How to Accelerate Student Learning: Lessons From 60 Countries, 3 Years After the Pandemic

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How to Accelerate Student Learning: Lessons From 60 Countries, 3 Years After the Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic created the worst shock to education on record and led to large learning losses that disproportionately affected children from low-income populations. A new World Bank report takes stock of countries’ efforts to overcome the pandemic’s impacts on students and build more resilient education systems. Learning Recovery to Acceleration: A Global Update on Country Efforts examines what countries are doing to recover and accelerate learning, and how they are doing it, studying over 60 education systems. While many countries largely returned to ‘business as usual,’ others jumped into action—implementing comprehensive, multi-year strategies for improving learning and reducing inequalities. What have we learned from these efforts?  

To celebrate the report’s launch, this World Bank Live event will share some of the report’s major findings, and engage in a live discussion with high-level education leaders on lessons from the past three years and a path forward for improving learning outcomes worldwide.

00:00 Welcome

- Luis Benveniste, Global Director of Education, World Bank

01:53 Opening remarks

- Jaime Saavedra, Human Development Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank

08:14 Report’s major findings

- Laura Gregory, Senior Education Specialist, Education Global Practice, World Bank
- Alonso Sanchez, Senior Economist and Global Co-Lead of the Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Thematic Group, Education Global Practice, World Bank

19:56 Panel discussion

- Ligia Deca Minister of Education, Romania
- José Thomas Director General of Schools, Mendoza Province, Argentina
- L. Enkh-Amgalan, Minister of Education and Science, Mongolia
- Nangamso Mtsatse CEO, Funda Wande, South Africa

48:11 Live Q&A

54:42 The voice of the youth

- Victoria Ibiwoye, Youth Engagement Specialist, Founder, OneAfricanChild Foundation

1:02:28 Closing remarks

- Luis Benveniste, Global Director of Education, World Bank

[Luis Benveniste]

Hello. Welcome, everybody. I'm Luis Benveniste, Global Education Director here at the World Bank. Thank you so much for joining us today on World Bank Live to celebrate the launch of the World Bank's latest report on education, Learning Recovery to Acceleration, a Global Update on Country Efforts. This report discusses the critical challenge of addressing the enduring impacts that COVID-19 school disruptions had on students' learning levels around the world, accelerating the pace of learning and building education systems that are more resilient to future disruptions. Today we have the opportunity to learn about the key findings of the report and what countries have done since reopening schools and how they have done it. Now, let me ask you, if you haven't done it already, to submit your answer to the poll question we have online. Go ahead and click on the answer you think is right. We have the great honor of having with us a distinguished panel of education leaders and stakeholders, including from countries that have shown commitment to improving learning. Her Excellence, Ligia Deca, minister of Education of Romania, his Excellency Enkh-Amgalan, Minister of Education and Science of Mongolia, Minister José Thomas, Director General of Schools of Mendoza, Argentina, and Miss Nangamso Mtsatse, the CEO of Funda Wande in South Africa. I will introduce them each individually later on today. Now, it's my pleasure to introduce Jaime Saavedra, the Regional Director of Human Development for Latin American and the Caribbean at the World Bank. Jaime was until very recently, just a couple of weeks ago, the global director for education at the World Bank since 2019, were among many other accomplishments, his tier, the Bank's education response to the pandemic. Before this, he was Minister of Education of Peru. Jaime, over to you.

[Jaime Saavedra]

Thank you very much, Luis. A pleasure to be here. I also want to thank all the experts and ministers who are joining us and in particular, I want to thank I see on the screen, Minister Amgalan, for his hospitality during my visit to his wonderful country of Mongolia just a couple of months ago. Look, it has been three years since schools shut their doors for in-person learning in March 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Schools were closed for about 140 days on average, but for much longer in some regions of the world and some countries of the world. We know now that during this time, learning suffered tremendously despite efforts of many countries to implement some sort of distance education. Nothing has replaced in-person learning. Now the results are clear. Numerous studies now confirm that countries as different as Malawi, South Africa, India or Brazil, school closures cost large learning losses. The aggregate figure that we have now is that the depth of the learning crisis is much larger. If before the pandemic, 57% of children were not able to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10, what we call learning poverty, that 57% could have increased to 70% because of the impacts of the pandemic. In addition to the learning losses, we know also that student psychosocial well-being has been tremendously impacted. Many months after, now the schools have been reopened after this gigantic shock. The question that we have to answer today is, what have countries done? Which are the countries who have taken seriously this gigantic task that we have of recovering learning among our students? The picture that we're going to see, and the authors of the report are going to expand on that, is a very heterogeneous picture. Unfortunately, too many countries just carried on with business as usual, continuing with the same overcrowded curricula and the same pedagogical strategies. I just want to leave you with just one number. Only one in five countries that we have analyzed had an explicit and comprehensive strategy or plan to recover and accelerate learning after reopening, only one in five. That's something that worries us. Now, there's some good news. First, the good news is that we kind of know what it takes in order to improve learning. About a year ago, the World Bank with partners like UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID and FCDO, and the Gates Foundation, put together what we call our RAPID framework, which is basically the menu of policies that some countries have already implemented in order to address the learning recovery challenge. The report goes into detail on that menu of policies, and we know that there are some countries, and some of them are in this event, that jumped into action with comprehensive and at-scale multi-year learning recovery and acceleration plans. We do have countries that have done the right thing. This report gives us a panorama of what has happened in about 60 countries in the world. Let me mention very quickly, I mean, what's the big picture in terms of lessons regarding what countries have taken, they seriously have done? Two key points I would say is that these countries have recognized the magnitude of the problem and have lent their political and financial commitment to implement long-term plans. They have prioritized the education sector, among many competing priorities, with the recognition of how crucial is improving human capital for growth, development and social mobility. And second, these countries have invested in their technical and implementation capacity at all levels of the systems. In particular, they have invested in teachers. They have invested in teachers, supporting them to deliver effective instruction. They have invested in teachers, helping them to assess the learning levels of students using data and using information to then adjust their teaching, and they have invested in teachers in supporting both teachers and students' psychological well-being. Let me close, Luis, with three things that we need to do as an education community in the coming months. First, we must continue to advocate at all levels of government for more and more efficient spending on education as a national priority. We see that in some countries, but we don't see that in many other countries. Invest more and invest better. Second, we need to invest in the resilience of education systems because a shock might happen at any moment and we need to make sure that we reach absolutely all children. And third, let me close with this, we must act urgently. There's a lot that we need to do, but there are students that are waiting. We must act urgently. The well-being and welfare of multiple generations is at stake. Thank you very much.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Jaime, for this very useful framing. Now, we will move to the presentation of the main findings of the Learning Recovery to Acceleration report. It was prepared by a team led by Alonso Sánchez, Laura Gregory and Michael Crawford here at the World Bank. It is my pleasure to introduce two of these lead authors of the report. We'll hear first from Alonso Sánchez. He's a senior economist at the World Bank and global co-lead of our curriculum, Instruction and Learning Thematic Group. And then Laura Gregory, who's a senior education specialist at the World Bank. I'll hand it over to Alonso to begin the presentation.

