A report by World Bank has revealed a dire need for governments to invest more in quality education and revamp policies, if they are to find solutions for the 21st century challenges.
Titled ‘Learning to Realize Education’s Promise’, the World Development Report warns that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all.
“Schooling without learning was not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide,”the report read.
The report presented by World Bank Lead Economists, Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, found that even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math.
“This learning crisis is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them. Young students who are already disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills,” it argues.
Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, said that that “This learning crisis is a moral and economic crisis.”
“When delivered well, education promises young people employment, better earnings, good health, and a life without poverty. For communities, education spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion. But these benefits depend on learning, and schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity. More than that, it’s a great injustice: the children whom societies fail the most are the ones who are most in need of a good education to succeed in life,”he observed.
The report recommends concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve this dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilizing a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion ‘learning for all.’
According to the report, when third grade students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were asked recently to read a sentence such as “The name of the dog is Puppy” in English or Kiswahili, three-quarters did not understand what it said. In rural India, nearly three-quarters of students in grade 3 could not solve a two-digit subtraction such as “46 – 17”—and by grade 5, half still could not do so.
Although the skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds have improved, at their current rate of improvement they will not reach the rich-country average score in math for 75 years. In reading, it will take 263 years.
These statistics do not account for 260 million children who, for reasons of conflict, discrimination, disability, and other obstacles, are not enrolled in primary or secondary school.
While not all developing countries suffer from such extreme learning gaps, many fall far short of levels they aspire to.
Leading international assessments on literacy and numeracy show that the average student in poor countries performs worse than 95 percent of the students in high-income countries, meaning such a student would be singled out for remedial attention in a class in those countries.
Many high-performing students in middle-income countries—young men and women who achieve in the top quarter of their groups—would rank in the bottom quarter in a wealthier country.
The report identifies causes of these learning shortfalls not only the ways in which teaching and learning breaks down in too many schools, but also the deeper political forces that cause these problems to persist.
This report notes that when countries and their leaders make “learning for all” a national priority, education standards can improve dramatically.
Between 2009 and 2015, Peru achieved some of the fastest growth in overall learning outcomes due to concerted policy action.
In several countries (such as Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga) early grade reading improved substantially within a very short time, due to focused efforts based on evidence.
World Bank Chief Economist, Paul Romer said that “The only way to make progress is to ‘find truth from facts.’ If we let them, the facts about education reveal a painful truth. For too many children, schooling does not mean learning,”
Researchers recommend a change in policies, where learning is assessed so that it can become a measurable goal, making schools work for all children and mobilizing everyone who has a stake in learning.