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Tuesday, August 22, 2006 

Evaluation of World Bank Support
for Primary Education

Over the past 15 years, primary education projects in developing countries gave high priority to increasing enrollments in primary schools. Much less attention was directed to the crucial issue of whether children are actually learning. Of the primary education projects funded by the World Bank, only 20 percent have an explicit objective to help children improve learning outcomes including such basic skills as reading and writing. Some 90 percent of the projects support quality improvements, usually in terms of better educational inputs such as books and teacher training, but only about 35 percent target and track improved student learning as made evident by, for example, better reading, writing and mathematical skills.

For the evaluation, IEG reviewed over 700 primary education projects from 1990 onward. According to IEG, 69 percent of World Bank projects designed to improve access to education succeeded in achieving their expansion goals. During the past 15 years, net enrollment rates increased in developing countries from about 82 percent of the relevant age group to about 86 percent. Enrollment expansion has generally come through supply-side interventions such as new schools and classrooms within easy walking distance, hiring more teachers, and activating community support. Governments have also increased demand by eliminating school fees and providing girls scholarships.

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