[Alonso Sánchez]

Thank you, Luis, and good morning, good afternoon, good evening to everyone. Together with my colleague Laura, and on behalf of the team behind this work, we're pleased to share with you some of the key findings of the report, which is being released today, as we move to the next slide. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit schools across the world were disrupted. The impacts on global learning levels were lasting and unequal. At the peak of lockdowns, 1.6 billion children were out of school worldwide. On average, education systems were closed for in-person schooling for 141 days. A few countries were hardly affected, but many had exceedingly long school closures. We now have evidence that remote learning efforts were uneven across and within countries and generally ineffective. As a result, a learning crisis that existed before the pandemic was exacerbated. In low and middle-income countries, the learning poverty rate, which, as Jaime was saying, is the share of children unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10, was 57%. After the pandemic, it's estimated to have jumped up to 70%. Let's move on to the next slide. Shortly after the last schools reopened, we felt it was timely to take stock of what countries were doing to recover and accelerate learning and how they were doing it and to identify effective or promising efforts, implementation challenges and lessons learned. We looked at primary and secondary education in 60 low and middle-income countries and dug deeper into the experiences of seven case study countries, which were Cambodia, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, India, Mongolia, Romania and Zambia. As we move to the next slide, we will see what we mean by learning recovery and acceleration. In this study, we refer to learning recovery as efforts during and after the pandemic to help schools get their students back on track. An example of this would be a temporary remedial education program after schools reopen. On the other hand, we refer to learning acceleration as broader efforts to ensure that every child acquires the essential core skills and knowledge as effectively and efficiently as possible. An example of this would be a comprehensive and fully-aligned program of curricular adjustments, revisions to teaching and learning materials, as well as associated teacher training. Of course, many countries across the world were already making investments before the pandemic to improve education quality and to accelerate learning. In some cases, countries may have considered recovery and acceleration as one effort with the idea that pre-pandemic levels were just not a sufficient goal. Now, let's move on to the next slide to look at the main framework we used for the study. We structured the study around the RAPID framework for learning recovery and acceleration. This framework was launched a year and a half ago to help countries with their challenges once they return to in-person schooling. The framework has five key policy actions. Number one, reach every child and keep them in school. Number two, assess learning levels regularly. Number three, prioritize teaching the fundamentals. Number four, increase the efficiency of instruction including through catch-up learning. And number five, develop psychosocial health and well-being. The report has a chapter for each one of these policy actions. Now, over to you, Laura, on the next slide, to give a quick summary of her findings.

[Laura Gregory]

