World Bank Management Response
Management welcomes this IEG review of World Bank support to primary education. The objectives of the review are to (a) assess World Bank assistance to countries working to improve their basic knowledge and skills base by providing primary education, and (b) provide lessons for countries in their development strategies and for the Bank in its support to those strategies. Early findings of the IEG review have been incorporated into the 2005 Education Sector Strategy Update.
The evaluation covers the last 42 years, 1963–2005, a period during which lending for primary education amounted to about $14 billion. Nearly 90 percent of Bank lending for primary education has occurred since the beginning of the Education for All (EFA) movement, which started in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990; and about two-thirds of this lending has been in the form of IDA credits. A growing share, currently about one-third, of primary education lending has been through components of projects managed by sectors other than the Education Sector.
Management concurs with the report’s conclusion that “to the extent that public investments in primary education are effective in conveying learning outcomes, support for primary education is central to the World Bank’s mandate of poverty reduction.” Management suggests, however, that the report could have paid greater attention to the extent to which Bank assistance has evolved over time toward a more focused emphasis on results. Over the 40 years of the review period, the World Bank, other donor partners, and the client countries themselves have collectively moved along the continuum from supporting investments in educational infrastructure and educational inputs to increasing education system outputs, improving instructional quality, and raising learning outcomes. While management acknowledges the many challenges that hinder the achievement of higher learning outcomes, it believes that the case studies examined in the IEG review demonstrate that it is addressing the right issues and has made measurable progress in focusing attention on instructional quality and learning outcomes.
Main Findings and Recommendations
The IEG evaluation makes three key recommendations: (a) primary education efforts need to focus on improving learning outcomes, particularly among poor and other disadvantaged children; (b) efforts are urgently needed to improve the performance of sector management in supporting learning outcomes; and (c) the Bank needs to work with its development partners to reorient the Fast-Track Initiative (FTI) to support improved learning outcomes, in parallel with the Millennium Development Goals’ emphasis on primary completion. Management agrees with these recommendations. At the same time, to emphasize the evolution of Bank assistance, management would like to highlight several issues for further consideration.
Attention to Learning Quality
Management agrees that Bank assistance and analytic work need to give more consistent attention to learning quality and to the measurement of learning outcomes. On the other hand, management suggests that the report would be strengthened by more clearly acknowledging how the Education Sector has been moving consistently and systematically in this direction, while remaining cognizant of country ownership of the programs. The report states that “only one in five projects aims to improve learning outcomes.” This bold statement does not adequately capture the changing emphasis in the sector. For example, in Latin America in 1990 there were three countries with functioning student assessment systems; by 1999, largely because of World Bank support, 18 countries had functioning assessment systems, and several were carrying out analysis of the results for feedback into instructional quality. Of 24 education projects approved in fiscal year 2006, 17 provided support to improve capacity to measure student learning. In addition, because of the Bank’s efforts (through the Development Grant Facility) for the International Association of Education Progress (IEA) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, IEA’s two assessments— TIMSS (the largest international comparative assessment of student outcomes in mathematics and science) and PIRLS (the internationally recognized leader in studies of reading literacy achievement)—are supporting the participation of low-income countries in their comparative international assessment programs.
Differing Views on Rapid Assessments
The report may overstate the case for low-cost, rapid assessments. There is clearly a need for such assessments as part of a broad toolkit of instruments available to education planners, but it should be clear that the inferences that can be made about an individual’s basic knowledge and skill from such an assessment are quite limited. The important point to be kept in mind is that projects aimed at improving student learning outcomes need to invest appropriately in measurement, analysis of results, and use of this analysis to improve quality.
Quality Enhancing Elements in Operations
Finally, the Education Sector has also been increasing its support for quality-enhancing inputs. Of 24 projects approved in fiscal year 2006, 21 included provision for teacher training: the Djibouti School Access and Improvement Project, for instance, will “support (i) training of teachers and (ii) in-service teacher training (upgrading of skill improvements including modules on how to identify and address the problems of children with learning difficulties and/or with special needs).” Eleven of the 24 fiscal year 2006 education projects include elements of school development grants; 12 provide support for research studies on current education issues, and all include management improvement training. Since fiscal 2004 the Africa Region has used the analyses in Country Status Reports—showing the weak relation between learning outcomes and spending—to motivate a whole new work program on improving education management in African countries (known by its French acronym, AGEPA, or Amélioration de la Gestion de l’Education dans les Pays Africains).
