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Can overhauling ‘teaching’ reform schools in Kenya?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Kenyan schools are not doing well. About a 120 of them were set alight in arson attacks last year alone which were largely blamed on fears arising from a government crackdown on cheating in national exams. Amid national schooling reforms, many pupils and parents continue to be unhappy about the changes. Where do the teachers figure within this period of heavy reform?

Both the best and worst performers in East Africa are in Kenya
Although school enrolment has gone up steadily, over a million children are still out of school. In terms of learning outcomes, Kenya performs relatively better than its neighbours, but results from internationally recognised competency test, Uwezo, shows that learning levels are poor, and have stagnated over time. For instance, in the 2014 Uwezo assessment, 39% of children aged 7-13 years passed a test that required them to demonstrate competence of Standard 2 level numeracy and literacy. This was not significantly different from the performance in previous years: 40% in 2011, 37% in 2012 and 41% in 2013. Looking at student learning levels, both the best and worst performing districts in East Africa are in Kenya. The extremities in quality within Kenyan education are huge. For instance, according to the same Uwezo data, “a child in the Central region is over seven times more likely to have attained a Standard 2 level of literacy and numeracy than a child in the North Eastern region”.

Fixing the education system in Kenya is an onerous task. The Government of Kenya has time and time again, reiterated its commitment to improving the state of education, and has outlined its vision in the National Education Sector Plan 2013- 2018. Alongside, a host of national and international development agencies in Kenya have over the years, financed numerous programmes, targeting various components of the education sector. These efforts have yielded a wealth of evidence. One should consider such evidence, while attempting to answer the question – how can we improve the quality of schooling in Kenya?

A masterclass on cash transfers and how to use High Level Panels to influence Policy

Duncan Green's picture

One of the things I do in my day-a-week role at LSE is bring in guest lecturers from different aid and development organizations to add a whiff of real life to the student diet of theory and academia. One of the best is Owen Barder, who recently delivered a mesmerizing talk on cash transfers and the theory of change used by his organization, the Center for Global Development, which is one of the most effective think tanks around (although I don’t always share its politics….). Here’s the summary (and here are his powerpoint slides, if you want to nick them).

Owen chaired a recent high level panel on humanitarian cash transfers and presented its work in his talk. The traditional aid response is ‘people are hungry due to drought, flood, conflict etc → there isn’t enough food → we need to ship in loads of food’. Both arrows are wrong: Amartya Sen showed that the problem in famine is not lack of food, but lack of purchasing power among the affected populations – in nearly all of Ethiopia’s famines, the country has produced enough food to feed its people. The second arrow is wrong because giving people cash is usually a much more effective response than shipping food over from the US or wherever: the food often arrives too late, just when local farmers are recovering, and a flood of free food promptly destroys local markets. The evidence is now substantial:

  • Cash transfers are 25-30% cheaper than in kind aid (so more food per dollar)
  • When people are given in kind aid, they typically sell 30-50% of it to get the cash they need, at roughly 30% of the actual cost of the aid – a massive level of waste
  • When you ask refugees, they invariably say cash is better than stuff (eg 80% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon)

Plus it’s good politics – cash stimulates the local economy, so local people are less resentful of the influx of refugees, and is more respectful – refugees don’t all want the same thing; cash respects their right to make decisions about their lives.

Quote of the week:Janan Ganesh

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Perception and humour are the same thing. A joke is only funny if it gets at a truth. Prose that makes us laugh contain an observation that had always half-occurred to us but which we could never put into so many words.”

- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor.

Quoted in the Financial Times, March 25, 2017, "The unbearable sadness of bookshelves. " by Janan Ganesh

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

A Year After Panama Papers, Is Enough Being Done to Stop Illicit Finance?
Transparency International
One year ago today a group of more than 300 journalists in 79 countries sent a powerful message to the corrupt: you can no longer hide. The publication of the Panama Papers on 3 April 2016 was a shot heard around the world against corruption. Suddenly one of the most closely held secrets of the biggest criminals was revealed – where and how they hide their money. The Panama Papers showed how a Panamanian law firm helped set up 214,000 secret shell companies, many of them used by corrupt politicians, criminals and tax abusers around the world. The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, was just one of hundreds of law firms around the world that provide services that can be used to enable corruption, illicit financial flows, drug-dealing, terrorism, tax evasion and the surge in economic inequality. The Panama Papers showed how secretly owned companies are an important vehicle for corruption that allows secret movements of money and other activity away from the eyes of law enforcement, tax collectors, regulators and others.

Human Development Report 2016
UNDP
The report finds that although average human development improved significantly across all regions from 1990 to 2015, one in three people worldwide continue to live in low levels of human development, as measured by the Human Development Index. This is a concern in developed countries too, where poverty and exclusion are also a challenge, with over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – living in relative poverty. The report shows that in almost every country, several groups face disadvantages that often overlap and reinforce each other, increasing vulnerability, widening the progress gap across generations, and making it harder to catch up as the world moves on.

