19 January 2018 – Education International has made the voice of the world’s educators heard loud and clear at the Belgian launch of the World Bank’s World Development Report.
The global education trade union federation stressed the report’s questionable policy recommendations and omissions, especially the missed mention of the education financing crisis and social dialogue.
Belgian Deputy Prime Minister: early childhood education and quality education crucial for sustainable societies
Welcoming participants at the launch of the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) 2018 in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 January, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, telecom and Post, Alexander De Croo, indicated that the “challenge is less about access but learning, we need to equip teachers towards quality education, and help address a digital and gender gap”.
He highlighted the importance of early childhood education (ECE), “indeed one of the most effective ways to break social inequality and stigma. Invest smartly, invest early!”
European Commission: education is the smartest choice for development
The European Commission’s Director General for International Cooperation and Development, Stefano Manservisi, also explained why education is the smartest choice for development: “it’s crucial for health, gender, economic growth, peace…” EuropeAid, he said, pledges to stay committed to, and invest in, quality education. “Investing in teachers, investing in the knowledge of teachers and in new technologies is crucial to access and quality of education,” he noted.
Stressing the need for access to education for all and the importance of gender equality, he further regretted that, while teacher training is most critical, we are unfortunately not yet investing enough in this area.
World Bank: towards an aligned system focused on learning
The Co-Directors of the World Bank’s WDR 2018 Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers presented the report, stressing a “learning crisis” to be countered via: assessing learning; e. investing in ECE, in skilled and motivated teachers, in schools (infrastructure, ICT…); and aligning the education actors to make sure the system works.
The goal is to have an aligned system focused on learning, with actors to make it work, Rogers and Filmer summarised.
EI: current education financing crisis not addressed
In his comments shared during the WDR launch, Education International (EI) Dennis Sinyolo welcomed the fact that the report “has helped draw attention to, and stimulate further debate on quality education, notably by acknowledging that teachers must be far better prepared, motivated to teach, and compensated as professionals; noting the critical role of early childhood education; and admitting that private schools do not necessarily deliver better results than public schools.
However, he deeply regretted that, overall, the WDR’s recommendations “fall far too short to realise the global commitment to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all, as articulated in UN’s sustainable development goal 4.”
He went on to underline that the education financing crisis has not been addressed in the report, even if financing and strengthening public education systems is crucial in ensuring full access to education, equity and inclusion. “While the report acknowledges the challenges associated with private provision of education, it came shy of advising governments to invest in public education systems,” he said.
Also, Sinyolo pointed out that access has not been given due attention. While the report acknowledges that more than 260 million children and youth remain out of school, it brushes over this crisis by focusing almost entirely on those who are already in school. “We need to get all children and youth into school and support them to achieve their fullest potential,” he insisted.
Narrow focus on learning assessment
The WDR has too much of a narrow focus on learning assessment detrimental to inclusive quality education, he added, remembering the audience of Albert Einstein’s caution “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
“Our countries’ vision of quality education should be bold, broad and ambitious, and go beyond a narrow focus on testing,” Sinyolo advocated.
Double speak on teachers
He also spoke about the WDR’s double speak on teachers sending conflicting signals to governments. While on one hand, the report appears to value educators by acknowledging the critical role of trained and motivated teachers in improving learning, it devalues them by calling for the recruitment of contract teachers and by blaming them for absenteeism, he explained.
Sinyolo concluded by underlining that teachers and unions are part of the solution to the education crisis, urging governments to engage in genuine dialogue with them.