financing from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, the Bank has helped recruit and/or train more than 3 million teachers, and build or refurbish more than 2 million classrooms, which helped more than 105 million children a year. Through IDA-supported projects in India, 20 million more school-age children are now attending school, and 98 percent now have a school within walking distance. Around 300 million textbooks have been purchased and/or distributed. The Bank‘s financial support for education has risen in the decade since the MDGs were established, surging to more than $5 billion in 2010.
In 2002, the Bank played a pivotal role in founding the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (EFA FTI), a global compact that aims to help low-income countries formulate credible education sector plans to accelerate their achievement of the education MDGs. It has provided financial support to 36 countries since 2004 to implement their plans. The Bank is a proud member of this strategic global partnership and supports the major reforms that EFA FTI has undertaken to strengthen its governance, effectiveness, and impact. ESS2020 reaffirms the Bank’s support for EFA FTI as part of its commitment to help low-income countries achieve Education for All goals and the education MDGs. The Bank also sees EFA FTI as a strategic mechanism to implement the Paris Declaration of 2005 and the Accra Plan of Action of 2008, helping it harmonize and align its programs with those of other development partners at the country level.
Learning for All is about reducing inequalities in access to quality education. Improving education quality is a pro-poor objective because quality is usually poorest in schools serving poorer or more marginalized communities. Leaving low-income youth, girls, people with disabilities, ethno-linguistic minorities, or other disadvantaged or marginalized groups at the fringes of the education system will impede a country’s ability to achieve educational progress and socioeconomic development. The 2009 PISA results suggest that countries that have seen the greatest advances in learning outcomes are those that have addressed the barriers to learning of low-performing students and have focused on the distribution of educational outcomes in the system. ESS2020 promotes a more inclusive, equitable approach to learning opportunities by going beyond the educational services delivered by the public sector and traditional formal programs to take advantage of a larger, more innovative menu of programs—such as those run by civil society organizations—that can be used to reach marginalized populations, often with greater results. The new strategy also encourages a multi-sectoral development approach, recognizing that the obstacles to education among marginalized populations go beyond those addressed by education programs to include, for example, bad roads and limited transport services, poor health and nutrition, and shortages in clean water and power supply.
Although most developing countries have achieved considerable progress in reducing the gender gap in school enrollment, significant gender gaps remain in particular regions and at particular levels of education. At the primary and secondary levels, 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, of low- and middle-income countries are off-track or seriously off-track from meeting MDG 3 by 2015. The Bank is committed to helping countries reduce the barriers to girls’ and women’s education. Depending on the context, priority actions may include building more schools and classrooms; hiring more female teachers; or providing families with a subsidy in the form of an unconditional or a conditional cash transfer to send their girls to school. ESS2020’s system approach reveals not only which interventions are likely to be most effective in lowering the barriers to girls’ education, but also whether an education system has the capacity to undertake those specific programs. For example, in places where a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program might otherwise be the most promising intervention, low government capacity to implement and monitor CCTs without excessive leakage may make a program too costly. Another example is that increasing the number of female teachers in remote areas may be difficult to implement unless the families of female teachers are offered sufficiently attractive incentives to migrate to the targeted areas.
Learning outcomes in a country are influenced by many factors well beyond the Bank Group’s control, from the broader economic environment to the government’s and other donors’ actions to household decisions. There is of course limited ability of the Bank Group or governments to spark large improvements in learning outcomes with any single reform or even package of reforms. That is why the new strategy focuses on 1) taking a broader system approach, rather than focusing just on specific inputs; and 2) building the knowledge base for reform. It is important to note, however, that taking a system approach does not imply trying to reform the whole education system at once. The system approach looks beyond inputs to identify and remove the other barriers to improving education outcomes—barriers such as poor governance, critical information gaps, and a lack of accountability for outcomes throughout the system. Detailed system analysis and investment in knowledge and data will allow the Bank Group and policymakers to “analyze globally and act locally”: to assess the quality of the different education policy domains, and then zero in on the areas where improvements can have the highest payoff in terms of schooling and learning outcomes. These investments in generating knowledge about what works—through learning and skills assessments, system assessment and benchmarking tools, and impact evaluations—are essential to making the system work and will help promote a culture of monitoring and learning from best practice.
Improving labor-market relevance is a key objective of ESS2020. Currently, many young people in developing countries are leaving school and entering the workforce without the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to thrive in a competitive global economy. By focusing on learning, the new Strategy will turn attention from just enrollment and completion to whether school-leavers have the necessary knowledge and skills, and the aim is to increase the share of projects that include labor-market-related objectives. The system approach adopted by the Strategy reinforces this focus by recognizing employers as key stakeholders under the broader definition of the education system, and by emphasizing accountability for outcomes. Under the new strategy, and in collaboration with development partners, efforts are underway to develop a framework and tools to measure the skills and competencies necessary to compete effectively in the labor market.
Given the much wider use of ICT in the workplace, a person’s facility for using technology is fast becoming a basic competency. The use of ICT in education offers a clear promise for accelerating learning, especially if countries draw on the global lessons highlighted in the ESS2020 background note on ICT and education. At present, because ICT initiatives in developing countries have been focused much more on supplying schools with computers and Internet connectivity than on integrating technology into curricula at all education levels, ICT has so far largely failed to realize its promise as a twenty-first–century pedagogical tool. Moreover, the potential uses of ICT in education are not limited to the classroom. ICT can also allow much better and more timely monitoring of the various dimensions of a national education system and is therefore a valuable tool for implementing a system approach to education reform. For example, ICT can lower the cost of implementing student learning assessments and can better link those assessment results to both teacher development and the allocation of education resources. ICT can also make it much easier to supply up-to-date information on teacher professional development programs to prospective trainees, as well as enable learning opportunities outside of formal school settings.
