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Speeches & Transcripts February 22, 2020

Addressing Learning Poverty

  • Enhancing opportunities can lead to more durable, inclusive growth. This requires closing the gaps in access to opportunities that emerge at birth and accumulate through life: pre-natal care, nutrition, healthcare, quality education, and safety in childhood, to finance, jobs and technology as adults.
  • Foundational skills (basic literacy and numeracy) are necessary stepping stones to facilitate access to opportunities in education and in the labor market, and even more so with the rapid changes induced by technology and globalization that require workers to be adaptable to new skills.
  • More children are in school than ever before, but even if in school, many children are not acquiring fundamental skills.
  • 53 percent of the children in developing countries cannot read and understand a basic story by age 10. In poor countries, the figure is 80 percent.
  • To galvanize action, the World Bank announced a new global learning target: to cut at least in half, by 2030, the share of 10-year-olds (in low-income and middle-income countries) who cannot read and understand a basic story: we called this indicator “Learning Poverty.”
  • To achieve our Learning Poverty goals, the Bank is advocating a two-pronged approach:
    • A Literacy Policy Package constituting interventions aimed at ensuring children acquire reading proficiency in primary school.
    • Strengthening the education system – through a five-pillar Education Approach – to build on and sustain gains in literacy. This includes: preparing learners for school; effective and valued teachers; classrooms as effective learning spaces; safe and inclusive schools; and well managed education systems.
  • The Bank is organizing its support to countries through a new collaborative Foundational Learning Compact focused on measurement; policy; and knowledge and implementation capacity building. Some examples of current World Bank operations focused on reducing learning poverty:
    • In the Gambia Results for Education Achievement and Development (READ) project, children are taught first in one of seven native languages, and teachers trained and provided with structured lessons. An evaluation found that children under the home language program read with a higher fluency in English in grades 1–3 compared to the children in other programs. Learning to read in a language they understand provides them with a better foundation to then learn English. The heavy emphasis on learning to read in a mother tongue language is aligned with the government’s own strategy as well as best practices in reading acquisition.
    • Cambodia has implemented a “Track and Trace” system to show textbook locations in real time. This technology allows government officials, school-level stakeholders such as support committees, parent associations, local partners, and distributors to track the ordering and distribution of books and other supplies to ensure that they reach classrooms in a timely manner and in the right condition for children to learn.