LeAP initiativeAccess to education is a global issue that is deeply connected to issues of global poverty. Education often provides impoverished people with a way to escape poverty through improved job opportunities and better knowledge of healthcare. In this way, reducing poverty in developing countries often requires improving access to education. The World Bank is currently implementing a program called the Learning Assessment Platform, or LeAP, which it hopes will allow world leaders to better track how effective and efficient their nations’ educational systems are. Through the LeAP initiative, the World Bank hopes to improve global education.

Learning in Crisis

Poor and absent education is a serious global issue, with UNESCO finding that roughly 258 million children were not enrolled in school in 2018. That number has likely increased since then as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even for children in impoverished countries who do get an education, many times the education they receive is poor in quality and ineffective. Among developing nations, only 44% of children enrolled in school had obtained proficiency in mathematics and reading in 2017. In sub-Saharan Africa, that number fell to only 10%.

According to the World Bank, a significant factor contributing to these low education rates is the fact that many developing countries lack systems to measure learning outcomes among populations. Without such systems, leaders in these countries are unable to accurately identify the reasons why their education systems are failing, which prevents them from implementing effective policies that would improve the education systems.

The LeAP Initiative

Despite these challenges, the World Bank is hoping to use its resources to improve education by leaps and bounds. In order to meet this goal, the World Bank is working to improve learning assessment systems in developing countries by developing a Learning Assessment Platform. The LeAP initiative would provide countries with the tools and resources needed to develop more effective systems for assessing the state of education among populations.

For the past decade, the World Bank has been working to build a solid base of learning assessment resources for the LeAP program to build off of. With the help of Russia’s similar learning assessment program, called the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) Trust Fund program, the World Bank has developed a wide range of tools and resources specifically designed to help countries accurately gauge the effectiveness of education systems. These include free online courses for educating policymakers and specialists on effective learning assessment techniques, tools for benchmarking education success and access to more than 60 reports detailing the student assessment systems of dozens of countries.

Investing in Learning

In its efforts to improve global education, the World Bank has done more than just provide developing countries with learning assessment resources. Working with the READ Trust Fund program, the World Bank has helped secure more than $20 million in learning assessment system improvement grants for 12 different countries, including Ethiopia, Cambodia, India and Vietnam.

Through the LeAP initiative and several other global education programs, the World Bank hopes to reduce worldwide “learning poverty” by at least 50% by 2030.

The World Bank’s goal of cutting learning poverty is ambitious but its work on improving learning assessment systems around the world is an important step toward making it a reality. When countries are able to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of education systems, they are able to craft policies that more effectively improve these systems while also allowing other countries to learn from them and develop their own learning assessment systems. In this way, The World Bank’s LeAP initiative is pivotal in its effort to improve global education.

– Marshall Kirk
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