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publication March 15, 2018

Growing Smarter: Learning & Equitable Development in East Asia Pacific

Learning and Growth in East Asia and Pacific

  • One-quarter of the world’s school-age children live in East Asia and Pacific. More children in the region are going to school and staying in school longer.
  • During the past 50 years, some economies in the region have successfully transformed themselves by investing in the continuous upgrading of knowledge, skills, and abilities of their workforce.
  • The region has seven of the top ten performing education systems in the world, with schools in China and Vietnam showing significant progress.
  • However, up to 60 percent of students in East Asia and Pacific are in poorly performing school systems. Most have learning outcomes in key subjects, such as reading and math, that are either below proficiency or unknown.
  • The impressive record of success in education in some developing country systems – like  those found in Vietnam and China – shows that quality schooling in resource-constrained contexts is possible.
  • The policy lessons from countries that have improved education quality while expanding access are relevant and valuable to low- and middle-income countries in the region and beyond.


Policies that Promote Learning

  • No single “formula” exists for how to achieve success. Instead, the success of some education systems in East Asia and Pacific shows that students learn most when policy efforts focus on five policy domains:

       1. Align institutions to ensure basic conditions for learning

           - Ensure that the basic conditions for learning are in place in all schools

        2. Concentrate effective, equity-minded public spending on basic education

            - Spend effectively

            - Concentrate public spending on basic education

            - Channel resources to schools and districts that are falling behind

        3. Ensure children are ready to learn in school

            - Focus on children’s physical and cognitive development from birth

            - Assess and improve the quality of early childhood education and development services

            - Coordinate across actors to deliver needed services

        4. Select and support teachers throughout their careers to allow them to focus on the classroom

             - Raise the selectiveness of who becomes a teacher

             - Support new teachers by observing classroom practices and providing feedback

             - Make teachers’ jobs easier with clear learning goals and uncluttered texts

             - Keep experienced teachers in the classroom and leading as peer and researchers

             - Center teacher training on classroom practice and the ability to teach the curriculum

         5. Assess students to diagnose issues and inform instruction

           - Benchmark learning through participation in international large-scale assessments

           - Diagnose cohort progress using national assessments

           - Inform instruction with data from formative classroom assessment

  • Increased student learning does not immediately follow from the simple presence of any or all of these elements—in fact, it is their quality and the degree to which they are aligned that is critical for success in East Asia Pacific and anywhere else in the world.
  • “Growing Smarter” complements the World Bank’s flagship World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise.