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Education Year in Review 2011


Brochure (pdf) | Historical Lending | 2011 Publications 
For a hard copy of the brochure and accompanying CD-Rom containing full text access to all World Bank publications and reports produced this past year please contact the Education Advisory Service at

World Bank Education: Year at a Glance

The year 2011 marked the 20th Anniversary of the Jomtien Education for All initiative, and with it, a chance to ensure the global commitment to getting all children learning. As one of the largest external providers of education knowledge and financing in the developing world, the World Bank Group is a key global partner with countries to strengthen their education systems and achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for education—universal primary completion and gender parity.

The Bank complements its global operations and financing with evidence-based analysis on education policy and implementation, and a substantial portfolio of impact evaluations to understand what works and what doesn’t. Such work helps ensure lending and operations are grounded in the latest evidence and knowledge. This year, the Bank produced more than 150 education knowledge products, including publications, impact evaluations, research papers, policy notes, and briefs. Much of this new work focused on issues related to skills development and to governance and accountability. New publications and reports were complemented by knowledge sharing activities, such as seminars, webcasts of events, blogs, and websites.

Since 2000, the Bank has invested over $25 billion in education, including more than $13 billion from the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. In this past decade, IDA financing helped recruit or train 3 million additional teachers and build more than 2 million new classrooms—benefiting more than 100 million children every year. A decade of investments has reduced but not eliminated the number of children who are out of school or do not learn even basic skills. At the 2010 UN Summit on the MDGs, the Bank pledged to increase its IDA resources for basic education by $750 million through 2015 to assist countries that are off track to reach the education MDGs, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Projections show that increased support for basic education in IDA countries will reach around $1 billion a year in the coming year. Such an increase will help ensure the poorest countries reach the education MDGs. Today, the Bank manages an education portfolio in 82 countries and new commitments in 2011 total $1.8 billion. On average, over 60% of World Bank education lending supports basic education, from early childhood learning opportunities to lower secondary school. The worldwide progress in basic education is creating pressure on secondary schools and tertiary education institutions and the Bank has seen greater demand for technical and financial support at these education levels. Information on World Bank education knowledge products, along with education lending data and updates on the new education pledge for increased support to basic education, are available at

IDA at 50 - In the past decade, IDA financing for the world’s poorest helped recruit or train 3 million additional teachers and build more than 2 million new classrooms—benefiting more than 100 million children every year. 

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Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All

In April 2011, the World Bank Group launched its Education Strategy for 2020, Learning for All: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development. The strategy adopts learning for all as a key goal and lays out a roadmap for achieving it: invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all.

The global consultations that informed the strategy helped coalesce the global community around the view that investments in education should promote learning for all. What matters most in education is whether young people are acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to have healthy, satisfying lives; be good citizens; and be productive contributors to their countries’ economic and social development. Progress will ultimately be determined by what young people learn, both inside and outside the classroom – from preschool to skills training. But many education systems are falling short in ensuring that their students learn.

To help turn this situation around, the Bank‘s priorities are to: strengthen the education knowledge base, improve the effectiveness of education investments, increase support for achieving the education MDGs, use partnerships more effectively and strategically, and support capacity development.

Implementation of the strategy has begun. In partnership with donors, the Bank is developing and mainstreaming knowledge tools to inform the policy and program choices of governments. One new knowledge program is the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER).* This program provides countries (and subnational governments when applicable) with detailed, internationally comparable, learning-focused analysis of the quality of their education policies. Areas in which SABER is already well developed include Student Learning Assessment, Teacher Policies, and Education Management Information Systems (EMIS), among others.

How does SABER help countries achieve learning for all? The SABER-Teachers framework and analytical tool recognizes that effective teachers are the most important contributor to student learning. But how can a school system attract the best graduates into the teaching profession? How can the system ensure that teachers are trained adequately and motivated to teach well? It is a myriad of issues —from recruitment, to preparation, evaluation, support and compensations— that affect the quality of teaching. SABER-Teachers has already analyzed these issues in more than 50 countries and states, providing detailed knowledge that can guide policy reform and operations. In Cambodia, for example, the government is already using the SABER-Teachers framework to design a comprehensive teacher policy reform program. The SABER initiative will be most effective if it engages a broad spectrum of actors and stakeholders in education, both inside and outside the Bank. In 2011, a number of policy makers, researchers, donor representatives and Bank staff working in the East Asia region met to discuss the SABER program, especially as it supports the goal of learning for all. The conference was co-sponsored by the UNESCO regional office in Bangkok. Similar learning and consultation events are planned for the future. Additionally, SABER has been discussed with and presented to staff from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In partnership with donors, the Bank is developing and mainstreaming knowledge tools to inform the policy and program choices of governments. One new knowledge program is the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER).* This program provides countries with detailed, internationally comparable, learning-focused analysis of the quality of their education policies. 

*Formerly System Assessment and Benchmarking for Education Results.

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Invest Early: Build the Foundation for Learning

Investments in early childhood development (ECD) are a cost-effective way to prepare young children for success in school and life. According to a study by The Lancet (launched at the World Bank in September, 2011), increasing pre-school enrollment to 50% in low and middle income countries could generate economic benefits of almost US$34 billion through better educational attainment.

