Education is the topic for the new World Development Report

Education is central to improving human welfare and to achieving the goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.  Schooling was recognized as vital to achieving the MDGs, and it remains front and center in the SDGs.  Yet there has never been a World Development Report (WDR) on education.

As a result, I have just announced that the WDR 2018—with a working title of Realizing the Promise of Education for Development—will fill this gap by taking stock of what the development community has learned, and how it can strengthen and expand education systems to drive significantly more development and growth.

The WDR will document the promise of education.  Its contribution to people’s employability, productivity, and health, and to the well-being of their families, has long been understood.  Education is also recognized as a driver of gender equality and inclusion more broadly.  But newer evidence now shows that education contributes in many other powerful ways by boosting engaged citizenship and reducing crime and violence; broad and high-quality education can also drive economic growth.

The last 25 years have seen both progress and pitfalls in realizing this promise.  While not all countries have reached the MDG target of a 100% completion rate in primary education, many countries, including in Sub-Saharan Africa, have progressed at historically unprecedented rates.

But this progress has highlighted a critical challenge:  the difficulty of ensuring that schooling leads to learning.  In many low-income countries, learning assessments show that many young children and youth lack the most basic literacy and numeracy skills even after attending school.  And employers in many countries complain that workers lack technical and soft skills. In addition, for education to contribute to growth, other policies must be conducive to making education economically productive.

The bulk of the report will focus on what countries can do about this.  Evidence on how to improve learning has multiplied over the past 15 years, with lessons on effective interventions—in areas like pedagogy, teacher training, and accountability.   Evidence has also focused on the many benefits to early childhood development (ECD), and on the promise of new technologies.

But experience shows that going to scale is not as simple as taking a pilot intervention and implementing it widely.  The WDR will diagnose the hurdles to implementation and the political economy forces that block system-wide improvements; and it will highlight how to overcome them—by aligning all key stakeholders and institutions in the system toward learning and skills for all; ensuring that the system innovates and draws lessons from experience; and taking account of the social and political roles that education plays, rather than just the economic and technocratic roles.  The WDR will examine these issues at all levels of education, from early childhood to higher education, and will explore the roles of public, private, and civil society actors.

I am pleased to announce that Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers will be the co-directors of the WDR 2018. They bring extensive experience as researchers and advisers on education in fragile states and middle and high-income countries, and have contributed to other fields, from health and social protection to aid effectiveness and development strategy.

Deon Filmer is a Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Team. He has an extensive record of journal publications in education, has been a contributor to several previous WDRs (notably as a core team member of the 2004 report Making Services World for Poor People), and was recently co-author of the books Making Schools Work: New Evidence from Accountability Reforms and Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Halsey Rogers is a Lead Economist with the World Bank’s Education Global Practice. He has also published widely in journals and contributed to several WDRs, and he is co-author of the new Out of School and Out of Work: Risk and Opportunities for Latin America’s Ninis and of Growth and Empowerment:  Making Development Happen.

For more information, see the World Bank’s work in development economics and in education.