Updates in education curricula and methods of teachings, investments in successful teachers, and education management are the three priority areas for action in order to overcome the global “learning crisis”, according to the 2018 World Bank Annual Report for Education.
The report entitled Learning to Realize Education’s Promise was presented in Bulgaria on January 26, by Jaime Saavedra, Senior Director of Education at the World Bank, himself.
The Minister of Education and Science, Krasimir Valchev, the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova as well as school principals, university professors, and representatives from the NGO sector attended the official presentation at Sofia University.
Mr. Saavedra pointed out that 44% of all students globally go to school, but do not learn new skills or gain new knowledge which condemns them to life in poverty and social exclusion. What is more, 53% of all students globally do not understand the texts they read or cannot solve basic mathematical problems, and the number of children who do not go to school at all is still rather high – 260 million. Faced with these numbers, World Bank experts speak of “a moral and economic crisis that must be addressed immediately”.
According to the report governments should focus their efforts on three key areas:
Teaching should address the needs of modern society in today’s economy; it should help students develop skills and mindsets that would serve them in the future. Even if we are not sure how to measure all skills, we should not stop looking for evidence of effective teaching. Teachers interact with students in a completely different way nowadays. They should no longer teach at an average level which is suitable only for the average students, but should adapt their teaching in a way that serves everyone’s educational needs.
Teachers in modern society have an increasingly more important and more challenging role, which is why there need to be targeted measures for the recruitment of motivated teachers and for their professional development once they enter the classroom. Jaime Saavedra shared that a strong public recognition of the significance of teachers is one of the key factors contributing to a successful education system. He added that it is crucial to recruit high-achieving professionals with various backgrounds to become teachers, but also to become school leaders and education policy makers.
According to the World Bank Report, there seems to be a widespread misconception about the difference between pursuing a career in teaching and in school leadership. A principal needs to have a completely different set of skills and competencies from a teacher. The same is valid for the whole education system – leadership skills are crucial for education policy makers as well. According to Saavedra, the quality of the administration determines the level of education management. The World Bank experts also point out that the allocation of resources in the sector of education would be much easier by measuring the effect of all investments in education and the way they have contributed to better student learning. Saavedra identified early childhood education and adult education as the two main challenges on a global scale.
The Minister of Education and Science, Krasimir Valchev, pointed out that most education policies require long-term efforts way beyond the term of an elected government. He believes there is political consensus in Bulgaria at the moment which allows us to go in the right direction. Some of the stakeholders who attended the presentation also commented on the report and its relevance to the context in Bulgaria. These were Trayan Trayanov, Program Director of Teach For Bulgaria, Deyan Kolev, Chairman of the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance “Amalipe”, Lyudmil Lachev, Principal of 147 Primary School “Yordan Radichkov”, and Ksenia Semizarova, Principal of 7th Kindergarten “Clover”
According to Deyan Kolev, the report clearly states that the quality of education and the access to education are part of the same process, one does not exclude the other, and if the school is a well-functioning system, by improving one of these two aspects there should be an improvement in the other one as well. He also stated that a larger financial investment does not necessarily lead to better quality of the education, so it is important to use financial resources in a way that would result in systemic change in order to improve both children’s access to education and its quality. Deyan Kolev believes that this process depends not only on the Ministry of Education and Science but on all stakeholders altogether – teachers, principals, non-governmental organizations, etc.
Trayan Trayanov outlined three points in the report which he believed were crucial for the current situation in Bulgaria. He pointed out that the World Bank puts the student in the center of education and spoke about how crucial it was for all systems of education to do the same in order to be effective.
“Quite often when we talk about reforms in education we put our problems as adults in the center. This is normal, but it is important to talk about the situation that the students themselves are in,” Trayanov stated.
He also shared that it is extremely important to base our decisions in education policies on evidence and measurable data. As a good example of that, Trayan pointed out the collaboration between the Ministry of Education, Plovdiv University, and Teach For Bulgaria – part of the Erasmus + project called “A New Way for New Talents in Teaching” which tests an alternative pathway for motivated professional to enter the teaching profession. Trayan Trayanov’s third and final point was that in order to create and develop education policies, there need to be more partnerships, teamwork, and ways in which institutions, teachers, principals, and the civic sector could exchange ideas and support each other.