To meet a growing demand from governments for guidance on investing in ECD, the Bank produced several publications this year. Investing in Young Children synthesizes international evidence to help policymakers design and implement ECD interventions aligned with national priorities. No Small Matter highlights the importance of early investments in children to protect them from shocks and poverty and discusses high-quality interventions such as parenting education, health and nutrition services, and preschool. Rigorous evaluations of ECD interventions in Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Nicaragua are helping the Bank generate additional evidence.

In recent years, about 40% of Sub-Saharan African countries have adopted national ECD policies, yet more than 85% of children in the region do not have access to ECD services. Using the Bank’s new SABER-ECD analytical tool, countries are assessing and benchmarking their ECD policies and programs, notably in Africa, with additional support from the Netherlands.

A few examples of this year’s support for ECD: the Bank is supporting the Early Childhood Development Virtual University, which is building a network of mid-level ECD professionals in Africa to influence policy and practice. Through the World Bank’s Rapid Response Multi-Donor Trust Fund, Malawi and Mali each received a $2 million grant to pilot ECD projects, while other countries, such as Liberia, are including ECD in their Bank-supported operations. The World Bank’s Early Childhood Initiative in Latin America disbursed its first $100 million this year to support health, nutrition, and early learning opportunities for over half a million children, in partnership with the ALAS Foundation established by the Colombian pop star Shakira. In Mexico, the Compensatory Education Project will ensure that almost a quarter million young children under the age of 5 attend preschool and their parents receive parenting-skills training. In partnership with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the Bank is supporting the development of early childhood through projects in the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova and Mongolia.

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Invest Smartly: Achieve Learning for All

Millions of children in the developing world, especially from disadvantaged populations, leave school without developing the ability to read or do simple arithmetic. In some developing countries, studies show that up to a half of primary school graduates cannot read a simple sentence. International student assessments reveal wide gaps between students from poor and non-poor households and between developing and developed countries. Growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people acquire, not the number of years they attend school. Getting value for education requires smart investments that contribute to learning in an effective and efficient manner. To fulfill the promise of education, learning needs to be the focus of education investments.

Through knowledge generation, policy dialogue, analytical work, partnership and financing, the Bank helps countries make smart education investments. Making Schools Work reviews global evidence on the impact of school accountability reforms, such as better information for parents, school-based management, and teacher incentives linked to school results. An impact evaluation in Andhra Pradesh, India, found that providing teachers with cash bonuses linked to student performance was more effective in improving student test scores than adding other inputs. In Liberia, an evaluation revealed that a combined intervention of an early grade reading assessment with an intensive teacher-training on reading instruction dramatically improved student’s reading skills. In the Arab world, with technical support from the Bank, education leaders have committed to the Doha Declaration on Education Quality.

Improved student learning hinges on improving student assessment. In partnership with the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) program, the Bank is helping eight low-income countries design and implement systems to better assess student learning. Countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are using SABER-Student Assessment to help make smart education investments based on global technical standards and international good practice. SABER-Student Assessment is helping countries take stock of their assessment policies, institutions, and activities to better understand the steps to building more robust student assessment systems.

In 2011, more than 40% of new Bank education operations included a focus on student assessment. In Lebanon, a new project is helping build national capacity to use student assessment data and finance participation in international student assessments. In Pakistan, the Bank is supporting the expansion of educational opportunity through public-private partnerships that provide subsidies, linked to higher learning standards, to low-cost private schools that cater to underserved children.


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Invest Smartly: Create Skills for Life

An individual’s knowledge and skills contributes to her ability to have a healthy and educated family, engage in civic life, and determine her productivity and ability to adapt to new technologies and opportunities. Yet, recent studies reveal costly knowledge gaps in the area of skills development. Since the release of the Skills toward Employment and Productivity (STEP) Framework, the Bank’s education sector has embarked on several initiatives to help countries improve their policies and programs for developing skills for work and life. Recently published regional reports related to skills include: Skills, Not Just Diplomas: The Path for Education Reforms in Europe and Central Asia; More and Better Jobs in South Asia;  Skills for the 21st Century in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Putting Higher Education to Work: Skills and Research for Growth in East Asia. These reports highlight common themes: skills shortages are a critical constraint to firm hiring, productivity, and growth; the prevalence of graduates without market-relevant skills; the important role of higher education in delivering the skills and research needed to boost a country’s productivity; and the need to focus on education quality and systematic measurement of learning outcomes.

In the same vein, the Education for Employment (e4e) initiative—launched by the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Islamic Development Bank—is using information on labor market needs to focus education on skills that increase the employability of Arab youth. Skills development requires collaboration across sectors, as outlined in The Right Skills for the Job? Rethinking Effective Training Policies for Workers. A new study, the STEP Skills Measurement Study, will shed light on how labor force skills affect labor market outcomes and firm productivity by collecting internationally comparable data on the supply of, and demand for cognitive and non-cognitive (social and behavioral) skills in the adult population.

