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 newly assembled 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. 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.
The WBG is the largest financier of education in the developing world. In fiscal year 2019, we provided about $3 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 $16 billion, highlighting the importance of education for the achievement of our twin goals, ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
World Bank Education and COVID-19
In addition to closing schools, countries are utilizing remote learning and other educational resources to mitigate loss of learning. This involves capitalizing on work already started, and addressing ever-present challenges like degrees of accessibility within communities to ensure equity in access.
The World Bank’s education team is working to support countries as they manage and cope with the crisis today and is 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 support to systemic education reform to ensure that when children do return to school, schools can provide the necessary environments to ensure children learn.
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2020