Thank you, Alonso. In short, we found that very few countries had made comprehensive attempts to address the serious impacts of the pandemic on education. Only one in five had an explicit and comprehensive strategy or plan to recover and accelerate learning after schools reopened. Less than a third of countries had implemented some of the policy measures that we know are the most cost-effective for improving learning. Many countries continued as they had done before the pandemic. But we found some notable examples, and I'm going to move to the next slide to go through some of those. Firstly, to reach every child and keep them in school, several countries had made direct outreach efforts such as home visits. For example, several states in India used door-to-door surveys to better understand why students weren't attending so that the right supports could be targeted to them. Other countries worked on second chance programs to give vulnerable children a flexible pathway back into formal education, and we include an example of this from Cambodia. Incentive programs such as cash transfers have also been used in many countries to relieve financial constraints to school attendance, particularly for marginalized learners. Early warning systems appear to have ramped up since the pandemic, including in Romania. These are systems that aim to reduce school dropouts by identifying students at risk and intervening early. Overall though, we found that more is needed to reach all children and keep them in school, particularly for marginalized learners. Moving on to the next slide and the need to assess learning levels regularly. We looked at this in terms of the various purposes of assessments. For example, assessments to inform system-level administration and decision making, to support schools in their planning, to enable teachers to make instructional decisions and to give feedback on progress to students and their parents. We saw that several countries continue to implement their national assessments of students' achievement once schools had reopened, and this helped them to understand the extent of the learning losses and to address them. For example, Mongolia used their national assessment to form a three-year recovery plan, but many countries didn't have a national assessment before the pandemic and others opted to postpone them. Several countries invested in improving teachers' abilities to assess students' understanding, including through questioning, observations and testing, and to use those assessments to make daily decisions on the pace of their lessons. Some countries continue to invest in school report cards and dashboards to try to make learning data more available and usable. For example, in Mendoza, Argentina, information from an oral reading fluency census was shared in easy-to-use formats, but many countries face barriers in this area such as poor-quality data, a lack of data management protocols and systems, and a failure to make the reports useful. As we see in the next slide, in terms of prioritizing the teaching of the fundamentals, we saw evidence of countries adjusting the number and scope of subjects in the curriculum to allow more time to focus on foundational skills, but we only saw this in around one in five of the countries. Some countries took advantage of interdisciplinary learning opportunities and decided to continue with those. Jordan, Bhutan and Indonesia are some of the examples of countries that made these types of curricular changes. In some cases, school calendars and timetables and the lengths of the school day were also adjusted, for example, in Chile and the Philippines. A key priority in some countries was to align teaching and learning materials with the adjusted curricula, as we saw in Côte d'Ivoire and Indonesia. Moving to the next slide on increasing the efficiency of instruction, we looked at how countries ensured the progress of all students within classrooms that were more challenging as they had a greater range of student achievement. We looked at this in terms of efforts to make classroom teaching more effective. For example, with well-planned, systematic and engaging lessons. Also, in terms of additional support that schools can put in place to help students who struggle to keep up, an alternative option to regular schooling for those who need it. We saw several countries focused on providing inputs to scaffold teaching, helping teachers to move toward more effective practices. But very few countries, only around 15%, used, for example, structured pedagogy packages, which are coordinated investments, the scaffold teaching through lesson plans, learning resources and teacher training, and which are known to be one of the great buys in education. Around a quarter of countries, including Zambia, use targeted instruction interventions to respond to the high degree of heterogeneity within classes. This involves grouping and regrouping students according to achievement levels for targeted instruction during part of the day or year, which is another one of the known great buys in education. As we see in the next slide, given the detrimental impact of the pandemic on students and teachers, several countries made investments to develop psychosocial health and well-being. These included creating healthier school environments, putting in place socio-emotional learning programs, developing screening mechanisms so they could identify students in need of psychosocial support, and implementing referral systems or placing specialist staff in schools. For example, in Columbia program designed to build primary school students’ empathy and self-regulation piloting in 2019, was scaled up nationally during and after the pandemic. Back to you, Alonso, and the next slide.

[Alonso Sánchez]

Thank you, Laura. Not only did countries have to address each of those five policy actions in the RAPID framework, but they also had to put it all together. In the report, we highlighted several countries that committed to recover and accelerate learning with comprehensive policy actions. These countries are carrying out comprehensive on multi-year initiatives. They fostered political commitment and public support for a learning recovery and acceleration plan. Often, their plan focused on improving their ability to implement and manage change in education. Quite often, these plans were built on wide consultations, which helped to create a shared vision and to ensure alignment of efforts. Another key feature was the iteration and adaptation that allowed these countries to be responsive to the changing needs. Some examples include India's National Learning Recovery Plan, Brazil's Law-Prioritizing Learning Recovery and Acceleration, Romania's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, and Guyana's rollout of a three-year prioritized curriculum. Yet we found that the urgency of the learning crisis was not yet recognized by most of the countries we looked at. As Jaime said, only one in five had an explicit and comprehensive strategy or plan. This appears to be due to an underestimation of the severity of the learning crisis, a lack of consensus on the most effective strategies or difficulties related to implementation and management capacity. In conclusion, and moving to our last slide, the pandemic was the biggest global shakeup of education systems in our lifetimes and its effects are lingering. While it's clear that not enough is being done, opportunities exist and there are now enough examples to show a path for the way forward, summarized in three steps. Building support, which includes political commitment expressed in a clear vision and plan for learning recovery and acceleration, preparing to harness opportunities using available resources and capacities, and developing an enabling environment through coordinated actions aimed at learning recovery and acceleration. The report is full of many more examples and provides more in-depth content on all the issues we've summarized here, so please take a look and we hope you'll continue engaging in these discussions through forums like this. Thank you, and back to you, Luis.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Laura and Michael. There's tons of food for thought in the report, as well as in your excellent presentation. Now, to help gain some further insights on what countries have done to recover and accelerate learning, we will now have the pleasure of hearing from a panel of distinguished education leaders and stakeholders. Let me introduce Minister Ligia Deca. She's the Minister of Education of Romania. Previously, as presidential advisor for Education and Research, Minister Deca coordinated the Educated Romania Project, which aimed to establish a long-term strategic vision for the education sector. Before that, she was the head of the Bologna Secretariat from 2010 to 2012, supporting the European Higher Education area. Minister José Thomas is the director general of schools in the Province of Mendoza, Argentina. He previously served as education manager at the Cuyano Institute for Education in Argentina as a professor of social sciences and information technologies and a primary school teacher. He has a background in education technology and educational statistics. Minister Enkh-Amgalan is the current Minister of Education and Science of Mongolia. He has been elected as a member of parliament of Mongolia multiple times in 2012, 2016 and 2020. In January 2021, he was appointed as Minister of Education and Science and also appointed as Acting Minister of Digital Development and Communications in January 2022. And finally, Ms. Nangamso Mtsatse is the CEO of Funda Wande in South Africa, an organization that aims to equip teachers to teach reading for meaning and calculating with confidence in the early grades. She previously served as the organization's head of literacy. She's a committee member of the South African Human Rights Commission's Right to Read and Write, and she's completing her PhD on educational policy at Stellenbosch University, which is also an affiliate researcher. The panel will have two parts. First, we'll ask the panelists an initial set of questions, which we asked that they answer in three minutes so we can stay on time and all have a chance to speak. If you run over the allotted time, be aware that I may have to intervene in order to keep us on track. Then we'll ask a second set of questions where we'll pull some questions from the live chat. So viewers, please put your questions in the chat. Let me open it up now. Minister Deca, from Romania, in recent years, and increasingly since the pandemic, Romania has placed great efforts in dropout prevention. How did school dropout prevention come to be a top priority for Romania and what have been the main lessons derived from the policy solutions of choice, including Romania's early warning mechanism?

