School attendance = learning?

Arturo Biglia
20 February 2018
In its 40th World Development Report, the World Bank focuses for the first time on the theme of Education. In addition to access to education and more specifically learning, gender and wealth gaps are highlighted in the report. Teacher training is another focal point.

Attending school does not necessarily stand for learning. This is the finding of the World Bank's rapporteurs on development in the world 2018. Indeed, according to the latter, beyond the persistent crisis of access to education, numerous deprived children attend school but do not learn, or learn hardly anything. Consequently, many youth lack basic skills when leaving the education system.

This is due to the very poor infrastructure, teachers with limited skills or means, a sheer lack of education material, schoolchildren who are hardly prepared or motivated, etc. The reasons are varied but they all point to the same culprit: a failing system. It needs to be stabilized, but it will be crucial to know how to proceed.

The World Bank report emphasizes several points. One of them is the training of teachers, who are key actors at the forefront of the education system. They need to achieve effective professional development by being better prepared and more motivated. In this respect, the report refers to a real change in teacher training. In addition, the teacher-student relationship needs to be improved, so that schools can be fully supportive of learning.

This is due to the very poor infrastructure, teachers with limited skills or means, a sheer lack of education material, schoolchildren who are hardly prepared or motivated, etc. The reasons are varied but they all point to the same culprit: a failing system.

Reducing gaps

Motivation and preparation also have relevance for the schoolchildren, who cannot really be eager to learn if they are malnourished, poorly housed, badly treated. Brain scanners have shown that neuron connections do not work in the same way in a child in need as in a child that lives decently. The gap between rich and poor constitutes a fundamental problem for education.

Gender disparities are no less so, and are often directly linked to wealth gaps. The number of girls from the poorest backgrounds attending school is below average. In Cameroon in 2014, only 5 per cent of the girls from the poorest backgrounds had acquired sufficient skills to continue school, compared to 76 per cent of the girls from the richest backgrounds. The results obtained in Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal are similar. 

Characteristics such as disability, caste status or ethnicity also significantly increase school drop-out rates. It therefore seems essential to highlight hidden exclusion zones that lead to poor quality or non-existent learning.

In Cameroon in 2014, only 5 per cent of the girls from the poorest backgrounds had acquired sufficient skills to continue school, compared to 76 per cent of the girls from the richest backgrounds.

Dennis Sinyolo, senior coordinator of the Education and Employment Unit of Education International, and speaker at the presentation of the report in Brussels, emphasizes the financial crisis in the education system: "When you see the name 'World Bank', the first thing that comes to your mind is money. But in this report, there is absolutely nothing about money!". Education International, the world's largest trade union organization in the field of education, therefore insists on funding, especially in public schools. Collaboration is another key word. Both with and between teachers, it must replace competition, which is counterproductive in this field. Finally, it is essential that teachers be considered as true professionals.

Education is one of the fundamental bases of our society. As such it represents one of the most important and judicious investments. Adequately provided, it can lead the students to a better understanding of their living environment, a better insight into interaction and into many other fundamental societal principles.

Read the full report here.

WDR 2018

 

World Bank Education
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