The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr