Education is a right with immense inherent value. As an essential building block for a country’s human capital, it is also a key driver of growth, competitiveness, and economic development. For societies to be inclusive and fair, they need to prepare all their children to succeed as citizens and give them the tools to participate in their countries’ development. This has become increasingly challenging, because students must have the skills and competencies to adapt and be successful in a rapidly changing, uncertain world, especially as the world grapples with the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. At the same time, our understanding of how children best learn and what the most effective education deliverymechanisms are has grown. Armed with this knowledge, countries that are serious about living up to this challenge will invest in their people to build their human capital; take action to show that learning really matters to them; and commit not only the financial, but also the political and managerial resources necessary to build an education system that serves all with quality.
Urgent action is needed to realize a new vision for education: one in which learning happens for everyone, everywhere. Too many education systems are not delivering even basic skills for all children, let alone preparing them for the demanding world they will live in as adults. As the World Bank expands its support for countries to invest more, and more effectively, in education, it has developed a renewed policy approach to address the educational challenges of today while helping countries lay the groundwork to seize tomorrow’s opportunities. The Bank’s 2018 World Development Report urged action to address the global learning crisis and examined the policies needed to tackle it (World Bank 2018a).
To support efforts to improve foundational learning, last year the Bank launched a global target: to cut the Learning Poverty rate—the fraction of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries who cannot read and understand an age-appropriate text—at least in half by 2030 (World Bank 2019a). It was also a recognition of the severity of the learning crisis that we are living through: that more than half of children lack these fundamental skills at the end-of-primary age shows that their future is at stake. And now the pandemic has generated a crisis within a crisis.