When The Community Speaks … When learning is more important than education. Short Notes.

Without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all.

World Development Report 2018 calls for greater measurement, action on evidence

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2017 – Millions of young students in low and middle-income countries face the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them to succeed in life. Warning of ‘a learning crisis’ in global education, a new Bank report said schooling without learning was not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide.

The World Development Report 2018: ‘Learning to Realize Education’s Promise’ argues that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all. Even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math. This learning crisis is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them. Young students who are already disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills.

“This learning crisis is a moral and economic crisis,”World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “When delivered well, education promises young people employment, better earnings, good health, and a life without poverty. For communities, education spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion. But these benefits depend on learning, and schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity. More than that, it’s a great injustice: the children whom societies fail the most are the ones who are most in need of a good education to succeed in life.

Download the World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise.

The report recommends concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve this dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilizing a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion ‘learning for all.’

According to the report, when third grade students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were asked recently to read a sentence such as “The name of the dog is Puppy” in English or Kiswahili, three-quarters did not understand what it said. In rural India, nearly three-quarters of students in grade 3 could not solve a two-digit subtraction such as “46 – 17”—and by grade 5, half still could not do so. Although the skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds have improved, at their current rate of improvement they will not reach the rich-country average score in math for 75 years. In reading, it will take 263 years.

These statistics do not account for 260 million children who, for reasons of conflict, discrimination, disability, and other obstacles, are not enrolled in primary or secondary school.

While not all developing countries suffer from such extreme learning gaps, many fall far short of levels they aspire to. Leading international assessments on literacy and numeracy show that the average student in poor countries performs worse than 95 percent of the students in high-income countries—meaning such a student would be singled out for remedial attention in a class in those countries. Many high-performing students in middle-income countries—young men and women who achieve in the top quarter of their groups—would rank in the bottom quarter in a wealthier country.

The report, written by a team directed by World Bank Lead Economists, Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, identifies what drives these learning shortfalls—not only the ways in which teaching and learning breaks down in too many schools, but also the deeper political forces that cause these problems to persist.

Source: Phillip Hay, Patricia da Camara, Huma Imtiaz  (2018). World Bank warns of ‘learning crisis’ in global education. World Bank. Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/09/26/world-bank-warns-of-learning-crisis-in-global-education [Retrieved on 19 May 2018].


  1. To not assume that if there is education, there will be learning.
  2. Learning is not the same as teaching.  Learning happens when the learner makes the action of learning the primary responsibility of the learner, just as  teaching is the primary responsibility of the teacher.
  3. You can have teaching and no learning as the article above here illustrates.  We need to accept that is possible.
  4. Yet one could have learning in the absence of teaching.
  5. Learning takes the student much farther along, with less resources, than any amount of teaching can do for the the learner.  School and principals and student grades improve at the rate the learner seeks out learning.  Infrastructure is not the primary driver of learning.  Curiosity and the willingness to learn is.
  6. In the world of learning, we stop using the word ‘student’ and switches its reference to ‘the learner’.
  7. The student goes much farther in their journey of learning when they have piqued their curiosity about what they are learning.  That is an almost mesmerized attention to learning.  They are learning because they want to rather than they have to.
  8. All children have this innate capacity to be curious.  Often it goes unnoticed by the parent as it typically happens in their absence and not in their presence or is picked up when the child does something ‘wrong’.   And so as adults, most of us miss seeing it as it happens.  We have all gone through it ourselves but we abandoned the notion of what it is, when we got what we had wanted as a result of that process or were punished for exercising it.
  9. What is the true nature of a child’s mind that piques their interest and become mesmerized (be they clean (or unclean) interests) to want to learn?  Totto-Chan is a book written in modern times set within the context of World War II in Japan, that explores classic ideals such as curiosity, innocence, shyness, inquisitiveness, confusion, happiness and sorrow that represent some of these traits (all of which are emotional, and less mental, spiritual and physical) in nature) that promotes the mind of the child to want to learn.
  10. A learner then soon discovers that being on the journey of discovering and learning is far more exciting to be on than arriving at their destination (having learned and scored grades).  The learner then can’t wait to get on to the next big journey and it did not matter to him whether his scored grades or he did not.  That is not relevant to the learner.
  11. Once a learner discovers the joys of learning for its own sake (as opposed to ‘not wanting to fail’ or not making the grades for advancing to the next stage), the systems begins to realize it is becoming difficult for it to keep up with the pace at which learning is happening for the learner.  The learner will keep exceeding the expectations that the teachers have set for them.  The learner reaches his grades only by as far as he or she is willing to learn.  Anyone else who believes that the effort to improve grades lies elsewhere, or with the teacher, is sorely mistaken and does so at the expense of incurring huge costs to the state (as highlighted by the article above here).
  12. Now, the question is:  Where would a child imbibe the values of learning?  Or, where could the child lose such values?  What would allow or encourage the mind of the child to become mesmerized by learning?  True childhood means the curiosity that piques a child’s interest for learning.  Would that be at the school or be at the home?



National Article 5: Is life one big party … and then four days of study? When do we learn? Or did the dead cat just killed our curiosity?

“What would it take to see the levels of education in the country rise without having the need to set standards (and the government having to invest in) for it?”

Hmm …. have we thought of this question?  As a country?


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

To appreciate the question, first we will need to find out what is causing the standards of education to go down persistently!  Or did we choose not to ask (or think about) the question, because we thought it was a non-starter?  Or we just did not go “there” to think?

