Social services


World Bank’s approach to education financing

10 October 2017 | Minutes

Tuesday, 10 October

Organized by: Global Campaign for Education with Oxfam, Action Aid, RESULTS Educational Fund, Global Initiative for Economic Social and Cultural Rights, EACH Rights (East African Centre for Human Rights) and Education International


  • Katie Malouf Bous (Policy Advisor, Education & Health, Oxfam International) (Moderator)
  • Juliet Wajega (Deputy General Secretary, Uganda National Teachers Union)
  • David Archer (Head of Programmme Development & Board Member, ActionAid International & Global Campaign for Education)
  • Dr. Francine Menashy (Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership in Education, University of Massachusetts Boston)
  • Dr. Jaime Saavedra (Senior Director, Education, World Bank)


Jennifer Rigg, ED global campaign for Education US – opening remarks:

The WDR helps to build a focus on education advocacy, and what is needed to provide universal public education for all. Senegal and France have agreed to co-host the Global Partnership for Education replenishing meeting in February 2018, the first time the GPE meeting with be hosted in a developing country. So this report comes at a very opportune time. We’re also excited that the World Bank has a fantastic new leader, Dr. Jaime Saavedra, and we look forward to raising the funding needed to deliver global quality public education.


Katie Malouf Bous, moderator:

We are here on the occasion of the first ever WDR focused on education; this provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of education in the global developmental framework. It is  important to highlight that this is a research document, not a policy document, so we need to reflect on what it says, both in terms of positive elements and gaps, and how to implement it. We’re pleased to have this panel here to present different perspectives on the WDR.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I’ll summarise the key messages of the WDR:

(1) schooling is not the same as learning – and despite improvements in access we are experiencing a ‘learning crisis’;

(2) there are three dimensions of the learning crisis: low level of learning outcomes (especially in disadvantaged areas; core causes include – [ [related to stunting, etc.]] children unprepared to learn), problems with teacher performance, inputs fail to reach classroom, and poor management;

(3) there are structural causes of crisis – including that not all actors in education have learning at heart.


Assessing learning with better metrics

Acting on evidence to make school work for learners

Aligning actors to make schools work for learning


David Archer, ActionAid International:

It’s wonderful there is a WDR report on education. It’s taken 40 years; it’s a shame it’s taken so long but it is a timely moment to do it. There is a lot to be welcomed, but there are many ways in which the report is much too narrowly framed.

CSO raised areas of importance prior to the report, and I’d like to go through how these were highlighted in the report:                                                                                                                                                                                 (1) Continuing challenges related to access: report celebrates rise in access. Shifting focus to learning risks ignoring continuing challenges with access which still need to be addressed. If we are concerned with equity, this is important. Focus on elimination of user fees is important. The report mentions these, but doesn’t make them central to the report’s focus and recommendations

(2) Challenges of financing: there is not much emphasis on financing. Only one five-page section – which is a problem for a report designed to target finance ministers as a primary audience. More money is clearly needed for the learning agenda, but this point is not made – rather the WDR’s statement that ‘money does not equal learning’ risks counterproductive state attitudes towards financing. There is a relationship between equity, finance and learning: In most disadvantaged areas money does not arrive in schools

(3) Private sector: there is no evidence that private schools are better, in terms of learning. There is also an issue of deepening inequality in areas of service provision. There is a question of how profit motives are compatible with learning. The report highlights these, to its credit. Generally speaking the narrative is quite strong on the need to strengthen the public sector – the WDR takes a step away from IFC support for privatisation of education in Africa, the question is will this be followed through on.

Teachers and learning outcomes: There is some double-speak in terms of teachers. Banks need to prioritise support for training and incentives. The WDR does not break new ground on how to create new learning metrics – it uses literacy and numeracy, and lists other areas without coming to grips about how to move away from testing.

Conclusion: However it is still, nonetheless, good that this discussion is happening. Though, it is disappointing that the Global Campaign of Education coalition is not valued enough by the report in terms of how it could be part of solutions.


Juliet Wajega, deputy general secretary, Uganda National Teachers Union:

WDR’s mention of teachers is important. Teacher absenteeism and lack of professionalism aren’t dealt with sufficiently in terms of policy.

I’d like to discuss the example of the Bank’s support for the private sector and our experience with Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda. It is not worthwhile to fund these providers, because they don’t provide services they claim to. In Uganda, in 2015, BIA registered one school. In 2016, they had 63 academies, operating illegally, without professionally-trained teachers. Pupils were not sitting national exams. This came to light due to Education Internationl research on BIA. The BIA school building structures are very poor. The pay of unqualified teachers was very low. UNTU led a national campaign, which led to the government closing BIA schools.

We are concerned that the World Bank was supporting such low quality education; we want it to spend money on public education. The cost of BIA school fees for pupils is very high – $150, or up to 50% of a family’s income. These schools are also built in areas where public schools already exist.

In light of the WDR, we have these recommendations:

(1) Given that WBG is a key policymaker and funder, strategies are needed for DRM and GPE replenishment.

(2) If private schools are used, there needs to be quality control.

(3) Teachers have a right to decent work; the Bank needs to have policies that improve teachers’ working conditions. Based on WDR findings, we would expect these.

