ISLAMABAD    -   The World Bank (WB) has noted that 27 percent of children of up to the primary level are not enrolled in schools in Pakistan. The WB has introduced an ambitious new Learning Target, which aims to cut by at least half the global rate of Learning Poverty by 2030.

Learning Poverty is defined as the percentage of 10-year-olds who cannot read and understand a simple story. According to the WB, 75 percent of children in Pakistan, in late primary stage, are not proficient in reading. Expenditures on the primary education of each child in Pakistan are $467, which are 47.6 percent below average for South Asia and 43.9 percent below average for lower middle-income countries.

Using a database developed jointly with UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, the Bank estimates that 53 percent of children in low and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story by the time they reach the end of primary school. In poor countries, the level is as high as 80 percent. Such high levels of learning poverty are a warning sign that all global educational and other related sustainable development goals are in jeopardy.

“Success in reaching this learning target is critical to our mission,” WB Group President David Malpass said. “Tackling learning poverty will require comprehensive reforms to ensure domestic resources are used effectively. The target points to the urgency of investments in better teaching and better coordination of vital learning priorities.”

This new target aligns with the Human Capital Project’s efforts at building the political commitment to accelerating investment in people. Much of the variation in the Human Capital Index – used to track countries’ progress in health, education and survival – is due to differences in educational outcomes.

“We know that education is a critical factor in ensuring equality of opportunities,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development, World Bank Group. “Many countries have almost eliminated learning poverty – with levels below 5 percent.  But in others, it is incredibly high, and we are putting at risk the future of many children. This is morally and economically unacceptable. This Learning Target aims to galvanize action toward an ambitious but reachable goal.”

Several developing countries are showing that accelerated progress is possible. In Kenya, progress has been accomplished through technology-based teacher coaching, teacher guides, and the delivery of one textbook per child (in both English and Kiswahili) with contents suitable for the level of students. In Egypt, the government has changed its curriculum and assessment systems so that students are evaluated throughout the year instead of getting a school credential. And in Vietnam, the clear and explicit national curriculum, the near-universal availability of textbooks, and the low absenteeism among students and teachers are credited with contributing to the country’s outstanding learning outcomes.

Unfortunately, in many other countries the current pace of improvement is still worryingly slow. Even if countries reduce their learning poverty at the fastest rates seen over the past 20 years, the goal of ending it will not be attained by 2030.

The Bank will use three pillars of work to help countries reach this target: A literacy policy package consisting of country interventions that have proven to be effective in promoting reading proficiency; ensuring political and technical commitment to increase in literacy rates; ensuring effective teaching through tightly structured and effective pedagogy; preparing teachers to teach at the right level and providing practical in-school teacher training, and teaching children in their mother language.

A fresh approach to education strengthens the entire education system — so that improvement in literacy rate can be sustained. This approach is based on five pillars: prepared and motivated learners; effective and valued teachers; classrooms equipped for learning; safe and inclusive schools, and a well-managed education system.