To improve learning involves reforms and interventions in various parts of an education system. Key is the need to systematically measure learning and use learning results to improve classroom practices and hold educators accountable.
Major challenges in access to a meaningful education remain for the most disadvantaged populations, and there is a need to increase financing to close these gaps and to improve the quality of service provision through better policies and stronger institutions.
Countries have made important gains on the education MDG targets. Gender parity in primary and secondary enrollment reached nearly 97 percent in 2010 and primary school completion rates reached over 90 percent in 2011. Yet more than 57 million primary school-age children are still out of school. Estimates show that about three quarters of them live in countries afflicted by violence; regionally, more than half of them live in Africa and more than a fifth live in South Asia. Additionally, to varying degrees, educational progress has lagged because of indigenous, low-income, gender, or disability status in nearly all countries.
The World Bank is one of the largest external education financiers for developing countries, managing a portfolio of US$9 billion, with operations in 71 countries as of January 2013. The World Bank helps countries achieve their education goals through finance and knowledge services in the form of analytic work, policy advice, and technical assistance. This support includes working with countries to help identify the role and contribution of education to their overall development strategies. It also means understanding countries’ priorities, needs, and constraints, and jointly designing programs in response, while collaborating with other donors. As part of its long-standing support to countries for education, the Bank unveiled its “Learning for All” education strategy, and introduced the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER), an important initiative that helps countries assess their education system performance and map ways to improve.
Education Strategy. In 2011, the World Bank launched the Education Sector Strategy 2020, entitled “Learning for All: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development.” The strategy recognizes that learning drives development and encourages countries to invest early (because foundational skills acquired early benefit lifelong learning), smartly (in efforts proven to improve learning), and for all (focusing on all students and ensuring equity). To achieve learning for all, the Bank is promoting country-level reforms of education systems, and building a global knowledge base to guide reform.
Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER). SABER helps countries move toward learning for all through tools that assess education system performance and help guide reform. It fills a critical gap in worldwide policy data and knowledge on what matters most in improving education quality. The World Bank is working with partners to develop and deploy SABER diagnostic tools based on data it is collecting regarding countries’ education policies. Countries can use these data to objectively assess performance, compare their education policies against evidence-based global standards and policies of comparator countries, and identify policy and institutional changes needed to improve learning. SABER covers several policy domains including early child development, finance, education management information systems, school autonomy and accountability, student assessment, teachers, tertiary education, and workforce development, to name a few.
Support for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The World Bank is one with the development community in supporting the achievement of the MDGs. Our focus on learning outcomes builds upon the progress made during the past decade on the education MDGs in terms of enrolling children in school and improving completion rates. As the 2015 MDG deadline approaches, the international community should redouble its efforts to meet the MDGs, while simultaneously focusing on a results-based approach to education and considering how to pursue this goal of learning for all in a post-2015 world. In September 2012, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim reaffirmed the World Bank's 2010 MDG Summit pledge to commit an additional $750 million in financing for basic education over five years (2011-2015) from the International Development Association (IDA) to help the poorest countries accelerate progress toward the 2015 MDGs for education. The total amount of new IDA commitments for basic education in FY12, $1.5 billion, exceeds past levels, and brings us more than halfway toward fulfilling our pledge. Based on current projections for FY13, we expect to make continued progress toward the pledge.