(4) What has the Bank itself learned from its work in education? We need to reflect on this.


Dr. Francine Menashy, assistant professor, department of leadership in education, University of Massachusetts Boston

I think the WDR has some positive elements, some of which reflect significant changes in the Bank’s rhetoric:

(1) It frames it’s analysis around a ‘capability approach’, moving away from the human capital approach, which has been widely critiqued in recent years.

(2) It’s cautious about claims about education and technology: this contrasts with a lot of narratives coming from other organisations. It’s refreshing to see the Bank taking a balanced look.

(3) As already mentioned, there is a shift in rhetoric on private provision.

That said, I have some critiques of the report:

(1) It’s focus on participartory learning in policy creation versus need for global metrics creates an inherent contradiction. This speaks to a broader issue of the Bank driving education policy priorities in client countries with limited country ownership. WBG has a lot of influence on national sector education plans – despite lip service on local ownership.

(2) The report takes a diplomatic approach to private schooling, which contrasts with some of its other rhetoric and recent activities; in the past the Bank has been critiqued for dissonance between what it says and what is does (often by academics) in gender, climate, and now, education.

Conclusion: Despite positive shifts, we will have to wait and see if the report will have an impact on the ground.

Jaime Saavedra, senior director, education, World Bank

More important than what the report says is what lies ahead of us. I completely agree with the point that we are not done on the issue of access, at all levels (primary through to tertiary). In addition to that, it is important to have clarity on the learning recommendation. If one puts everything together, it’s scary: we’re not done in terms of quantity, and looking at issues of learning – depending on the region, we have huge ‘homework’ ahead.

One important thing for all of us is that it has to go beyond the people in this room – to raise awareness of the learning crisis amongst ministers of education and finance, as well as the private (productive) sector. This is the case for probably all middle- and lower-income countries. In some cases, the issue is not resources, but also political commitment to education.

WDR raises four topics where we need to do more:

 (1) Learning: Need to work much more intensively on interventions relating to this, including much more on pedagogical techniques and the possible role of IT in learning. There is a policy desire for a magic wand, but this doesn’t exist. Improvement – whether from IT or otherwise – is a person-intensive process. In some countries where we have been working on curriculum development, sector development, and assessment, these areas have to be aligned. We have to be more systematic in this regard.

 (2) Teacher’s careers  : There is a need to improve training. We need to work with ministers of education to see what their human resources function is. They are in effect HR managers for the entire teaching workforce (training, deployment, etc). We need to work much more on pre-service training – there is a lot of under-investment in this at both the Bank and country level. This takes time, and money, which is one reason why there is resistance toward this.

 (3)  Implementation at ministry level: Lack of implementation and managerial capacity is one area highlighted by the WDR. You need to have high-quality, multi-disciplinary bureaucrats. They need to be competent across a range of areas (procurement, management, etc) in order to deliver services effectively.

 (4) Metrics: Countries need to know where they are, in terms of the learning crisis. The field has made progress in this in some areas, but not on measuring socio-emotional skills (both learning and teaching). The metrics for this are unclear. We have a huge job ahead of us – in conventional areas, one-third of countries don’t measure, so we don’t know the baseline. There is also a need to measure inputs, as well as a need to measure administrator performance.

 (5) Financing – There are several relevant aspects. President Kim has been strong in some interventions with countries, to make the case for education, in general. Financing is essential, but many countries are not where they should be, given the resources that they have. What you cannot do is make a blanket statement that more funding is needed, when in non-OECD countries there is a general relationship between achievement and spending (below $5,000/student threshold). You can’t give a great education by spending $500 per year – it’s impossible. The challenge is in poor countries, with a growing school-age population, they don’t have the tax base to increase funding – but there are differences between countries. The Bank and donors can’t fund these changes alone – the cost is too high. DRM is needed to raise the funds that are necessary for quality provision.



-Doing something about the learning crisis will be very expensive. Why doesn’t the Bank take that seriously? There is a $40 million global funding shortfall annually. This has been the approach of the Bank in past as well – WBG haven’t put finance front and centre for 40 years.

-How can you gain political will to improve resources, and performance – what is the role for the Bank and CSOs?

-How can teacher unions influence absenteeism? What are their perspectives on making PPPs work better?

-Bank strategy for SDG4 – how is it addressing both the quantity and quality of education?

-Funding for persons with disabilities in education – what is the Bank doing in this area?

Jamie Saavedra: I have always said that finance is important. We need to work with governments to spend more on this. The issue of political will is critical – one of the things that we are working on is quantifying how much countries are investing in education. We need to make the case at the macro-level of the importance of education. IMF credit ratings should take into account that investments in human development are vital.

Juliet Wajega: There are a lot of issues about teacher absenteeism; sometimes they are deleted off payroll, or aren’t replaced if they are sick. In Uganda, we are trying to ensure that all teachers on the register are trained.

David Archer: One of the challenges we face is that education funding is very long-term, and we live in a world of short-term policy cycles and short-term economic returns. The big issue is DRM. The Bank needs to get involved in the tax justice discussions in order to solve this problem. Accountability question is also crucial.

Jamie Saavedra: The long term nature of education reform is where the role of civil society is critical in terms of being a voice that continues to advocate as politicians change.