Learning is not only about schooling. The strategy emphasizes that an education system includes the full range of formal and non-formal learning opportunities available to children, youth and adults in a country—whether those opportunities are provided and/or financed by the state or non-governmental entities (e.g., private individuals, private enterprises, community organizations, faith-based organizations). Evidence clearly points to the benefits of investing in early childhood nutrition and development programs, as brain development happens before age 6. Evidence also shows that youth who drop out of school early are more vulnerable to unemployment, poverty, teen marriage, pregnancy, and delinquency, so it is critical to prevent school dropouts and provide second-chance learning opportunities that take into account the reasons why youth are not in school (e.g., income poverty, gender, other sources of disadvantage, and perceived low market returns to education). The challenges are to help children get an early start in life, consolidate basic knowledge and competencies learned in school, and equip young people with technical, vocational, and lifelong learning skills.
ESS2020 is country-driven. Because the consultation process drew on the experiences and insights of participants representing many countries, their concerns and demands strongly inform the priorities and strategic directions laid out in the strategy paper. The strategy proposes to equip World Bank team leaders with the core skills and resources necessary to meet country demands, using new tools and a clear vision of an education system approach. Dialogue, and especially technical exchange, will be enriched through this new approach. Moreover, the strategy is informed by the System Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results (SABER) Program, which is producing system assessment and diagnostic tools in conjunction with the Bank’s partner countries.
ESS2020 emphasizes a multi-sectoral approach in recognition of the fact that education outcomes are greatly influenced by factors beyond education policy and services. For example, a person’s cognitive development is affected by their brain development, nutritional and health status, and early childhood stimulation. During schooling years, a child’s ability to attend classes regularly and do well depends on whether that child suffers from hunger, malnutrition, and disease, so nutrition programs, health care services, and water and sanitation facilities are relevant to education. For poor and disadvantaged youth, cash transfer programs that compensate households for out-of-pocket expenditures associated with schooling can increase their attendance. For youth in remote rural areas, especially girls, the availability of transport facilities and roads can make the difference between being enrolled in school or not. For youth who are in the process of deciding to proceed to tertiary education, the availability of information about alternative training programs and the returns to education in the labor market can directly help their decision making. The affordability of computers and Internet connectivity are likely to affect the use of these technologies in pedagogy. Finally, the state of public sector management and the civil service system has a direct effect on the recruitment, compensation, and promotion of education personnel.
The World Bank believes that improving governance and accountability is essential to an effective education system, a process than includes empowering students and their families to hold the education system accountable for providing quality education. ESS2020 is based on the proposition that to strengthen an education system requires reforming the mechanisms that connect the various parts of the systems – e.g. governance, management, financing rules, and incentive mechanisms – so that functions, authority, and accountability within the system are clear and consistent. The effectiveness of these mechanisms in producing learning and skills outcomes must then be measured and monitored at all levels. Two powerful mechanisms for improving the accountability of providers in an education system are transparency of information and school-based management. Strengthening a system also involves establishing a clear feedback cycle between aid financing and results, as well as to ensure that resources are allocated effectively, efficiently, and transparently. These concepts build on the framework elaborated in the World Bank’s landmark World Development Report 2004 on service delivery.
The education sector strategy echoes and implements several of the World Bank priorities outlined in the Post-Crisis Directions paper:
The World Bank will continue to provide support to countries through its current regional groupings. However, ESS2020 proposes to explicitly recognize the significant commonalities across countries that have similar levels of economic development (as measured by GDP per capita) and a similar maturity of their education systems. This maturity will be measured by system assessment and benchmarking tools that the Bank is currently developing with education experts, governments, and donor partners. Analyses that use these alternative country groupings are expected to yield lessons that can inform the design and implementation of Bank technical and operational support to partner countries. Additionally, these commonalities can be used as a basis for more knowledge exchange between countries that are facing similar challenges, regardless of their geographical location. One repeated message from the strategy consultations is that education’s multiple participants and stakeholders, including CSOs, business enterprises, and academics in the Bank’s partner countries, are excellent sources of relevant knowledge and advice. The new strategy will thus promote more systematic, evidence-based, cross-regional, and cross-country exchanges.
To implement the system approach, the Bank will concentrate its support in three areas: knowledge generation, technical and financial support, and partnerships. To generate knowledge about education reforms and interventions, the Bank will provide:
Knowledge generation is an essential tool for increasing the effectiveness of all spending in a country’s education sector, not just Bank financing. In turn, the Bank will use this knowledge to guide technical and financial support for partner countries, including:
Finally, the Bank will continue to forge strategic partnerships in the development community at both the international and country levels to improve education systems in ways that promote learning.
Success of the strategy will be measured against 17 proposed indicators. These include performance indicators; outcome indicators; and impact indicators. Performance indicators are specific Bank actions that help countries strengthen their education systems. Examples include the percentage of education projects that use learning or skills assessments. Outcome indicators consist of specific Bank actions combined with country actions, knowledge-based advocacy, and strategic partnerships. Examples include the number of countries that have applied learning or skills assessments or have improved their education systems. Impact indicators are the Bank’s ultimate goals, which require multiple actors working together, in addition to sufficient knowledge, resources, political will, and leadership, among other factors. Examples include the percentage of students that have increased measured learning or skills or countries that have reduced learning disparities or have improved the skills level of their labor forces. Table 1 of the strategy lays out the full set of indicators. Progress against these indicators will be reported on a periodic basis in a transparent manner. With this tiered results chain, the Bank will hold itself accountable with respect to its direct interventions under the strategy, as well as share accountability with its country and global partners in educational development.
World Bank Education Strategy 2020 - FAQs