World Bank pledges $5B for results-based education financing

Faiza Momand, a student in Afghanistan. The World Bank will double results-based financing for education to $5 billion over the next five years. Photo by: Sofie Tesson / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank Group announced it will double results-based financing for education to $5 billion over the next five years.

This announcement comes as policymakers, civil society leaders, private sector representatives and other education champions prepare to gather in Incheon, South Korea, for this week’s World Education Forum — where participants will set the groundwork for the post- 2015 education agenda.

Speaking Friday to reporters, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim emphasized that although progress has been made toward universal access to education, 121 million children still don’t have access to primary and lower secondary school — largely the result of “poverty, gender barriers, remoteness and disability.” The bank chief added that 250 million additional children still can’t read despite having attended school for years.

“The goal for 2030 is not just to get all the remaining children in school, but also to make sure that they’re learning the literacy, math and noncognitive skills they need to escape extreme poverty, share in the benefits of economic growth, and drive innovation and job creation,” Kim said.

By linking financing with “pre-agreed results,” Kim and other bank leaders hope to ensure accountability and to better align education systems with incentives.

Kim said that currently, results-based financing makes up 20 percent of the bank’s education portfolio, and that after doubling the commitment over the next five years, results-based financing will make up close to 40 percent of that portfolio.

While many government officials and education champions agree on the benefits that results-based financing can bring in the education realm, the discussion continues over how exactly to achieve results and what the results should be.

For many education champions, focusing on math and science is one way to boost education quality and prepare students to stimulate economic growth in their own countries — one sure way out of poverty.

Others emphasize attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.

“I don’t see that we know very much about how to train effective teachers frankly,” Eric Hanushek, a specialist on the economics of education and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University, said Wednesday at the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “But the key is that once somebody is in the schools, we’ve got to try and keep the good people around, and not keep the bad people. … That’s politically tough obviously, but that’s the key.”

Kim too acknowledged the importance of improving teacher quality.

“We absolutely know that it’s the quality of teaching that makes all the difference in terms of learning outcomes. And so a significant proportion of the funds that we provide are focused on improving the quality of teaching,” Kim said, emphasizing the need to boost incentives to become a teacher and recruit those most qualified.

What are some other ways the education and global development community can improve education quality in the next 15 years? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.