[Ligia Deca]

Thank you very much. Hello to everyone, Mr. Benveniste, Your Excellencies. First of all, I would like to thank the colleagues for the presentations made before and obviously for the report. I think it's a very good synthesis of what is happening and what needs to happen in order to address the learning shortages that we've been seeing. I think it's partly due to the pandemic, but I think there are also other structural causes which were just exacerbated by the pandemic. We have had, in 2015, an early dropout rate in schools of about 19.1%. In 2022, last year, this rate was reduced and we had around 15%, 15.6%. However, this is very far from what we aim for. We aim to have a 9% maximum by 2030. This is just the cohort, the age cohort, which drops out. But we also have to count those which, after the official years of mandatory schooling, are not reaching the levels of competencies that they need in order to actively function in society. In this sense, the Romanian Ministry of Education has developed, since 2015, that's why I mentioned early school dropout rating 2015, a national strategy for reducing early school-leaving in cooperation with the World Bank. It has been supported by EU funds and it has been followed up by a number of initiatives. For a few weeks now we have a new law on education and in this law we have a national program to address early school dropout, but also to address functional illiteracy. Because, as said, it's not much use if you go through years of school without actually being able to function and to use the knowledge that you gain in school for your professional and your citizen life. We have expanded, for example, in this new law, the number of beneficiaries of three meals in school, from around 170,000 now to around one million, which should start to be beneficiaries of a free meal in school next year. We also, after the pandemic, designed the scheme in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan to give schools grants in order to design their own strategies in order to recover from the pandemic in terms of the problems that the pandemic has caused for learning. We aim here for two things. One is to be able to tailor the intervention, and here I will talk a little bit about the early warning mechanism that we developed together with the World Bank, to be able to address the specific needs of each school community. The second thing that we want to have is to raise the capacity and the responsibility of each school to address early school dropout. It's not just a problem of the central administration. It's a problem of each community and of each school, and we want each school to feel responsible and empowered to address it. This is where the early school mechanism comes into place because it allows us to see the signs, the risks that kids will drop out. Through a framework of questionnaires and other instruments, we are able to map out their individual situation and then the goal is to adapt the learning strategies and the pedagogies and the rhythm of learning so that they actually reach the competencies that they should have at various levels. As part of this early warning mechanism, schools collect information about their students' sense of belonging in schools, the conditions that they have in their families, attendance, grades and other elements which help us tailor the intervention. In the next year, we want to expand this early warning mechanism and use it nationally to more than 7,000 schools that we have now in Romania and also, through this, address, each child's needs. Just another element, all this, all the support that I mentioned, the grants to schools which can go up to 250,000 euros, all the elements that have to do with monitoring the risks and then doing the interventions were supported through national and EU funds in the frame of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. For us, education was a crucial part of the national recovery after the pandemic and over 10% of the overall national budget for this recovery was dedicated to educational interventions. Here, the fact that we had a 30-year-long cooperation with the World Bank helped a lot in rapidly designing the adequate instrument in order to help in this recovery. We still have a long way to go. It's not a perfect instrument, the early warning mechanism. It's hard to tailor the learning of each child. I think that's the trickiest part. We do the questionnaires well, we diagnose the problem, we do the plans. The problem is with the resources and not looking at classrooms as a group and teaching everyone the same, but actually tailoring the intervention. Thank you so much.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Minister Deca, for sharing the ways in which Romania has both empowered and supported schools to address dropout, but at the same time promote literacy. Now, let me move to Minister Thomas. Mendoza has invested heavily in assessing and improving reading fluency among all grades, 2 to 12, students in the province. Results from a periodic assessment of oral reading fluency show huge improvements in the percentage of children with reading proficiency since 2021. Can you please share what to do and how you attribute these improvements and particularly in the context of COVID-19 recovery challenges?

