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At its April 2011 Board of Directors meeting, the World Bank discussed and approved a new education strategy for the period to 2020. Learning for All: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development sets out the Bank’s agenda in support of the effort to achieve “Education for All” and the Millennium Development Goals in the developing world over the next decade. The strategy is built around the argument that credentials earned and years of schooling cannot be used as proxies for the acquisition of real knowledge and skills which, the Bank asserts, provide the true underpinnings for “growth, development and poverty reduction”.
The new strategy focuses on two core issues: “reforming education systems at the country level and building a high-quality knowledge base for education reforms at the global level”. The Bank takes pains to elaborate an expansive definition of what constitutes an education system at the country level, and affirms a clear commitment to supporting reform efforts that promote both accountability and effective learning outcomes in these contexts. At the global level, the goal is to better leverage lessons learned around the world so that countries may more effectively learn from one another in the areas that matters most to each country. Specifically, it is hoped that the promotion of “better systems analysis will allow for clearer differentiation of countries by level of educational system development, rather than by overall development alone” and allow countries facing similar challenges to “identify strong performers in their particular areas of weakness”.
Interesting for the higher education community, the strategy does not highlight tertiary education as a particular priority area for the Bank. The need to support and attend to a lifelong continuum of education and learning, however, is an overarching theme of the document, which – along with learning outcomes and accountability – should strike some familiar notes with readers in the European context and elsewhere.