World Bank Group: New Open Data Tool Helps Countries Compare Progress on Education

January 21, 2014

Achieving better learning outcomes requires smarter policies, says Bank

LONDON, January 21, 2014 – The World Bank Group today launched a new open data tool that provides in-depth, comparative, and easily accessible data on education policies around the world. The Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) web tool helps countries collect and analyze information on their education policies, benchmark themselves against other countries, and prioritize areas for reform, with the goal of ensuring that all children and youth go to school and learn.

Education is one of the most important drivers for ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. But guaranteeing a basic education means little unless schooling leads to learning for all children and youth,” said Elizabeth King, World Bank Group Acting Vice President for Human Development and Director of Education, at the Education World Forum. “Achieving better learning outcomes depends not only on having enough classrooms, teachers, and textbooks, but also on having the right policy environment to make sure they contribute to learning.”

Despite significant progress in recent decades in getting children into school, learning levels remain alarmingly poor. In low-income countries, many young people complete basic education without acquiring fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. Even in middle-income countries, many students do not learn the basic skills expected by employers and needed to secure a job. Today, an estimated 250 million children around the world are unable to read and write, even after spending three or more years in school.

To date, the Bank Group, through SABER, has analyzed more than 100 countries to guide more effective reforms and investments in education at all levels, from pre-primary to tertiary education and workforce development.

Through SABER, the Bank Group aims to improve education quality by supplying policymakers, civil society, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students with more, and more meaningful, data about key education policy areas, including early childhood development, student assessment, teachers, school autonomy and accountability, and workforce development, among others.

SABER helps countries improve their education systems in three ways:

  1. Providing new data on policies and institutions. SABER collects comparable country data on education policies and institutions that are publicly available at:, allowing governments, researchers, and other stakeholders to measure and monitor progress.
  2. Benchmarking education policies and institutions. Each policy area is rated on a four-point scale, from “Latent” to “Emerging” to “Established” and “Advanced.” These ratings highlight a country’s areas of strength and weakness while promoting cross-country learning.
  3. Highlighting key policy choices. SABER data collection and analysis produce an objective snapshot of how well a country’s education system is performing in relation to global good practice. This helps highlight the most important policy choices to spur learning.

SABER findings are already contributing to education reforms in a number of developing countries. For example, in Nigeria, where 11 million children remain out-of-school, SABER was used to identify and tackle some policy bottlenecks, including the lack of standard information on student learning, and a mismatch between teacher skills and student needs.

SABER analysis on Bulgaria’s workforce development was used to modernize the vocational education and training system in the country. As a result, Bulgaria is in the process of adopting new vocational education guidelines and amending its Labor Code.

Going forward, the Bank Group plans to utilize the data to help countries link policy implementation to enhanced student performance, and ensure that education programs have their intended outcomes.

Several partners have provided generous support for SABER, including the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), UK Department for International Development (DFID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), and Russia Education Aid for Development (READ).

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