[José Thomas]

[speaking Spanish] Good morning, Luis, and thank you everyone for the invitation. Thank you to the bank for the report and for having submitted evidence on the region. This is fundamental and it assists us greatly to improve, day to day. Now, with the support of the bank and what we've done in recent years, this has been of great significance for us. Now, as to this specific question, I believe that what we need to do is point out the important moments in the policies in Mendoza, Argentina. First of all, in 2016, the government decided to adopt a policy based on reading explicitly, with a great deal of training for teachers. In addition, we also had an online system in order to follow up with the students, which meant that today we can have a follow-up on each one of the students. Now, with the pandemic in 2020, we have another important period and we took two important decisions. Never discontinue the follow-up on each student to know exactly where they were, what they were learning, and be able to provide support. What we saw, there were enormous losses in learning. This has been very much pointed out by you, in addition to an emotional loss. Now, the idea is to get the children back in school as soon as possible. Then in October of that year, we began opening up the schools. In 2021, there was a decision made to undertake a census. We needed to listen to the reading of each student individual, and this would lead us to educational decisions, as well as other decisions, as to teaching. We then had an accelerated system in secondary education that was set up and we saw critical levels at this point, and this is seen in the report. We also saw that there were certain gaps and much of it was due to socioeconomic circumstances. We needed to focus our efforts on the schools. We needed to have lessons which were well-structured. We needed to make sure the teachers were trained and we needed to make sure we focused on the girls and boys that had most difficulties. We needed to restructure much in the system in order to strengthen basic learning and especially literacy. Now, with these cross-cutting policies, we worked during the entire year and at the end of the year we found some good results. These encouraged us so that in 2022 we undertook three censuses for all of the students in the educational system, primary and secondary. Now, the first edition took place in March and then the second half of the year in November. We went into the policy even deeper and we continued to support the schools, with this in-depth program, including the system. The idea was that the children could learn in the classroom, which is the ideal place for learning. Here we found that at the end of the year we had 59% of the children who would had been at a critical level have come out of this, and so we've reduced some of the gaps. This was of enormous satisfaction for us, for the teachers, for everyone involved in teaching. At the end of last year, we legislated. What we did was guarantee all of these policies with evidence-based systems, information systems, and we communicated all of this progress, as well as the policy regarding literacy. This was new legislation and what this meant was that the educational system is very much focused on what we are all looking for, for learning to take place. This needs to begin with reading and writing and understanding what is being read. Thank you again very much for all of the support provided by the Bank.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Minister Thomas. And I also want to emphasize how much I learned when I visited the schools in Mendoza and how you have very clearly looked at the different challenges which are barriers to learning. Funda Wande’s tagline includes the phrase, "Everything we do is about prioritizing." As you saw, one of the pillars of the RAPID framework for learning recovery and acceleration is to prioritize teaching the fundamentals. What lessons do Funda Wande's reading and math programs offer on what needs to happen to deliver effective literacy and numerous instructions in the classroom?

[Nangamso Mtsatse]

Thanks, Luis. I think to probably start off again to say thanks for the invitation and also the very well put together, synthesized report, like the recent report that's being launched today. I think just putting in context, as mentioned earlier on, we're based in South Africa. We are a nonprofit company that works closely with government and implementing partners in prioritizing improving learner outcomes and foundation phase in South Africa, both literacy and numeracy. A little bit of a different angle from all the panelists, but again, we spend probably 95% of the time thinking about models that can be taken to scale or can be integrated within government systems or integrated within government reform programs. All right, so just in terms of answering the direct questions, as Funda Wande, we almost see ourselves as this experimental lab that is trying to problem solve for these scale models, and it differs, and almost from the onset, thinking about our programs for implementation. I know in most cases, normal implementation programs or other smaller organizations often will want to do proof of concept, then next step or next phase will be typically going to scale. But we almost approach it from proof of scale is whether can it work or what works, or does it scale? In response to the question that was posed to me and in reflecting on our work that we've done, probably there is, I'll summarize, five main key learnings or lessons with our work with our partnering provincial government education departments. The first one I can mention is answering or asking, "What works?" There it's really, from our lessons learned, is that it's been really trying to experiment and understanding exactly what is happening on the ground. I think, very typically, organizations like ourselves will come in and pose a solution, rather working with teachers and government officials and in understanding clearly and designing a program that speaks to the needs on the ground. Then the second one to answering what works again, is how do you increase fidelity? Some of the lessons that we've learned are that the more teachers do, the better or the highly likely you are able to shift the needle. I think when you're coming with a program or an intervention program, particularly if it's relatively new, it is almost mapping out to what extent are we able to increase the fidelity. For instance, we always talk about simplicity. Programs ensuring that they are so simple that, from a teacher implementation perspective, from even just a pure motivational perspective, getting teachers to actually do or actually implement the programs. These are the sorts of almost what we call the behavioral science elements that increasingly we're finding ourselves having to integrate in our work. Again, I think another third part of what works, we've seen contextualization, contextualization, contextualization. I think there are, broadly, globally, some of the things that we agree on around reading and the science of reading, as well as numeracy, but how does that fit or suit that specific country's context or district, and so forth? Then I suppose the second part of the question, or almost the question that I'm posing back is, when thinking about what works, then what scale or does it scale? Then really for us it's almost moving one step beyond what works or doesn't work, but then figuring out whether the program itself is able to take up at a much more larger sample of schools, ensuring that there's integration within the government. I think the most important thing is sustainability and cost-effectiveness. One of the things that we've learned in the last two, three years is that, if it's too complicated, too costly and is unable to be integrated within government systems, it's highly unlikely it’s going to go to scale. But with that said, some of the things that we have learned and have almost mitigated for is around state capacity. Building the state capacity, what would it look like if we were to remove Funda Wande out of the program and it was 100% government implementation, where would the programs almost fall flat? And almost target state capacity in those almost opportunity gap areas within the program implementation. The second one on does it scale is how easy is it? I think it speaks to one of the other points I made about what works, but how easy is it to be integrated and taken up within government systems? I think, from one of our lessons learned, heavy bureaucracy, a lot of systems and administrative burden and understanding those complexities when you're working, versus independent organizations like ourselves, versus trying to implement something in a much more larger scale and reaching much more learners and trying to shift significantly learning gains. Another last part of that is that what we've learned is that we've been able to try and think through the difference between buy-in and ownership. Our opening, I think it's Jaime talked about the importance of advocacy in all levels, but what we've learned is that there's a difference between buy-in and ownership. Often the government responds quite differently to those different concepts. I think the last two points I'd like to make is that, I think, which most of the panelists have mentioned, is this idea of live ongoing data, and not just data, quality data that can be used meaningfully to either, one, track the progress or inform any design iterations of the program that has been implemented at large. In closing, I think one that we still, I would say, we haven't cracked it yet and I think we're still trying to figure it out, is this idea of accountability. What does it look like in a bureaucratic system? In South Africa's case where there's very little accountability, but how do you entrench an accountability matrix when you're implementing a program at scale, one, and almost wanting significant or shifting the needle down? So almost it's like how do we get everyone in this government system, together with supporting partners, singing from the same hymn book where teachers are implementing, for instance, in some of the examples that were mentioned in the report, a specific structured pedagogy. Where subject advisors, for instance, know exactly what support they're supposed to be giving the teachers, and likewise, the districts and the provinces, what type of data and monitoring implementation tools are in place? These are some of the few lessons from our experience working closely with government and problem solving and trying to think of scalable, sustainable solutions in improving learning outcomes in South Africa.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you. I really appreciate what you raised about not only the importance of having well-attuned intervention to the needs of children, but also the importance of fidelity in carrying through what those interventions are meant to be in order to have success. Let me now move on to Minister Enkh-Amgalan. Minister, we know that Mongolia implemented a three-year comprehensive learning recovery plan to address the impacts of the pandemic on education. What are the longer-term investments or reforms to improve the resilience of the country's education system that have emerged under the comprehensive plan?


Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be in this very important virtual event. And then thank you, also, I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Jaime Saavedra, who had just recently had a very successful visit to Mongolia. Also I'm very much appreciative for World Bank and for their strong support and strong cooperation. As you know, Mongolia has been implementing three-years comprehensive recovery plan to recover from learning loss. The learning loss we're talking about is caused by not only pandemic-related school closure, but also consequences of years of learning loss. As you may know, our plan has three phases, reconnections, recovery and resilience. We have been implementing this plan since 2021 and we made mild to significant achievements in the student learning. We conducted the first nationwide diagnostic assessment in October 2021, just right after we reopening the schools, and found the national average of student achievement of some major subjects such as reading and numeracy was identified only less than 33%. We promoted the plan to all the schools and supported teachers and the students, responding to the specific needs throughout the assessment. As of the performance evaluation in June 2022, the students' achievement in learning areas of mathematics has been progressed up to 30%. From 2023 academic year to build a resilient system we are going to implement four major policies. Number one, to encourage student personalized learning, which enables the students to learn based on their levels and the speed of learning. Secondly, to accelerate digital transformation in the education sector, we will provide teachers and the students to access free and high quality of online content and learning platforms. It includes actions to provide high speed internet connections to all the schools and classrooms, including smart devices, free accessible online content and learning platforms to build capacity of teachers and the students to use online learning and teaching platforms. Also, Mongolia has launched its first digital nationwide school and enrolled 10,000 students so far. Through this platform, children who live in rural areas can get enrolled in the school program equally all over the nation. The third policy is to build a strong and valid evaluation system and track student learning progress using semi-AI based formative assessment system. The technology-based learning track system will provide daily feedback about the progress of the student to teachers and assist teachers to adjust and personalize their learning in the classrooms. And lastly, our fourth policy. We have started a result-based budgeting reform in education sector since last year, which is one of the most important actions we took. The goal of this reform is to create conditions to equitable and accessible education through wider-level cost per child and to develop semi-independent schools in the kindergartens with result basic pay system. E-learning environment and continuous development of teachers, data reform has four areas, which is to give school financial independence and provide funding based on actual cost of each school program and subject, reorganizing the structures, type in location of the schools and established system for the evaluation academic progress. I would like to note that all these bodies are embedded in a legal framework that has recently been approved by parliament of Mongolia. The legal framework will facilitate the smooth implementation of the policies. Yes, we need to invest more and invest smartly in education in order to build a strong human capital for the future growth of the country. In the end, I'm very thankful for the World Bank for organizing this beneficial event which allows countries to share their achievements and the experiences for our coming education sector, impacted due to pandemic, and embark on such an event will be held constantly in the future. Thank you.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Minister Enkh-Amgalan, for highlighting the ways in which ed tech can be a source of education system resilience going forward. Now, we're running a little bit out of time. We've got lots of questions in the chat, so I'm going to suggest, inspired by the RAPID framework for learning recovery and acceleration, a rapid-fire set of answers from the panel. I'm going to give you a choice of one or other. If you can just in one or two sentences give your insights on, what ways you did you find most effective to re-motivate students and improve their psychosocial well-being? Or, as political or social leaders, how have you been able to effectively communicate the importance of taking these actions to bring attention to the public on the importance of learning recovery? Let me start with Minister Deca. And please keep as short as possible your answers.

[Ligia Deca]

Yes. Could you please repeat the last part of the question, if possible? I didn't quite hear. We had a small variation in WIFI.

[Luis Benveniste]

Sure. As a political leader, in what ways you have been able to effectively communicate to the public actions to be taken in order to address learning recovery and acceleration?

