World Bank and Islamic Development Bank Join Forces to Improve Quality and Relevance of Education

October 12, 2014

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WASHINGTON, October 12, 2014 – The World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank announced an agreement today to coordinate efforts on education as one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the foundation for sustained economic growth. The initiative is aimed at developing joint strategies for improving education and training systems in member countries of both organizations, with a primary focus on the Middle East and North Africa region.

The Arab world has made impressive gains in ensuring access to education, but we know from the high levels of youth unemployment that urgent work is needed on the quality of learning,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President. “Our goal is to draw on the complementary strengths of both organizations to develop strategies for the entire path from school to work, to make sure young people not only have the right skills for the labor market, but that they can become the engines of growth.

The Education for Competitiveness initiative was signed by World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim and his counterpart at the Islamic Development Bank Group, President Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani. The initiative will consolidate and build on collaborations already underway on research to boost the employability of Arab youth and in support of regional efforts to improve the quality of education. The Education for Competitiveness initiative will focus the full range of both organization’s resources and expertise on the entire educational spectrum from early childhood development through to higher education and jobs training. The initiative is motivated by the conviction that human development is essential for sustainable growth, and that it requires a sequenced combination of education, training, and labor market activities.

"The critical importance and far-reaching implications of addressing the education-employment nexus across the region cannot be overstated,” said Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani, President of the Islamic Development Bank Group. “Our two institutions fully understand the daunting job creation challenge facing our common member countries, which is why we have decided to join forces in our quest for innovative and effective solutions under the overarching theme of education for competitiveness".

Each organization has identified a dedicated team that will form part of a joint working group. The initiative will organize all activities around three main pillars. The first, Education for Lifelong Learning, will focus on the quality of learning in levels K through 12, with an emphasis on promoting critical thinking and problem solving. This pillar will include support for policy reform, better governance of institutions and teacher training. The second, Education for Employment, will build on ongoing work on the relevance of education to labor market demand, with support for skills development for young people and women, training to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, vocational education and job matching systems. The third pillar, Learning for a Competitive Economy, is aimed at building human capacity in areas where comparative advantages exist to strengthen the ability of national economies to adapt to changing global market conditions.  

We estimate that the school age population will surge to about 10 million over the next 15 years,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “This represents a tremendous opportunity for the region, but effective educational systems will be essential in allowing this vast human resource to reach its full potential.”

The Education for Competiveness initiative is also intended to attract other international organizations and donors with similar goals, to increase the impact of development projects focused on training and education by broadening coordination and pooling resources, and avoiding the duplication of efforts.

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Khaled Nazer