SABER-Workforce Development examines the policy and institutional factors that influence how well countries plan and match the skills demanded by employers to the skills provided by the education and training system. By focusing on three dimensions—strategy, oversight, and service delivery—this work, supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, takes a comprehensive and strategic approach to evaluating gaps in policies and institutions for workforce development. Chile, Korea, Ireland, Singapore, and Uganda are currently piloting the SABER-Workforce Development analytical tool.

Almost 85% of new World Bank education projects in 2011 included activities related to education’s significant role in labor markets and employment, with skills development as a central objective of many. Projects supporting tertiary education were approved for Cambodia, Pakistan, Senegal, and Vietnam, with a focus on expanding the supply of employable labor; reducing skills gaps; and increasing relevance, quality, and efficiency. In Rwanda, a project is supporting a Skills Development Facility that will provide “rapid skills delivery” to help raise the quality and volume of training in areas with skills shortages. Ghana is, meanwhile, implementing a project that will develop and implement a new national skills strategy.

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Invest for All: Ensure Equity

Investing for all means ensuring that all children and youth, not just the more advantaged ones, have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills needed to overcome poverty and lead more fulfilling lives. This requires lowering barriers that often keep girls, the extreme poor, children with disabilities, and indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities out of school and prevent them from enjoying the same quality of education and levels of learning achievement as others.

Progress in educational access over the past decade has been positive, but uneven. Although primary and secondary school enrollment rates have improved, in many of the poorest countries there are still many more girls out of school than boys. Even where the gender gap is closing—such as in Angola—research reveals that poor rural girls continue to lag behind in schooling.

Access to schooling is not the only area in which inequities appear. Inequities also exist in education quality and learning. For those from disadvantaged populations, learning outcomes remain low in many countries and are especially low for the poor. The results of national, regional, and international assessments of student achievement reveal large learning gaps among students based on their socio-economic background.

Getting to Equal: Promoting Gender Equality through Human Development is the World Bank Human Development Network’s companion note to the World Development Report 2012 on gender equality. The note reinforces the message that educating girls is one of the strongest ways to improve overall gender equality, promote economic growth, and support the healthy development of families, communities, and nations.

The Bank is deeply committed to ensuring equity in education and to supporting investments in girls and other vulnerable or disadvantaged populations through numerous projects and programs aimed at lowering constraints to schooling. In 2011, more than 60% of new education operations included interventions to increase equity in education. In Yemen, the Basic Education Development Program has provided conditional cash transfers to more than 30,000 girls from the most underprivileged rural households and trained over 90,000 teachers, many of them women. In Mozambique, a new operation co-financed by the Global Partnership for Education is helping improve education quality and equity, especially for girls and vulnerable groups. And in Pakistan, the Punjab Education Sector program has granted 400,000 girls from the lowest literacy districts targeted stipends to raise their school attendance, while the Sindh Education Sector project has helped increase the number of primary school pupils by 600,000 and raise the female-male enrollment ratio from 61% to 76%.

The Bank is also helping countries reduce constraints and increase opportunities for those who face multiple disadvantages across all levels of education. The Bank-supported Early Childhood Development and Education Project in Indonesia provides grants to improve early childhood services particularly for poor children aged 0 to 6 and their families. In Colombia, with World Bank support, well-targeted student loans and proactive academic support strategies at the university level have more than tripled enrollment rates for indigenous and low-income students. These student loans also succeeded in lowering drop-out rates from 52% to 36%. An ongoing Bank project in Vietnam provides scholarships for students from ethnic minority groups that are under-represented in higher education. Addressing the needs of populations that face multiple disadvantages requires diagnosing and acting to change those disadvantages. Indigenous Peoples, Poverty, and Development offers a “global snapshot” of a set of education indicators for indigenous peoples vis-à-vis national demographic averages. Assessing Sector Performance and Inequality in Education is a comprehensive guide to help analyze global and national education inequality through the Bank’s free ADePT education data analysis software available through EdStats - part of the Bank’s open data initiative.

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By The Numbers 

60% of new education operations include a focus on interventions to help countries increase equity in education150+ education-related publications,research papers, briefs, and knowledgeproducts produced this year3.6 million children have been dewormedby school health programsin Kenya
100% of new education operations this year include a focus on education policy, planning, and administration6+ million girls are now enrolled in secondaryeducation in Bangladesh, up from1.1 million in 199184% of new education operations this year includecomponents to help link education to the labor market and employment opportunities

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How We Work  

Knowledge The World Bank serves as both a convener and knowledge bank for education data, research, and good practices. Sharing this knowledge through regional events, policy dialogue, technical advice, analytic work, training, and publications is central to its work to build global capacity for education reform. Join the global conversation on our blog:

Financing The World Bank provides financial support to countries in the form of loans, credits, and grants, and works closely with governments to help develop policies that expand global access to schooling and improve the quality of learning. International Finance Corporation financing helps build capacity for private sector growth in education.

Partnership The World Bank works in close collaboration with partner countries and a host of development agencies, including multilateral, bilateral, and civil society organizations, to advance global efforts to achieve learning for all.


Education Year in Review: 2012 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 

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