[Ligia Deca]

Yes, thank you. One obvious avenue was the public debate surrounding, and the parliamentary debate surrounding the new law on education. There, we had a social consensus that we need to have a more equitable system and a system which provides good quality, if not high quality, for all children regardless of their background and so on, and their special circumstances. I think, during the pandemic and after the pandemic, in the pandemic we had a more lively debate on education and on the need to prioritize measures for recovery, more than we had in the past years. I think that's a good thing because it also ensures that some policy choices, like increasing funding for measures, increasing funding for teachers, raising teachers' salaries, providing more support for schools, have a wide base of social support and become an obvious political choice. I think the pandemic brought the public in the classrooms through online learning, through hybrid education and so on. I think more than ever we saw the need for the educational process to change and to adapt itself to the new generations, not have the new generations adapt to whatever we did 20 years back. Besides the downsides of the pandemic, I think we have an upside too. That is the heightened interest of the society for what education does, what education needs, and especially for what education delivers. Thank you.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Minister Deca. Minister Thomas, and I'm going to beg you to be as succinct as possible.

[José Thomas]

[speaking Spanish] I believe that information is key for our solutions. We have our census, which is a basis, and we have other evaluation systems. We have an information plan on education and then we have information on the schools, and the schools also give the information to the families. But we also have a process involving all of the citizenry. What we do is constantly come back to the different reports we submit. Now, in the end what we want is legislation. This legislation was with a consensus of many sectors, not only the educational sector. There's a good deal of knowledge on the reality of the problem and the diagnosis. We need this communication and the information is available. We need to understand the message and who is receiving the message, so that we can have an ongoing dialogue. This is essential if we're putting this new policy in place.

[Luis Benveniste]

Gracias, Ministro. Let me move on to Minister Enkh-Amgalan. Minister Enkh-Amgalan, I think that you froze. Oh, no, we're hearing you. You're muted.


Okay. I think it's the most important thing is we need most quality data. First, we need to understand where we are now and what needs to be done in the future. In this regard, definitely, and then we need to build the quality database and data-driven policy is most important to us. In this regard, definitely we need proper national assessment system and then, plus, we have to introduce and we have to give a chance to every child to be learned by personalized learning.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Minister Enkh-Amgalan. And now for some closing remarks from Ms. Mtsatse. Again, I beg you for your succinctness.

[Nangamso Mtsatse]

I mean, one sentence, and also just to emphasize Jaime's earlier-on point is not just to invest more or invest better, but to make the money that is currently allocated to education go far. I think there's been so many duplications, wastages of resources in a climate, at least in our context, where budgets are not increasing. I think the last part is that we need solutions that work. Every year that we are not almost targeting interventions that will shift learner outcomes, we lose a whole cohort subsequently in later-on years. Thank you.

[Luis Benveniste]

Very true, and thank you. Thank you to all of our speakers for our rich and engaging discussion. It is now my pleasure to introduce in our discussion Miss Victoria Ibiwoye, who will provide reflections on the panel. Miss Ibiwoye is a global education advocate, trainer and peace building specialist. As the founder of One African Child, she helps empower underserved children and youth in Nigeria through transformative global citizenship and peace education. She used her position as the first ever youth representative to the SDG4 High-Level Steering Committee to launch the SDG4 Youth Network. Miss Ibiwoye, you have a few minutes to reflect on the panel's discussion and some key messages. The floor is yours.

[Victoria Ibiwoye]

Thank you very much, Luis, and thank you to the distinguished panelists. It was wonderful following the insightful conversation. I would like to quickly summarize what I have heard so far, but I'm also here as a youth leader to bring the perspective as a youth representative who has been working in the education space for the last couple of years. I would like to share the words of a youth activist from Benin in West Africa, his name is Emmanuel Ganse, describing his experience during the COVID-19 pandemic with these words. He said that, "When the world was crying, we were looking for opportunities to see how we can respond to the crisis." This is coming from a young person. Oftentimes, when we think about the role of youths, the role of students, we are thinking about students and youth as the beneficiaries. I think it's super important that, as we develop all of these solutions and think of all of these strategies, that we're also thinking about how to engage young people meaningfully as partners and as accountability leaders. That being said, I would like to quickly summarize under three minutes the key messages that have come out of this discussion. First, I would like to begin from the words of Jaime Saavedra from the World Bank. The key message that I heard today is about they need to invest in the technical capacity, especially that of teachers, and to support them in accessing the learning levels of students. I think that teacher implement was also a message that came quite strongly from the other speakers as well. I also heard that we must invest in the resilience of education system and, first and foremost, we must act urgently because the well-being of many generations is at stake. Alonso and Laura from the World Bank Group also kindly provided us with main findings from the reports and they discussed about the RAPID framework, but most importantly, also the strategies that are proven to work effectively, such as outreach programs, second chance programs, incentives and so on. Again, how can we prioritize fundamentals of teaching, especially looking at alternative options, as well and developing psychosocial health and well-being? Quickly, moving on to the key insight from the ministers of education, from Romania, we've heard that Romania is working to support school dropout and is also promoting literacy rates. The government has implemented multifaceted approaches that are aimed at enhancing the capacity of schools to address learning dropouts and foster literacy. It's wonderful to know that Romania is also investing in education funding, which is very, very critical. We can come up with so many solutions, but without funding, without resources, we can barely go far. It's amazing to hear that Romania has dedicated over 10% of resources to education intervention and that the country is also making significant progress towards ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive academically. It was also wonderful to hear about the individualized learning, understanding that every child learns differently and the idea of meeting learners where they are, that was one of the key messages that came strongly from Romania. From Argentina, it was wonderful to hear from the minister about the significant steps that Argentina has taken to revolutionize its education system through targeted policies and innovation programs such as the adoption of the reading-based policy and also a strong emphasis on teacher training in laying the foundation for positive change post-pandemic. It's also wonderful to learn about Argentina's commitment to student success through legislations that have been put in place to guarantee a continuation of learning post-pandemic. Moving on to our representatives from Funda Wande in South Africa, it was wonderful to learn about what the organization is doing in the region and the emphasis on asking what works. I think very often we come up with strategies, but it's so important to ask the intended beneficiaries, such as the students and teachers at the grassroots, what works. As speaker, Ms. Nangamso Mtsatse also emphasized on experimenting and on understanding what is happening on the ground, working with key stakeholders to design programs that work with the needs of those on the ground, also using behavioral science elements, teacher engagements and so on. Finally, moving on to Mongolia, the remarks from His Excellency, the key takeaways from Mongolia is that Mongolia is taking both strides to recover from learning losses with a comprehensive three-year plan that it has put in place. This is done through targeted focus, which is on recovery, resilience and reconnection. Some key policies that Mongolia has put in place includes personalized learning for students, bolstering online content and platforms for high quality digital learning, enhancing teacher and student digital capacity and implementing a robust evaluation platform for effective assessments, and also providing funding. Funding was also something that came out strongly from the other speakers as well, providing essential funding to schools. It's wonderful to know that Mongolia is paving the way for a brighter and more empowered educational future. In the words of the minister, balancing the scale of sustainability can help us in achieving lasting impacts and meaningful progress. With all this being said, I would like to leave us with the thoughts of, in order to have progress in education, we really need to include young people meaningfully. I would like to encourage all the ministers present, and key stakeholders as well from civil society, to engage young people, especially students, in implementation processes. I believe that that is the true way that we can reach lasting and sustainable impacts, going forward. Thank you very much.