That is to stand back and wonder that us and perhaps generations before us had worked hard to set up whole institutions (in the adult world) and invested resources  just so to remind us and if not, to correct falling standards of education.  To do so we would have put in place measurements to make sure standards stay up.

This is different from what we would otherwise like to see happen for our children (in the child world), i.e. to see our child reach out for  rising levels of educational standards.  Yes?

So we (the adult) work hard to teach, but they (the child) are not learning?

So, what causes standards of education to go down despite having had measures, standards, resources, infrastructure to prop it up for these years?  Has anyone counted how much we have already spent?  Within the country?  As a globe?  Since post WWII?  That is 50-60 years.  How many dropped out of school compared to those who have acquired PhD?


How has levels of education compare with the investments placed into it.  Did you say, it has gone down not as expected?  How does the trend of resources compare?  It has gone up?  Hmm … that does not make sense, does it?

So what went wrong?

What would instead cause things to turn around to see levels of education go up?

But if we asked that question, then our attention would shift to the teachers (the adults).  Yes?  It is one adult world (parents) talking to another (the teachers).

Then if so, what is the question we should ask, so that our attention is on where it matters?   The learners (or the minds of the learners (the child)).

So what is stopping or preventing the child from wanting to / being willing to learn?

Because once we have figured that out, there would be no stopping in the standards of education reached by the children.  They would easily outstrip and standards we set for the teachers.  Yes?

Except which is easier to manage?  The motivations of the teacher or that of the student?

But taking the easy way out would usually leads us back into the problem.

It would be great to transpose the following trends showing revenues and numbers gained at (indicative of where the adults’ attention may have been) over the years:
  • Brewery and prescription drug industry (it would have been great to learn also the number of school going persons who consume (regardless that they buy) alcohol)
  • Contributions to and attendance at religious groups
  • Participation at sports and recreation
  • Level of livestock births and consumption (+sales)
  • Level of petroleum / gasoline / transport / construction industry growth
  • Level of litigation cases filed at courts around the country (divorces, land issues, crime, property, business contracts, corruption, etc.)
  • Level of population level changes (by districts) = Births (showers), deaths (funerals), marriages (weddings, engagements, showers)
  • teacher number changes (we can see the student number changes are going down – that’s interesting! – where are they going?)
I suspect the trends in these areas will not be heading downwards (like the school grades).  Instead it may even show a strong positive trends.  What happens or consumes the adult in the adult world and takes him or her away from the child has an impact on the child learning world!
It is almost like saying, Reality No. 2 is growing at the price of Reality No. 1.
Students do however need adults (parents, older brothers and sisters) around them, to help them understand the subjects (of the adult world: Chemistry, Development Studies, Mathematics, Accounts, etc. ) they are learning (including the teachers but not limited to them) and not merely focus on grades.  Teacher at times (especially in the developing world) defer her success exclusively to the commitment by student almost to a fault.  Yet the child is learning from and about the adult world.   A world she did not come from.  One cannot say that the student should learn because the course objectives have been laid out for the child.   Adults need to also take it as their responsibility to make success happen for their child  with the child.  Rather than say, if she does not pull up her sock, she will just end up like me.  And then leave it.
And if parents are busy dealing with reality 2, it gets in the way of the child’s learning.  Learning is systemic.  But I am sure we would still hear our (parents) voices in the media and in parliament blaming everyone else for the downfall of our child’s grades.
This interrelationship points to an important element to bring a systemic awareness of what helps a child learn in totality.  The child is not here to fend the family only.  This is I suspect is perhaps the reason where most male students may end up in when they drop out of school early.  In the developing world they would move into to herd livestock or in the developed world, they may succumb to addiction of substances (e.g. alcohol).  These boys are now lost to the growth of the nation.  We may also see more female students compared to male students graduate the school system, which means more teachers in the teaching system would eventually become women.  This can have an effect to crowd out the male students even further.
Well, we can almost “throw in the towel” and say we can’t have everything.  But “You can have your cake and eat it too, but not at once”.  There is an order in which causality happens.  Not all Ministry can vie to be #1 at the same time.  The easy way out  will then try to prevail.  There is an order in which it needs to happen.
A thought going forward
It would be interesting to see if we bring together parents and community across the school grades:
  • Take parents of students with Grade A* and have them have conversations side-by-side with typical teachers as well as parents of  students with Grade C or D or E.  For the latter, take parents who went through their experience a few years back – as their emotions would have flared down and they are better able to see what has been happening for their child.
  • Keep these conversations running for several months, if not years.  No media.  Just understanding.  Listening, asking questions and understanding.  Keep repeating the exercise.  That’s all you’d need to do.
  • This is different from meetings at the Community Hall between the Ministry and the community leaving the Ministry or the parent to defend their side.  This will otherwise encourage defensiveness on both sides, but no systemic learning by the parents, children and the Ministry.  The only result?  Just defensiveness and more pushing of the Ministry of Education, school heads, teachers and another round of Performance Management Systems.  The former conversation is an opportunity for learning by the country.  But keep it quiet.  Do not push it.  Otherwise, if not done carefully, it can agitate the system.  Slower is faster so we can understand how our cures do not make the disease worse.
  • Do not link this activity directly with these results.  I am sure the Ministry will figure that out.  That calls for creativity.

Not the fireman!

How much will this action cost us?  I suspect it would cost us almost next to nothing to bring about a systemic change!
How much would it have otherwise cost us?  As a nation?  As a globe?

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.  Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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