Ubuntu: How social networks help explain theories of change

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the second post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

There is a Nguni-Bantu phrase, “I am because we are” which arises from the Ubuntu philosophy of community. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee translated it in her TED Talk as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” At its most basic understanding, Ubuntu means “human kindness toward others,” but its meaning is much greater, expressing ideas of connection and community. It is a concept known to cultures around the world. The Maori of New Zealand say “We all in the same boat”, and the North American Sioux tribe believes that, “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Globally, cultures around the world know and use the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. 

Modern philosophers have taken these axioms and developed social science research to explore them. Social capital refers to the interpersonal interactions we all participate in to create economic and cultural resources. When social capital is functioning well, social relations are marked by reciprocity, trust and cooperation and individuals can produce goods and services not just for themselves, but for the common good.  Relatedly, social cohesion describes the degree to which a society works toward the wellbeing of all its members, supports inclusive practices, and allows individuals to work for upward mobility.

These theories are essential to international development because, as Michael Woolcock points out, “Development changes who people interact with, and the terms with which people interact.”  Whether you think of these ideas as Ubuntu or social capital, they encompass the way in which people deal with power structures, like the state, and with other people who are not like them. 
 
Michael Woolcock

 

Media (R)evolutions: Is the Internet increasing labor market polarization in Europe and Central Asia?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

According to the World Bank report “Reaping Digital Dividends: Leveraging the Internet for Development in Europe and Central Asia” Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region has experienced, on average, a larger decline in routine employment than other parts of the world, coupled with an increase in high-and low-skill occupations. With anxiety about the job replacement effects of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the rise, let’s look into some of the highlights of the report focusing on possible short term disruptions and long term opportunities brought by ICT.  

Is the Internet responsible for the increasing market polarization? According to this report, it is not. The authors argue that in addition to technologies associated with the Internet that may have helped this process, there are other aspects, such as structural changes in economies, technological and trade, as well as labor market liberalization that help explain such rapid labor market polarization. In addition, the report points out that the depth of Internet adaptation by individuals and firms tends to be lower in ECA than many other regions.

At the same time, the report found that countries that implemented reforms in the telecommunications sector, with an objective to improve competition, increase provision, and lower prices, created the enabling environment for the increase in Internet adaptation. The graph below demonstrates, that the introduction of the telecommunications reform is strongly correlated with the decrease in the routine labor employment share.

The Smuggling Game: Playing with life and death to reach Europe

Lin Taylor's picture
Millions of people fleeing conflict and poverty are gambling their futures and life savings with people smugglers – strangers who play with their lives in dangerous cat-and-mouse chases with border authorities known as “The Game”.

But who wins and who loses as rising numbers risk everything to reach safety?

 
Getting to Europe: the game

No Turning Back
Aras Mahmoud, his wife, mother and children in their bedroom in a refugee centre in Krnjaca, Belgrade. In the dead of night, as wild animals howled nearby, Syrian migrant Aras Mahmoud clung to his children as they slept on damp grass in the Bulgarian mountains en route to Serbia, praying that his family would live another day.

"In those mountains, you are not sure if something will eat you or attack you," said Mahmoud, 38, in Arabic through an interpreter at a migrant centre in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

"My two children got very scared. They used to tell me, 'No father, we don't want to go with smugglers, we don't want to go to the forest.' We suffered in the mountains."

Scared and helpless, in those dark moments Mahmoud said he wrestled with his decision four years ago to gamble everything - his money and the lives of his wife and children - to pay nameless strangers to smuggle them to safety, becoming another pawn in the global people trade widely known as "The Game".

"If you go, you succeed. If you don't go, you lose. That's why they call it a game," said 20-year-old Afghan migrant Ahmad Shakib who made it to Serbia from Bulgaria after three 'games'.

20th Century policies may not be enough for 21st Century digital disruption

Duncan Green's picture

It’s often a good sign when you rock up at a conference and hardly know anyone there. That was my experience at a recent, rather grandiosely-named, ‘Digital Development Summit’, hosted by IDS, Nesta and the Web Foundation, which clearly got people’s attention – the places were fully booked within a day of going live. Participants were diverse: developing country ministers, donor officials, tech company execs, AI pioneers, and civil society types like me.

The topic was ‘the future of work in the digital age’ (see the IDS background paper for more details), and I got to listen to a day of presentations, taking in both the substance and the mood of the discussion. This topic, more than most others, attracts both tiggers and eeyores (for Winnie the Pooh fans – optimists and pessimists, if you’re not). The tiggers bounce around telling stories of amazing start-ups in African slums, or how drones are about to start delivering aid; the eeyores sigh and say ‘every driver in America is about to lose their job to driverless vehicles, and developing country jobs are even more at risk’. Both were represented in roughly equal numbers (and some people seemed to move from one to the other at a startling rate). Who’s right?

Quote of the week: Jean-Claude Juncker

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Forgetting the importance of national landscapes, cultures, national behaviours, reactions and reflexes is a big, big mistake. I am against nationalists, but I am very much in favour of patriots.”  

Jean-Claude Juncker - The President of the European Commission.

Quoted in Financial Times print edition March 25, 2017 "Lunch with the FT" by Lionel Barber.
 

Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture
Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
 
Chart 1

 

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