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Learning Takes a Beating Worldwide, Report Says


FILE - Students at a summer reading academy work in a computer lab at an Oklahoma City school, July 21, 2014.

A global education crisis looms because learning seldom takes place in the classroom, according to a new World Bank report.

Warning of a global "learning crisis" and recommending policy actions to combat ineffective primary and secondary schooling for millions of students worldwide,the World Development Report focused solely on education for the first time since 1978.

Students in the developing world are hit hardest, but problems also exist in disadvantaged communities in rich countries like the United States, said Halsey Rogers, World Bank lead economist and co-director of the report's team of seven core members.

"Schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity," the report stated. "More than that, it is a great injustice: The children whom society is failing most are the ones who most need a good education to succeed in life."

The report stated that despite attending primary and secondary school for several years, students in low- and middle-income countries lacked basic reading, writing and numeric ability. Data were collected intensively for a year from global studies and policy evidence, from nongovernmental organizations and official government authorities worldwide.

More than 80 percent of grade 2 students in rural India failed to solve a two-digit subtraction problem, according to data from the ASER Center, the report noted. Almost 90 percent of grade 2 students in selected regions of Malawi could not read a single word of short text, the report stated, citing information from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Struggling to continue

"Deep in the rural village, barely resourced, with little support, teachers struggle to keep the school machinery running — getting students into class and then through the texts and assessments," Meeta Sengupta, founder of the Center for Education Strategy, a Delhi think tank that builds bridges between policy and practice for educators and institutions, wrote via email to VOAStudentU.

"Till we include every classroom in our quest for learning, we will continue to face this crisis," Sengupta said.

The report identified lack of teacher motivation and poor management skills in schools as problems. Also, a lack of nutrition in early years undermines educational achievements in the classroom, Rogers said. The report said brain scans have suggested that children with adequate nourishment in their first year had a denser neural connection in comparison to those who had not. That connection enhances learning.

Learning outcomes were significantly lower for poorer grade 6 students in comparison with their rich counterparts in Latin America, the study showed, citing data from the Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study.

The report recommended policy steps to combat the "learning crisis." They included effective teaching, implementing student assessments, strengthening school management systems and reducing malnutrition.

Data the report cites were only from countries who decided to make results public. Many other nations have declined to share data. Plus, 260 million young children not enrolled in primary or secondary schools are unaccounted for in the report.

"The one thing I want people to take away from this is that you have to care about and focus on learning and not just schooling, and especially learning for all," Rogers said.

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