The World Bank’s global education strategy is focused on ensuring learning happens – for everyone, everywhere. Our vision is to ensure that everyone can achieve her or his full potential with access to a quality education and lifelong learning. We envision a world in which all countries prepare all their children and youth to succeed as citizens and have the tools to participate in their country’s development.
By 2030, our target is to halve Learning Poverty – the share of 10-year-old children around the world who cannot read and understand a simple text. We are working toward the target by helping countries build foundational skills like literacy, numeracy, and socioemotional skills – the building blocks for all other learning. Throughout all education levels – from early childhood to tertiary education and beyond – we help children and youth acquire the skills they need to thrive in school, the labor market and throughout their lives.
We work directly with governments, providing technical assistance, loans, and grants. We help countries share and apply innovative solutions to education challenges, focusing on systemic reform throughout the education cycle.
World Bank support to countries covers the entire learning cycle to support resilient, equitable, and inclusive education systems that ensure learning happens for everyone. We do this by generating and disseminating evidence, ensuring alignment with policymaking processes, and bridging the gap between research and practice.
The World Bank is the largest source of external financing for education in developing countries, with a portfolio of about $24 billion in 95 countries, including IBRD, IDA and Recipient-Executed Trust Funds. IDA operations comprise about 60% of the education portfolio. In the last three fiscal years (FY 20-22), our lending for education has doubled compared to the preceding 10 years.
Our portfolio encompasses the whole learning cycle. The investment in early childhood education has increased dramatically and now accounts for 11% of our portfolio. About 25% of our portfolio is in FCV settings.
World Bank projects reach at least 432 million students and 18 million teachers – one-third of students and nearly a quarter of teachers in low- and middle-income countries.
We are also the largest implementing agency of the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) grants for low-income countries, managing 55% of GPE’s portfolio at the country level ($1.9 billion).
Strategic Approach to Education
Our vision for the future is that learning should happen with joy, purpose, and rigor for everyone, everywhere. This vision should guide today’s investments and policy reforms so that countries can lay the foundations for effective, equitable, and resilient education systems.
To guide our policy advisory and operational support to countries, we focus on policy actions that are needed to accelerate learning and that characterize the way many successful systems operate. These are presented within five interrelated pillars of a well-functioning education system that underpin the World Bank’s education policy approach: learners, teachers, learning resources, schools, and system management.
- Learners are prepared and motivated to learn;
- Teachers at all levels are effective and valued;
- Classrooms are equipped for learning;
- Schools are safe and inclusive spaces; and
- Education systems are well managed.
- We pursue systemic reform supported by political commitment to learning for all children. Education services from preschool to primary, secondary education, and beyond to university and other tertiary education, need to be aligned and consistent. Thus, we take an integrated approach to the education system to ensure learning throughout the life cycle.
- We focus on equity and inclusion through a progressive path toward achieving universal access to quality education. Realizing true universal access requires equality of opportunity. We must meet the educational needs of children and young adults in fragile or conflict affected areas, those in marginalized and rural communities, girls and women, displaced populations, students with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups. Our approach is inclusive and focused. We understand the needs of governments and work with them to ensure that education works for everyone.
- We focus on results and use evidence to keep improving policy by using metrics to guide improvements. Metrics are critical to identifying regions and schools that are achieving results, recognizing good practices, and learning what works. We invest in developing global public goods such as the Global Education Policy Dashboard (GEPD) to measure the key drivers of learning outcomes in basic education in a cost-effective manner (building on SABER, SDI, and TEACH) and work with countries to improve their data systems.
- We want to ensure financial commitment commensurate with what is needed to provide basic services to all. As in the case of all other public resources, money allocated to education must be adequate and spent efficiently. We want to strengthen financing tied to results. Funds need to be appropriately directed and spent smartly across regions and schools, using data and evidence of how processes are being followed and the impact of interventions to guide improvements. Nearly 40% of our operations use some results-based financing schemes.
- We invest wisely in technology so that education systems embrace and learn to harness technology to support their learning objectives. The use of EdTech should be guided by five principles: a clear purpose and focus on educational objectives; reaching all learners; empowering teachers; engaging an ecosystem of partners; and rigorously and routinely using data to learn what strategies, policies, and programs are effective to maximize student learning.
