The World Bank designates education as the key to the development of a country. Without education, the World Bank recognizes that countries cannot benefit from the global knowledge-based economy. In fact, in the current world, knowledge supersedes physical capital as the source of current and future wealth (Mundial 10). In this view, the World Bank has prioritized educational development in poor countries as the basis to build knowledge and stimulate economic development. In determining the educational progress of a county, literacy measures are important. The World Bank assesses the literacy of a country to determine initiatives to help in educating the people of that nation. In Niger, the literacy levels are among the least expected in the world. In such a scenario, the World Bank can do more to support the education system both morally and financially to ensure that illiteracy is overcome. The focus of this paper is on the strategies that the World Bank can initiate to address the issue of literacy in Niger. Being the world's largest donor and lender, the World Bank can positively influence literacy levels in Niger through funding, research, policy and advice, quality and management of education systems in the country.
About Literacy in Niger
Niger is a western African country named after River Niger. It has a population of more than 18 million people. The average age is 15 years meaning that majority of the population belongs to schooling age given the fact that education is compulsory in this country for children aged between seven and fifteen years. However, Niger has the lowest literacy rates in the world. Literacy is a neutral and technical skill that empowers someone to word process (Chowdhury 21). Simply interpreted, literacy means the ability to read and write. In Niger, less than one-third of the adult population can read and write. In quantitative terms, the adult literacy rate in the country was at 15.5% as of 2012 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). Currently, the global average literacy rate stands at 92% meaning that Niger is about 76% lower than the world's average (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
There exists unequal literacy among men and women. The girl child and women are more disadvantaged than boy child and men. In 2012, literacy level for women was only 9% as compared to 23% for men. With the world's literacy rate for women standing at 89%, Niger's 9% can be said to be the least that could not be expected (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
The teacher-student ratio is another nightmare issue pondering education and influencing literacy in the country. On average, teacher to student ratio stands at 1:36, being one of the highest ratios in the world. The United States, for instance, has an average of 1:14 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
Also, the training of teachers is still a problem in Niger. Many teachers have not attained the minimum training. In fact, only 50% of primary school teachers have achieved the minimum qualification or training requirements with the other 50% lying below par (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
The struggling education system in Niger is attributed to poverty and poor access to schooling. The high levels of poverty have let to high literacy levels. Improving literacy in this country can positively lead to social and economic development through promotion of civic engagement, economic growth, reduction in disease and crime. Education can be a powerful tool to liberate the masses from poverty, and Niger's population is desperately in need of knowledge.
World Bank and Initiatives to Address Literacy Issue in Niger
World Bank has established its support for education through loans and donation for as early as 1963. Undoubtedly, World Bank is strongly committed to continued support for education especially in developing countries such as Niger. To ensure that literacy levels are improved in this country, World Bank should capitalize on the provision of advice to the government to help in the development of policies suitable for the underlying circumstances (Jones 56). This will ensure that whatever little financing either through loans or donations to the country's education sector will be designed to leverage spending and policy change by the national education authorities. By guiding the top education authorities towards effective spending and proper policies, an explicit and sector-wide policy may be established to shore up necessary changes in educational financing and management. In the process of providing advice to the government, the World Bank team will find the need to consult with key stakeholders in the education system, and this may increase time and resources needed to prepare projects. Eventually, the World Bank team may proceed in decentralized contexts where they engage with different levels of government, communities, parents, teachers and other stakeholders in education. This will extend broad policy advice and necessary investments within the education sector to improve access to learning opportunities for the people.
The World Bank should establish programs that encourage the government of Niger to dedicate a higher priority to education and reforms that improve economic progress. Banks projects should at all time pay attention to outcomes in relation to inputs to make explicit use of participatory methods, cost-benefit analysis, improved monitoring, learning assessments and evaluation (Jones 99).
