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World Bank sets new target of cutting ‘learning poverty’ globally

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PHOTO: www.un.org

‘Success depends on governments, families, communities’
The World Bank Group, yesterday, set a new ambitious learning target, aimed at cutting by half the global rate of “Learning Poverty” by 2030.

The new goal- Learning Poverty, is defined as the percentage of 10-year-olds who cannot read and understand a simple story.

A recent report of the global body had maintained that Nigeria is home to more than 10 million out-of-school children, warning on the implications of inequality and need for political will to tackle the challenge.

Under the new scheme, the bank will use three pillars of work to help countries reach this target and improve the human capital outcomes of their people.

The literacy literacy policy package would consist of country interventions in ensuring political and technical commitment to literacy grounded in adequately funded plans; and ensuring effective teaching for literacy, through tightly structured and effective pedagogy.

It also involves preparing teachers to teach at the right level and providing practical in-school teacher training; ensuring access texts and readers to all; and teaching children in their home language.

The World Bank, while using the database developed jointly with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organistion (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics, said that 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school.

In poor countries, the level is as high as 80 per cent, according to the report, adding that high levels of learning poverty are an early warning sign that all global educational goals and other related sustainable development goals are in jeopardy.

Success in reaching this learning target is critical to our mission. Tackling learning poverty will require comprehensive reforms to ensure domestic resources are used effectively.

“The target points to the urgency of investments in better teaching and better coordination of vital learning priorities,” World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said.

He noted that the new target aligns with the Human Capital Project’s efforts at building the political commitment for accelerating investment in people.

Much of the variation in the Human Capital Index – used to track countries’ progress in health, education, and survival – is due to differences in educational outcomes.

The Vice President, Human Development, World Bank Group, Annette Dixon, said that education is a critical factor in ensuring equality of opportunities and many countries have almost eliminated learning poverty – with levels below five per cent.

“But in others, it is incredibly high, and we are putting at risk the future of many children. That is morally and economically unacceptable. This Learning Target aims to galvanize action toward an ambitious but reachable goal.

“Several developing countries are showing that accelerated progress is possible. In Kenya, progress has been accomplished through technology-enabled teacher coaching, teacher guides, and the delivery of one textbook per child (in both English and Kiswahili) with contents suitable to the level of students.

“In Egypt, the government has changed its curriculum and assessment systems, so students are evaluated throughout the year, with the key element of the reforms focused on learning, instead of getting a school credential.

“And in Vietnam, the clear and explicit national curriculum, the near-universal availability of textbooks, and the low absenteeism among students and teachers are credited for contributing to the country’s outstanding learning outcomes,” Dixon said.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has not attained such global reckoning and the report added that “in many other countries, the current pace of improvement is still worryingly slow.

“Even if countries reduce their learning poverty at the fastest rates seen over the past 20 years, the goal of ending it will not be attained by 2030.

“Cutting learning poverty by at least half is feasible but requires large political, financial and managerial commitments and a whole of government approach.

“Taking learning poverty to zero -assuring that all children are able to read- is a fundamental development objective, as is eliminating hunger or extreme poverty.

“All children have the right to read – and in each country, a national dialogue is needed in order to define how and when learning poverty can be eliminated, and to set intermediate targets for the coming years,” the Global Education Director, World Bank Group, Jaime Saavedra, said.


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