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Overview

  • Education is a human right, a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability. It delivers large, consistent returns in terms of income and is the most important factor to ensure equality of opportunities. For individuals, education promotes employment, earnings, health, and poverty reduction. Globally, there is a 9% increase in hourly earnings for one extra year of schooling. For societies, it drives long-term economic growth, spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion. Indeed, making smart and effective investments in people’s education is critical for developing the human capital that will end extreme poverty.

    Developing countries have made tremendous progress in getting children into the classroom and more children worldwide are now in school. But learning is not guaranteed, as the 2018 World Development Report (WDR) stressed.

    According to the most recent data, 53% of all children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a short story by the time they are finishing primary school. This high rate of “learning poverty” – the share of children who by age 10 are not able to read a short, age-appropriate story with comprehension – is an early warning that all the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal 4 targets are in jeopardy. Even if countries reduce their learning poverty at the fastest rates we have seen in recent decades, the “every child reading” goal will not be attained by 2030.

    Eliminating learning poverty is as urgent a development objective as eliminating hunger, stunting, and extreme poverty—and meeting that objective requires all players to take much more forceful action. Without urgent action, post-COVID, the learning poverty rate could increase to a record 63%. The World Bank is sharpening its support to basic education to galvanize efforts to eliminate learning poverty, to ensure that all children become proficient and confident readers by end of primary school.

    Our Commitment

    The WBG is the largest financier of education in the developing world. In fiscal year 2020, we provided about $5.2 billion for education programs, technical assistance, and other projects designed to improve learning and provide everyone with the opportunity to get the education they need to succeed. Our current portfolio of education projects totals $20.6 billion, highlighting the importance of education for the achievement of our twin goals, ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We work on education programs in more than 80 countries and are committed to helping countries reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 by 2030.

    World Bank Education and COVID-19

    With the spread of the coronavirus, the education system is facing a new crisis, as more than 160 countries at the end of March 2020 mandated some form of school closures impacting at least 1.5 billion children and youth. Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, education systems around the world continue to grapple with the complex decisions of when and how to reopen. As of September, schools in over 100 countries remained closed, or have closed after reopening, but over 70 countries have returned students and teachers to classrooms. 

    COVID-related school closures are forcing countries even further off-track to achieving their learning goals.  As seen from previous health emergencies, the impact on education is likely to be most devastating in countries with already low learning outcomes, high dropout rates, and low resilience to shocks. Education systems face a triple funding shock, with COVID-19 expected to put significant strains on household and donor funding that will only add to its effects on government funding. We estimate that students currently in school stand to lose $10 trillion in labor earnings over their work life. 

    To help address the challenge, the World Bank is working on 80 COVID-related projects – from early childhood education to higher education – in 54 countries that amount to US$2.6 billion.  This includes project restructuring, additional financing, and new projects.  Our teams have provided just-in-time policy advisory support in 65 countries and are leveraging partnerships to develop knowledge products and global public goods to support country efforts.

    Along with UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Food Program, in June 2020 we produced guidance that offered practical advice for national and local authorities on how to keep children safe when they return to school. The Framework for Reopening Schools was designed as a flexible tool for policy makers and planners, highlighting all the factors that will make this experience a successful one for students, teachers, principals, parents and the wider community. In September we added a Supplement to the framework with emerging lessons from country experiences in managing the process of reopening schools.

    While COVID-19 poses huge challenges, it is also an opportunity to be a catalyst for transforming education delivery in the future. The vision is not just that learning occurs for all children, but also encompasses the concept that learning should be able to occur anywhere, anytime, and not be confined primarily to the physical perimeters of the school. This is not only what is needed to make education systems more resilient to shocks like COVID-19, but it is also what the ‘schools of the future’ should aspire to achieve.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2021

  • The World Bank Group’s global education strategy is focused on “learning for all” and ensuring that all children can attend school and learn. We are committed to helping countries reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which calls for access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. The World Bank helped draft and is a signatory to the Education 2030 Framework for Action, which guides countries through the implementation of the SDG for education.

    To make this vision a reality, we work with countries to improve their education systems and identify the best ways to deliver learning for children, young adults, and those who need skills later in adulthood and for whom the future of work poses new challenges.

    In an effort to help realize the promise of learning for all at all levels of education, World Bank’s strategic approach to education focuses on five pillars:

    (1) Learners that are prepared and motivated to learn;

    (2) Teachers that are effective and valued;

    (3) Classrooms that are effective learning spaces;

    (4) Schools that are safe and inclusive; and

    (5) Education systems that are well managed.

    Our Principles

    We take an integrated approach to the education system to ensure learning throughout the life cycle. Education services from preschool to primary, secondary education, and beyond to university and other tertiary education, need to be aligned and consistent.

    We work to ensure progressive 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 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. By 2018, almost 40 percent of our operations were through results-based financing schemes.

    We use 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 SABER and EdStats and work with countries on their data systems.

    Tackling the Global Learning Crisis and the COVID-19 Pandemic

    The high rate of learning poverty means that millions of children fail to acquire foundational skills such as basic literacy by the end of primary school. While it may take decades to build up a high-quality education system, teaching children to read requires much less—perhaps a few years of focused effort with a moderately skilled teacher and some appropriate teaching aids.

