Global Education Facing "Learning Crisis" - Report

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In short
The report argues that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all. Even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math, the report indicates.

Millions of students in low and middle-income countries face a lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them to succeed, the World Bank has said in a new report.

The World Development Report 2018 released on tuesday, shows that even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math, a situation that has resulted into a learning crisis in the education sector in developing countries.

It shows that most grade six students in Uganda and other east African countries are not sufficiently competent in mathematics and reading, a failure attributed to poor learning outcomes, lack the skills and motivation by the teachers and poor management of schools.

It warns that education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all because schooling without learning is a terrible waste of precious resources and of human potential.

The report, which was written by a team directed by World Bank Lead Economists Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, identifies what drives these learning shortfalls - not only the ways in which teaching and learning breaks down in too many schools, but also the deeper political forces that cause these problems to persist.

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According to the World Bank, this learning crisis is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them. Young students who are already disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills.

"This learning crisis is a moral and economic crisis," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a press release on the report's launch today. He observed that schooling without learning is not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide.

"When delivered well… education promises young people employment, better earnings, good health, and a life without poverty. For communities, education spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion. But these benefits depend on learning, and schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity. More than that, it's a great injustice," Kim added.

The report recommends concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve the crisis by using stronger learning assessments as to what works and what doesn't to guide education decision-making; and mobilizing a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion 'learning for all.'

The report notes that when countries and their leaders make 'learning for all' a national priority, education standards can improve dramatically.

"The only way to make progress is to 'find truth from facts.' If we let them, the facts about education reveal a painful truth. For too many children, schooling does not mean learning," said World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer.

After extensive consultations with governments, development and research organizations and the private sector in 20 countries, the report offers the three policy recommendations: assess learning, so it can become a measurable goal; make schools work for all children; and mobilize everyone who has a stake in learning.


About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.