New research reveals best investments to tackle learning crisis in vulnerable countries

The UK government, the World Bank, and Building Evidence in Education Global Group have brought together the world’s leading education experts to identify cost-effective ideas to transform learning for millions of children.

A virtual event which went down on Wednesday 28 October, marked the launch of the first report of the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel, which includes 12 leading education experts from around the world and is co-chaired by Abhijit Banerjee, Nobel prize-winning economist and MIT Professor, and Sylvia Shmelkes, Provost of the Universidad Iberoamericana of Mexico.

Both of them will appear at the report launch, along with Ministers from around the world, including Baroness Liz Sugg, the UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Minister; Maria Antonieta Alva, Minister of Finance, Peru; and David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education & Chief Innovation Officer, Sierra Leone; and Valentine Uwamariya, Minister of Education, Republic of Rwanda. They will also be joined by other members of the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel.

The report sets out the best investments to improve the quality and take-up of education in developing countries, and those which do not necessarily represent good value for money. It comes as the world faces a learning crisis, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing more than 1.6 billion children out of their classrooms at the peak of school closures.

Speaking ahead of the virtual launch, the UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Baroness Sugg said:

“Coronavirus is not only the biggest global health and economic threat we’ve faced in a lifetime – it is also an unprecedented education crisis.

“Even before the pandemic struck, nine out of 10 children in low income countries were unable to read a story by age 10. Without action, this will get worse.

“That is why it is more important than ever that we invest wisely to get children learning again. The UK and the World Bank have brought together world-leading expertise to highlight the best ways to educate children today, so we can transform the world of tomorrow.”

Hosting today’s event, Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, said in advance of the launch:

“The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating what was already a global learning crisis.  Our research shows that learning poverty could increase sharply, with losses especially large among the most disadvantaged students.

“Now, more than ever, it will be critical to bridge research and policy, theory and implementation in our collective work, in order to turn development knowledge into development outcomes and particularly to support those hit hardest by this unprecedented crisis.  The education field was lacking this bridge between academia and policymaking.  This initiative tries to fill this gap.” 

To improve learning, build back better from coronavirus and deliver value for money, the report identifies “best buys” including:

·       tailoring teaching based on ability and learning level, rather than age or grade, and providing extra catch-up support to help children falling behind;

·       increasing investments in pre-primary education, to halt the learning disparity seen by age 5 between low and higher-income households;

·       developing structured lesson plans with teacher mentoring and training

·       providing merit-based scholarships to disadvantaged children to help them stay in school;

·       informing parents about the benefits of sending their children to school and the choices available to them; and

·       working to reduce travel times to schools.

This report follows a Ministerial meeting at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, where experts warned of the huge setback that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on education progress without concerted, sustained action. 

These recommendations build on the UK’s leading role in championing every girls’ right to 12 years of quality education. Next year, the UK will co-host a Global Partnership for Education replenishment summit to urge world leaders to invest in getting children into school and girls’ education will be a central theme of the UK’s upcoming Presidency of the G7.

The UK and World Bank are already working with partner governments across the world to deliver successful, value-for-money programmes in line with the report’s findings, showing how these recommendations can help to make smart, cost-effective investment choices in education.

For example, the UK is working with the Ethiopian Government to reduce learning inequality by supporting its investment in pre-primary education; supporting Ghana to provide quality education for children where the curriculum is tailored to their learning level and helping Rwanda to develop and deliver well-structured lesson plans through teacher coaching and mentoring.

Through dedicated initiatives like the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, the Bank has been investing in building evidence on effectiveness and costs, as well as helping governments around the world translate findings into policy action.

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