Major IEG Recommendation: Primary education efforts need to focus on improving learning
outcomes, particularly among the poor and other disadvantaged
Management Response: Management agrees with IEG’s recommendation to ensure
that the Bank’s primary education assistance, whether led by
the Education Sector or not, focuses to an even greater degree
on factors directly related to improving learning outcomes.
Management will build on ongoing efforts to strengthen or establish
learning assessments at the earliest grades and support
the use of these tools to set outcome targets, monitor
results across different demographic groups, and use the assessment
results and other impact evaluations to identify the
most cost-effective strategies and interventions to raise learning
outcomes. Management will also encourage countries to
increase their monitoring of schooling quality standards and unit
costs of primary education and to target educational resources
so as to reduce disparities in schooling quality standards, instructional
quality, and learning outcomes across different
groups of students. In addition, management will ensure that
education projects not managed by the Education Sector will
attend to instructional quality and learning outcomes. The
2005 Education Sector Strategy Update (ESSU) incorporated earlier
results from this IEG evaluation, which are reflected in the
results framework (ESSU Annexes 8 and 9) and specify how Bank
assistance will help countries shift to a substantially greater
focus on results and learning outcomes. In addition, management
will introduce in fiscal year 2007 a Quality Review Framework
for education programs to benchmark and report annually
on the degree to which lending and analytic activities measure
learning outcomes and focus on improving the quality of
teaching and learning.
Major IEG Recommendation: Efforts are urgently needed to improve the performance of
sector management in support of learning outcomes.
Management Response: Management concurs with the need to raise the quality of incountry
Education Sector management and capacity, including
at decentralized service levels, which Bank research has shown
to be critical to improving instructional quality and learning outcomes.
Management will build on and further propagate the
successful experiences of countries benefiting from Bank assistance
that are implementing actions to (a) improve the capacity
of the institutions responsible for recruitment and
preservice and in-service training of teachers and school principals;
(b) provide career development and other incentives for
improving teacher performance and introduce better recruitment
and career development policies; (c) empower schools to efficiently manage their own resources and pursue agreed targets
for learning outcomes; (d) use indicators and evaluation tools
to diagnose problems in instructional quality and student learning
outcomes; and (e) design interventions to overcome these
problems. Management will also monitor and report on whether
new results-based Country Assistance Strategies include learning
outcome indicators. In addition, management has initiated
several activities to implement the 2004 World Development
Report, Making Services Work for Poor People, including activities
to strengthen governance and accountability and analytic
work on school-based management. As detailed in the
ESSU (Annex 10), management will develop guidelines, toolkits,
instruments, and software for capacity building and will carry
out targeted training programs to disseminate and help countries
use this guidance to strengthen their capacity to systematically
measure learning outcomes against baselines and
targets, evaluate the impact of their programs and interventions,
and focus their resources more effectively on improving
instructional quality and educational results. The World
Bank Institute education core course was revamped in fiscal
2006 to focus more directly on results and improved service
delivery. In fiscal 2007, management will publish and disseminate
at least three impact evaluations, a set of guidelines
for establishing a system for measuring, reporting on, and utilizing
measures of learning outcomes to improve educational
quality, and two toolkits for rapid reading assessments and
Major IEG Recommendation: The Bank needs to work with its development partners to reorient
the FTI to support improved learning outcomes, in parallel
with the MDG emphasis on primary completion.
Management Response: Management will continue to work with the FTI development
partners to help all FTI-endorsed countries strengthen the attention
they give to instructional quality in their programs, administer
assessment instruments to measure learning outcomes,
and use results from student learning assessments to improve
instructional quality in all grades. Management agrees with IEG
that the major challenge in rapid scale-up is maintaining and
improving quality. Management will work with the FTI development
partners to revise the FTI assessment guidelines and
Indicative Framework to promote the use of additional indicators
of fundamental schooling quality standards, such as intended
and actual instructional time, presence and use of
textbooks or supplementary reading materials, teacher qualification
and attendance, minimum physical quality standards, student promotion and dropout rates, and learning outcomes.
In fiscal 2007, this will include working with the 20 currently
endorsed FTI countries to help them implement a rapid reading
assessment, and track implemented (versus intended) hours
of instruction. In subsequent years, FTI-endorsed countries
would be expected to report trends in learning outcomes
against their baseline measures and report hours of instruction
as part of the annual joint donor review process.
Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) is an independent unit within the World
Bank; it reports directly to the Bank's Board of Executive
Directors. The goals of IEG 's evaluations are to draw lessons
from Bank experience, and to provide an objective basis for
assessing the results of the Bank's work.