Through the projects that are supported by the bank, equity should be established as a priority. In particular, such projects should be designed to bridge illiteracy gaps between male and females. For example, the projects should focus more on improvement girl child's access to education and improve their literacy levels. Similarly, Bank-supported projects should be geared towards supporting disadvantaged ethnic minorities whose access to education may be limited due to possible marginalization. The poor should also be considered for such programs because poverty is one of the main reasons for low literacy levels in the country. If bank-supported projects can be aligned with building schools and providing food for children, then more people can attend school to be educated and reduce illiteracy.
It is also crucial that Bank-supported projects focus on early childhood education. When children are assisted to start strong through sound early childhood education, they will have better outcomes as they grow up and even further their education to address illiteracy issues in the society (Taguma et al. 12). Drawing from this sense, it is important that the World Bank makes the early childhood education a base for addressing illiteracy in Niger by helping in building learning structures, equipping them, training teachers and supporting feeding programs to ensure that children from poor families can attend school.
Furthermore, Bank-supported projects should support the involvement of the households in choice and governance of schools by emphasizing on an educational, regulatory framework. The regulatory program should establish quality-enhancing mechanisms such as inspection and outcome monitoring on the financing and guide stipends as well as higher education loans. Bank-supported programs should support institutional development especially in strengthening educational administration and establishment of financial mechanisms as well as their implementation.
To Niger population, basic education is the primary area of concern as it directly addresses illiteracy by equipping individuals to read and write. As a result, the World Bank funding should be primarily channeled to the establishment of basic education for all in the country. Primary and secondary education should be majorly considered and supported through the establishment of structures, learning materials and training of teachers.
World Bank and Education for All (EFA)
Education for All (EFA) is an educational international initiative launched in1990 with the aim of encouraging education for "every citizen in every society" (Education for All). EFA establishes a framework necessary for addressing issues of literacy among the society members. It advocates for expansion and improvement in early childhood education especially for disadvantaged and most vulnerable children from developing countries. It also advocates for basic education for all children, especially girls from difficult circumstances. Further, EFA guides towards improvement in adult literacy, elimination of gender disparities in education and enhancement of quality education. EFA draws from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) number two and three that targeted at universal primary education and gender parity. These two goals are now incorporated into the goal number four and five of quality education and gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Before 2015 when the MDGs expired, EFA had established a body of experience in multi-partner cooperation towards the attainment of the targets. World Bank was one of the partners that EFA brought in to ensure the attainment of universal education and gender parity.
Through EFA, the World Bank can address the issue of illiteracy in Niger by supporting efforts aimed at improving quality of education and learning outcomes, improving access to primary education and access to equity and improving the retention rates of girls in education. It can also mitigate dropouts by addressing underlying issues such as hunger by supporting feeding programs. Feeding school children will act as an incentive to school attendance (Bundy 67).
Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER)
The World Bank has established the SABER initiative whose primary aim is to produce knowledge and comparative data on education policies and institutions. The data gathered is used to help countries to systematically strengthen educational institutions and systems. SABER assesses the quality of education policies existing in a country against the evidence-based global standards using detailed policy data and diagnostic tools. The results are then shared with parties in the educational sector including teachers, policymakers, and administrators who get to understand how well their policies are oriented towards ensuring improvement in literacy levels in the country.
World Bank can use SABER initiatives to help in solving literacy issues in Niger. This can be achieved by collecting data and using it to guide educational policies as well as the quality. For example, in 2015 the World Bank through SABER researched eight policy goals that every teacher should fulfill to a given degree as an indication of motivation and competency. The goals were identified through analysis of policies and review of research studies on teacher policies of rapidly improving and top-performing education systems. Three criteria were used to spot policy goals including priority for resource allocation, action s that the government could undertake to enhance education policy and performance through empirical evidence (World Bank). The study established the policies that need to be in place to realize the effectiveness of instruction and the data would be used to guide education in the entire country.
In Niger, World Bank can initiate such studies to guide policies. Besides, more studies can be initiated to identify how to increase access to education, how better to allocate resources and key determinants in the delivery of quality education. Good resource allocation can guide in the establishment of an education system that meets the needs of the majority who are required to learn. Effective policies for competent teachers will also enhance training of teachers to enhance the quality of instruction. SABER is also a good point to gather data and esta...
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