Tackling the Global Learning Crisis and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Even before COVID-19, the world was facing a learning and skills crisis. COVID-19 deepened this crisis. School closures have led to huge learning losses, and without urgent policy action, today’s students could lose 10% of their future average annual earnings. Beyond reduced incomes, learning losses will lead to lower productivity, greater inequality, and increased risks of social unrest for decades to come. These trends can be reversed if countries act quickly, decisively, and with adequate resources, guided by evidence on what works.
The World Bank responded to the pandemic immediately, ramping up its support to countries through a variety of different channels and on different priority interventions.
Our operational and policy support is not just responding to the crisis, but is building forward better so that systems use this window of opportunity to shape more resilient systems that are better prepared to cope with future shocks, as well as more equitable systems that ensure opportunities for all. Our operations are helping countries re-enroll and retain students in school, measure learning losses, and implement evidence-based pedagogical approaches for accelerating learning, including targeted instruction and self-guided learning.
Laying the groundwork for the future, now
The predicted increase in Learning Poverty is a simulation, not a forecast. Learning losses can be minimized if urgent action is taken now.
Country challenges vary, but there is a menu of options to build forward better, more resilient, and equitable education systems.
Countries are facing an education crisis that requires a two-pronged approach: first, confronting the emergency and supporting actions to recover lost time through remedial and accelerated learning; and, second, building on these investments for a more equitable, resilient, and effective system.
Recovering from the learning crisis must be a political priority, backed with adequate financing and the resolve to implement needed reforms. Domestic financing for education over the last two years has not kept pace with the need to recover and accelerate learning. Across low- and lower-middle-income countries, the average share of education in government budgets fell during the pandemic, and in 2022 it remained below 2019 levels.
The best chance for a better future is to invest in education and make sure each dollar is put toward improving learning. In a time of fiscal pressure, protecting spending that yields long-run gains – like spending on education – will maximize impact.
Evidence-based policy responses at scale are crucial to recover and accelerate learning. The RAPID framework for learning recovery can provide this approach. Its five elements are focused on ensuring that all children and youth are in school and building the foundational skills that they will need for success in school and beyond:
- Reach every child and keep them in school
- Assess learning levels regularly
- Prioritize teaching the fundamentals
- Increase the efficiency of instruction including through catch-up learning
- Develop psychosocial health and well-being
Without prompt action, there is a serious risk that the learning losses suffered during the pandemic could become permanent. But countries that adopt these five elements – tailored to their own contexts – can quickly make up the losses.
Education technology can be a powerful tool to implement these actions by supporting teachers, children, principals, and parents; expanding accessible digital learning platforms, including radio/TV/Online learning resources (which is here to stay); and using data to identify and help at-risk children, personalize learning, and improve service delivery.
We must seize this opportunity to reimagine education in bold ways. The World Bank is committed to supporting countries during these challenging times. Together, we can build forward better more equitable, effective, and resilient education systems for the world’s children and youth. We not only owe it to them – in their minds rest our future.
At the global level, the World Bank promotes cross-regional and cross-sectoral knowledge; fosters in-depth technical knowledge and teams of experts through Global Solutions Groups and Thematic Groups; and incubates ideas, programs, and partnerships – including with multilateral, bilateral, foundations and with civil society organizations (CSOs) – in strategic areas of knowledge, advisory, and operational support.
Supporting countries in establishing time-bound learning targets and a focused education investment plan, outlining actions and investments geared to achieve these goals.
Launched in 2020, the Accelerator Program works with a set of ‘Accelerator’ countries to channel investments in education and to learn from each other. The program coordinates efforts across partners to ensure that the countries in the program show improvements in foundational skills at scale over the next three to five years. These investment plans build on the collective work of multiple partners, and leverage the latest evidence on what works, and how best to plan for implementation.
Universalizing Foundational Literacy:
Readying children for the future by supporting acquisition of foundational skills – the most fundamental of which is literacy – which are the gateway to other skills and subjects.
The Literacy Policy Package (LPP) includes near-term interventions of the education approach that successful countries have followed to help all children in classrooms become literate today. These include assuring political and technical commitment to making all children literate; ensuring effective literacy instruction by supporting teachers; providing quality, age-appropriate books; teaching children first in the language they speak and understand best; and fostering children’s oral language abilities and love of books and reading.
