The World Development Report 2018 (WDR 2018)—LEARNING to Realize Education’s Promise—is the first ever devoted entirely to education. And the timing is excellent: education has long been critical to human welfare, but it is even more so in a time of rapid economic and social change. The best way to equip children and youth for the future is to place their learning at the center.
The 2018 WDR explores four main themes:
1) education’s promise;
2) the need to shine a light on learning;
3) how to make schools work for learners; and
4) how to make systems work for learning.
Education should equip students with the skills they need to lead healthy, productive, meaningful lives. Different countries define skills differently, but all share some core aspirations, embodied in their curriculums. Students everywhere must learn how to interpret many types of written passages—from medication labels to job offers, from bank statements to great literature.
They have to understand how numbers work so that they can buy and sell in markets, set family budgets, interpret loan agreements, or write engineering software.
They require the higher-order reasoning and creativity that builds on these foundational skills. And they need the socioemotional skills—such as perseverance and the ability to work on teams—that help them acquire and apply the foundational and other skills.
Many countries are not yet achieving these goals. First, the learning that one would expect to happen in schools—whether expectations are based on formal curriculums, the needs of employers, or just common sense—is often not occurring. Of even greater concern,
many countries are failing to provide learning for all.
Individuals already disadvantaged in society— whether because of poverty, location, ethnicity, gender, or disability—learn the least. Thus education systems can widen social gaps instead of narrowing them. What drives the learning shortfalls is becoming clearer thanks to new analyses spotlighting both the immediate cause—poor service delivery that amplifies the effects of poverty—and the deeper systemlevel problems, both technical and political, that allow poor-quality schooling to persist.