Skip to Main Navigation
Results BriefsMarch 8, 2024

Building Safer and More Resilient Schools in a Changing Climate

Key Achievements

  • Supported 35 countries across six regions in their efforts to build safer and more resilient schools
  • Over 121 million students in around 564,000 schools benefiting from safer and more resilient schools and enhanced disaster risk management and climate adaptation policies
  • More than $3.1 billion in World Bank-financed school infrastructure operations have been informed by disaster and climate risk reduction considerations in their design and implementation


Natural hazards, some fueled by a changing climate, have a devastating effect on children’s education and lives in every corner of the globe. Through its Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS), the World Bank works hand-in-hand with client countries to ensure the resilience of school infrastructure. Managed by the Bank’s global unit for disaster and climate risk management and primarily funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), GPSS uses a comprehensive approach to inform school infrastructure investments and government capacity building encompassing technical assistance, knowledge, and analytical support. A prime example of how knowledge, financing, and grants from the World Bank can combine to create impact at scale, over the last 10 years, GPSS has made schools safer for 121 million students across 35 countries.


Intensifying Natural Hazards, Devastating Effects on Education

Each year, natural hazards have devastating effects on children’s education around the world. They cause direct harm to children, teachers, and the school community, damaging or destroying school infrastructure. According to an analysis by Save the Children, between 2000 and 2019, at least 60 major disasters, spanning 30 countries, disrupted education for over 11 million children. Weather-related hazards, moreover, are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. In addition to their immediate direct impacts, such as the destruction of infrastructure, natural hazards also precipitate indirect negative effects on the learning environment in the medium term. Damaged school infrastructure exposes the educational community to physical and mental stress and interferes with school operations, teaching, and learning. In the wake of a disaster, the effort to bring children back to school and recover the full operation of the education sector is prolonged, often involving a lengthy emergency response and a protracted recovery and reconstruction process.


A Multi-Pronged Approach to School Infrastructure Resilience

The World Bank is a leading partner to countries in their efforts to ensure that schools are safer and more resilient to natural hazards and climate change. The World Bank’s marquee initiative on school infrastructure resilience is the Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS), a program managed by the Bank’s global unit for disaster and climate risk management with funding from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and co-implemented by the Bank’s Education Global Practice. GPSS’ support for infrastructure resilience has included: (i) providing technical advice for in-country activities and facilitating the design of risk-informed investments; (ii) integrating risk reduction considerations into World Bank education infrastructure operations; and (iii) developing a global repository of evidence-based knowledge on the safety and resilience of school infrastructure.


Between 2014 and 2023, GPSS has supported 35 countries through projects that have benefited over 121 million students in around 564,000 schools and informed the design and implementation of more than $3.1 billion in World Bank-financed school infrastructure operations. Examples from client countries illustrate the range and breadth of these interventions.

In Mozambique, the World Bank, through the Disaster Risk Management and Resilience Program, has been supporting the national government since 2019 in its efforts to ensure the resilience of school infrastructure. As of 2023, over 600 classrooms are being retrofitted in accordance with climate-resilient technical standards. By 2025, the World Bank anticipates that 3,000 classrooms across the country, including in the capital city of Maputo, will be retrofitted. The schools subject to retrofitting were identified based on a vulnerability assessment of 5,000 schools in cyclone-prone areas.

In Colombia, the World Bank, through GPSS, has been working with the municipality of Cali since 2018 to use the Bank’s Roadmap for Safer and Resilient Schools (RSRS) to survey each public school in the city. This exercise enables the World Bank and the municipal authorities to understand each school’s structural vulnerabilities, analyze the construction and regulatory environment, and study and prioritize various interventions, including retrofit options. The RSRS is a step-by-step guide for the design of intervention strategies and investment plans to make schools safer and more resilient at scale. In line with a municipal school infrastructure plan developed with World Bank support, Cali has prioritized safety improvements across the school system, including expanding public school facilities to comply with national standards at an estimated cost of $668 million.  

In Vanuatu, the World Bank, through GPSS, has supported the national government since 2017 in safeguarding school infrastructure from the impacts of intensifying disaster and climate risks. As part of this engagement, under the World Bank’s Vanuatu Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project (VIRIP), 40 schools have been reconstructed to higher structural safety standards as of 2023. As a result, nearly 5,000 school beneficiaries, including students and teachers, now have access to safer and more resilient learning environments. The government of Vanuatu’s prioritization of investments has been informed by a GPSS-supported assessment of the vulnerability of existing school infrastructure to natural hazards.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, the World Bank, through GPSS, has been engaged with the national government since 2019 on the development and implementation of a national school infrastructure investment plan, which will reduce the vulnerability of school facilities attended by 1.3 million students. As part of this engagement, under the World Bank’s Enhancing Resilience in Kyrgyzstan Project, it is anticipated that 40 school facilities will see improvements in their safety, resilience and functional conditions. The improvements will include civil works to retrofit vulnerable school buildings which will, among others, strengthen their seismic performance. In support of these efforts, 80 local engineers have already been trained in  advanced seismic risk techniques, as well as the design of resilient school buildings.

The World Bank has also supported the development of the Global Library of School Infrastructure (GLOSI). Designed to be used in tandem with the RSRS, GLOSI is the first-ever comprehensive global repository of evidence-based knowledge and data about school infrastructure and their performance against natural hazards. One of the key features of GLOSI is a catalog of typical school building types alongside the respective vulnerability data for each type. Equipped with this data, countries can now map their school facility portfolios with GLOSI to perform the quantitative risk assessments or vulnerability analyses, which are generally needed to identify cost-efficient retrofitting solutions for school infrastructure.


A Diverse Range of Partnerships

The World Bank has built a diverse range of partnerships on the frontlines of the safer and more resilient schools agenda. GPSS has been almost entirely funded by GFDRR and in particular, the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries. The GPSS team engages with the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES), a multi-stakeholder platform comprising United Nations agencies and leading development organizations, to strengthen coordination and knowledge sharing for mainstreaming disaster risk management in the education sector. The World Bank’s partners extend, however, far beyond traditional development organizations, and also include academia and the private sector. For example, GPSS partnered with University College London, the University of Los Andes in Colombia, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland to develop GLOSI. Esri, a major geographic information system (GIS) software firm, also contributed to GLOSI by providing state-of-the-art GIS technologies to collect and manage school infrastructure data. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the World Bank has partnered with the local construction industry and with non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross on the implementation of the Pacific Safer Schools Program, a regional initiative which is part of GPSS. In Tonga, for example, the Red Cross has played a vital role in raising awareness about the importance of good maintenance practices in school communities, thus helping ensure that the resilience-building improvements which were also supported by the program will be sustained over the long-term.

Data Highlights