Strengthening Measurement Systems:
Enabling countries to gather and evaluate information on learning and its drivers more efficiently and effectively.
The World Bank supports initiatives to help countries effectively build and strengthen their measurement systems to facilitate evidence-based decision-making. Examples of this work include:
(1) The Global Education Policy Dashboard (GEPD): developed by the World Bank’s Education Global Practice, can help countries reduce Learning Poverty. This tool offers a strong basis for identifying priorities for investment and policy reforms that are suited to each country context by focusing on the three dimensions of practices, policies, and politics. GEPD:
- Highlights gaps between what the evidence suggests is effective in promoting learning and what is happening in practice in each system;
- Allows governments to track progress as they act to close the gaps.
The GEPD has been implemented in seven education systems – Ethiopia, Jordan, Madagascar, Niger, Peru, Sierra Leone and Rwanda – and preparation is ongoing in eight more countries with expected completion by the end of 2024.
(2) Learning Assessment Platform (LeAP): a one-stop shop for knowledge, capacity-building tools, support for policy dialogue, and technical staff expertise to aid those working toward better assessment for better learning. LeAP is currently supported by the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) Trust Fund program.
Building & Synthesizing Evidence:
Filling gaps on what works to improve learning and drawing out lessons to inform policy and implementation.
Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP): The GEEAP, co-convened by the World Bank, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, brings together a diverse group of leading researchers and practitioners to provide guidance for policymakers. It is chaired by Professor Kwame Akyeampong of The Open University and Dr. Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham.
- The first GEEAP report focused on cost-effective policies to improve education access and foundational learning;
- The second report offers guidance on how to reverse the devastating learning losses caused by the pandemic.
Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF): In the past five years, the SIEF, a multi-donor trust fund focused on building evidence in the human development sectors, has supported 45 randomized control trials (with total funding of nearly US$20 million) that test out different approaches for improving education outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. To ensure the findings make a difference, SIEF has also invested in disseminating this evidence and building capacity of government staff, local researchers, and local journalists to help them critically appraise education evidence.
Supporting Successful Teachers:
Helping systems develop the right selection, incentives, and support to the professional development of teachers.
The Global Platform for Successful Teachers has two main instruments: global public goods that support the implementation of the key principles, and operations that accompany governments in implementing successful teacher policies. Currently, the World Bank Education Global Practice has over 100 active projects supporting over 18 million teachers worldwide, about a third of the teacher population in low- and middle-income countries. In 12 countries alone, these projects cover 16 million teachers, including all primary school teachers in Ethiopia and Turkey, and over 80% in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Two examples of Global Public Goods created as part of the Platform are:
- Teach: A World Bank-developed classroom observation tool designed to capture the quality of teaching in low- and middle-income countries, which is available in 12 languages. Since Teach launched in 2019, it has been applied in 36 countries, reaching almost 200,000 students.
- Coach: The World Bank’s program focused on accelerating student learning by improving in-service teacher professional development (TPD) around the world. While Teach helps identify teachers’ professional development needs, Coach leverages these insights to support teachers to improve their teaching.
Supporting Education Finance Systems:
Strengthening country financing systems to mobilize more resources and improve the equity and efficiency of sector spending.
The Global Education Finance Platform (GEFP) aims to support the strengthening of country financing systems to mobilize more resources and improve the equity and efficiency of education spending, by bringing together various partners to work on the development of sustainable financing strategies, better public financial management and stronger data and monitoring systems for education financing.
Our Work in Fragile, Conflict, and Violent (FCV) Contexts:
The massive and growing global challenge of having so many children living in conflict and violent situations requires a response at the same scale and scope. Our education engagement in the Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) context, which stands at US$5.35 billion, has grown rapidly in recent years, reflecting the ever-increasing importance of the FCV agenda in education. Indeed, these projects now account for more than 25% of the World Bank education portfolio of US$23.6 billion.
As our support continues to grow to face the more numerous and longer-lasting crises (including those induced by climate emergencies), investments will be guided by our recent White Paper. The paper states that education is especially crucial to minimizing the effects of fragility and displacement on the welfare of youth and children in the short-term and preventing the emergence of violent conflict in the long-term. It outlines our proposed way forward for keeping children safe and learning in these most difficult contexts, following the pillars of the WBG Strategy for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence.
Last Updated: Apr 11, 2023