    Therefore, the World Bank is sharpening its focus on helping countries rapidly improve reading proficiency levels by launching a medium-term target for learning that will guide our work in low- and middle-income countries. The new Learning Target – to cut learning poverty by at least half by 2030 – together with a literacy promoting policy package and improved measurement of learning, will help accelerate progress in getting all children to read by age 10.

    Since March 2020, the World Bank's Education Global Practice has rapidly ramped up its support helping countries deal with the coronavirus emergency. The World Bank’s education team is working to support countries as they manage and cope with the crisis and has been advising on remote learning at scale in the immediate to short term as well as supporting operations to facilitate learning after the pandemic is over.  The Bank is also providing ongoing support to systemic education reform to ensure that when children return to school, schools provide the necessary environments for all children to learn.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2021

  • In Ethiopia, the second phase of the General Education Quality Improvement Project (GEQIP II) helped procure about 120 million copies of teaching and learning materials; about 270,000 primary and secondary teachers have completed pre-service or in-service training; and almost all 35,000 schools across the country have been externally inspected and classified into four levels of performance. The project contributed to the improvement of student learning outcomes, raising basic proficiency in all subjects between 2011 and 2015 at Grades 4 and 8. 

    In Lao PDR, in 2011-12, only 6 percent of 3-5 year-olds from the poorest quintile were on track in literacy and numeracy. The IDA-funded Early Childhood Education (ECE) Project (2014-2020), covering 32,000 3-5 year olds in 22 target districts in Lao PDR, is changing this. As a result of the project, nearly 70 percent of children have benefitted from access to ECE programs in target villages, and nearly 82 percent teachers have benefited from training and feedback based upon classroom observations. Evaluations suggest significant gains in student enrollment, nutritional outcomes and learning levels due to project interventions.

    The Higher Education Quality Improvement Project in Peru supported the government’s National Education Project 2021, which adopted a strategy to increase the quality and relevance of tertiary education by creating a higher education quality assurance system (HEQAS) providing an assurance framework across basic and higher education levels. The project provided support to 135 higher education institutions, of which 20 were from among the country’s 50 universities and 115 were from among the country’s 370 public institutes.

    In 2013, just 5% of the poorest households in Uzbekistan had children enrolled in preschools. Thanks to the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project, by July 2019, around 100,000 children will have benefitted from the half-day program in 2,420 rural kindergartens, comprising around 49% of all preschool educational institutions, or over 90% of rural kindergartens in the country.

    The Punjab Skills Development Project in Pakistan supports the ambitious agenda of training the youth in Punjab. The aim is to address high youth unemployment in the province, which stems from their limited skills and insufficient industry and market experience in key economic sectors. Increased access in market relevant trades offered by public and private sector training providers, resulted in enrollment of 52,000 students. Some 80 public and private institutes offered courses in priority sectors and trained 16,000 graduates.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2021

  • The World Bank Group collaborates closely with United Nations agencies and development partners and will strongly support countries as they work towards the SDGs.

    In 2002, the WBG was instrumental in creating the multi-donor Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an important partner in basic education. Efforts to better coordinate education financing from GPE and the International Development Association (IDA), the WBG’s fund for the poorest countries, are underway.

    Former WBG President Jim Kim was one of the high-level commissioners collaborating closely with the Education Commission, which was convened  to chart a pathway for increased investment in order to develop the potential of young people.

    With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID), the World Bank has launched in 2019 the Global Education Policy Dashboard, which will measure the drivers of learning outcomes in basic education around the world. The tool will highlight gaps between current practice and what the evidence suggests would be most effective in promoting learning, and it will give governments a way to set priorities and track progress as they work to close those gaps. This collaboration will advance the goals of the Human Capital Project, a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.

    Faced with the global learning crisis, the World Bank and UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) joined in a new partnership to help countries strengthen their learning assessment systems, better monitor what students are learning in internationally-comparable ways and improve the breadth and quality of global data on education..

    Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and vulnerable in many countries, and they are the most likely to be excluded from education. The Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI) is a multi-donor trust fund overseen by the World Bank. Launched in 2019 with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the U.K. government’s FCDO, it invests in catalytic technical expertise and knowledge resources that support countries in making education progressively inclusive for children across the spectrum of disabilities.

    The WBG partners with bilateral donors, including Norway, the United States, and Germany for the Results in Education for All Children (REACH program), which is supporting efforts to build evidence on results-based financing in education.

    We have also partnered with FCDO and Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) on the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF).Other trust fund partners include Australia, the European Commission, Korea, Japan, and Russia.

    The WBG is also working with many other partners including the Arab World Initiative, the Building Evidence in Education (BE²) Group, the Early Childhood Consultative Group, the Global Book Alliance, the Global Reading Network, the Malala Fund, and Teach for All.

    Last Updated: Sep 28, 2021

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Students wearing protective face masks attend a class at one of the public schools on the first day of the new school year, amid fears of rising number of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Amman, Jordan.
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In Depth

Education GP July 2021 Newsletter

A summary of activities during the first half of 2021 in support of developing countries’ response to the impact of COVID-19 on Education.

Human Capital Project

The Human Capital Project is a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.

Impact Evaluations

Research that measures the impact of education policies to improve education in low and middle income countries.

Results-Based Financing

A program that supports education services by focusing more sharply on results.

Mapping Our Education Work

Explore where the World Bank supports countries on both the financing and knowledge fronts.