[Luis Benveniste]

Thank you, Ms. Ibiwoye. I couldn't agree more. The youth is the future and we need to listen to you. We must continue to push for action on education and political commitment at the highest levels of the education sector at a time when the world is experiencing multiple competing and compounding crises. Now, drum roll. We will share with you the results of the poll. The poll appears to be showing that at least two thirds of the respondents feel that COVID-19 pandemic disruptions have indeed led to an emphasis on learning recovery, at least to a full or to a significant extent. This is encouraging to hear. I think, however, on the other hand, as you heard today from the report presentation, the poll results stands in contrast to the last positive picture that we're seeing in countries where only one in five countries implemented a comprehensive explicit learning recovery plan or strategy when schools reopen. The good news is that we have promising examples from around the world on education systems that are taking comprehensive at-scale action and many of which are already seeing results. To read about these country examples and lessons from their implementation and to learn more about the RAPID framework, you can read the report, which is out today. It's being linked in the chat and it's being on the event page of the World Bank Live. In that page, you'll also find other World Bank resources on education and learning recovery and acceleration. Thank you, everyone, for tuning in and for your thoughtful questions and comments in the chat and we look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you.

“The good news is that we have promising examples from around the world of education systems that are taking comprehensive, at-scale action, many of which are already seeing results."

— Luis Benveniste, Global Director, Education, World Bank

“We must continue to advocate, at all levels of government, for more — and more effective — spending on education as a national priority.”

— Jaime Saavedra, Human Development Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank

“The pandemic was the biggest shake-up to education systems in our lifetimes, and its effects are lingering. While it’s clear that not enough is being done, opportunities exist and there are enough examples to show a path forward.”

Alonso Sánchez, Senior Economist and Global Co-Lead of the Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Thematic Group, Education Global Practice, World Bank

“Very few countries had made comprehensive attempts to address the seriousness of the pandemic on education. Only 1 in 5 countries had an explicit and comprehensive strategy or plan to recover and accelerate learning after schools reopened.”

— Laura Gregory, Senior Education Specialist, Education Global Practice, World Bank

“For us, education was a crucial plan of our national recovery after the pandemic, and over 10% of the national budget for this recovery was dedicated to educational interventions.”

— Ligia Deca, Minister of Education, Romania

‘We decided to never discontinue the monitoring of each student, to use the system to know where they were, what they knew or didn’t know, and be able to provide support."

— José Thomas, Director General of Schools, Mendoza Province, Argentina

“If it’s too complicated, too costly, and is unable to be integrated within government systems, it’s highly unlikely to go to scale.”

— Nangamso Mtsatse, CEO of Funda Wande, South Africa

“We need high-quality data. We need to understand where we are now and where we will go in the future. We need to develop quality databases to implement data-driven policies.”

— Enkh-Amgalan Luvsantseren, Minister of Education and Science, Mongolia

“In order to have progress on education, we need to include young people meaningfully. I encourage ministers of education and stakeholders from civil society to engage young people in implementation processes. This the true way to reach lasting and sustainable impact.”

— Victoria Ibiwoye, Youth Engagement Specialist, Founder, OneAfricanChild Foundation

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Education consultant, World Bank
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Poll Results

In your context, to what extent did the many challenges of the pandemic-related school closures lead to an emphasis in your community on the importance of recovering and accelerating learning in schools?

To the fullest extent
28% (51 votes)
To a significant extent
38% (70 votes)
To some extent
26% (48 votes)
To no extent at all
8% (14 votes)
Total votes: 183

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