Syndicate content

April 2016

The other refugee crisis

Alys Willman's picture
Photo credit: "Children on the Run" report by UNHCR

Also available in:
Français | Español | العربية 

It’s not just war that sends people into exile.

A young friend of mine grew up in Honduras. As he grew from boy to teenager, he inevitably drew the attention of the local street gangs. He managed to avoid getting caught up with them by coming directly home from school every day, and staying inside with his grandmother until school started again the next morning. 

From the US, his mother, who had left Honduras to find work as a nanny when he was only three years old, Skyped with him daily. She debated about whether to send for him. Many of her friends had done this, only to lose their children to the same gangs that were trying to recruit them in Honduras, or to jail.

How can small island states become more resilient to natural disasters and climate risk?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Small Island States are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and natural disasters. In fact, 2/3 of the countries that have been most severely impacted by disasters are small island nations, which have lost between 1 and 9% of GDP annually due to weather extremes and other catastrophes. The severity and recurrence of disasters makes it hard for those countries to recover, and seriously undermines ongoing development efforts.
The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are actively working with small island states to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and climate risk, including through their joint Small Island States Resilience Initiative. World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and GFDRR's Sofia Bettencourt tell us more.

Blog post of the month: How an award winning elementary school teacher is solving environmental equations using the bicycle

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In April 2016, the featured blog post is "How an award winning elementary school teacher is solving environmental equations using the bicycle" by Leszek Sibilski.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Einstein
When I wrote, “How the bicycle can drive green development on planet Earth” last year in March 2015, my hope was to raise awareness and encourage a few bicycle enthusiasts to further promote the use of the most efficient tool ever designed by the human mind and hand. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that this blog would inspire an environmental education teacher who teaches grades K-5, Jenna Shea Mobley, from Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta to use the material presented in the blog as the impetus for her project that went on to receive the 2015 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators!
In her interdisciplinary curriculum design she combined lessons from science and math to help students focus on the effects of pollution and the human footprint on the environment. Math allowed her students to use multiplication and division to solve word problems and create models to form equations that represented the problem. I must admit, as a teacher, I like to dream big from time to time, but I would have never dreamt of integrating math, science and a pinch of social science into lessons that used the bicycle for children in third grade.
Ms. Mobley’s curriculum also included a component that encouraged social action.  Her students were encouraged to write letters to Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, asking him to reduce air pollution around Atlanta.

Learning from a visit to a school using technology: Some questions to consider

Michael Trucano's picture
how should I frame this?
how should I frame this?

Over the past two decades, I've had the good fortune to visit hundreds and hundreds of schools across all six continents to learn about how they are using new technologies -- and hope to use them in the future. (Maybe some day I'll visit the Antarctic school that was connected to the Internet by Chile's pioneering Enlaces program and I'll be able to claim I've done this on *all* continents!)

From Korea to Costa Rica, Sri Lanka to Syria, Lesotho to Laos, Papua New Guinea to Puerto Rico: School visits in over 50 countries have run the gamut, from observing the shared use of quite old graphing calculators and lectures at the blackboard describing how to navigate Microsoft Windows (even though there was a nary a PC to be found in the building) to marvelling at technology-rich classrooms filled students and teachers doing things with hardware and software that I couldn't have dreamed of doing when I was a student myself, many years ago.

I have visited schools in prosperous countries in peacetime and in very poor countries emerging from conflict (and in some cases, still technically at war). I learned firsthand about technology use in schools in Iceland when that country was labelled the world's 'most developed' and in schools in Haiti, the poorest country in the western Hemisphere, after that country suffered its devastating earthquake.

In pretty much all cases and contexts, investments in 'technology' were meant to be deliberately forward-looking (if not always necessarily that 'strategic' or well-planned), to some extent symbols (often explicit ones) of progress and optimism about the future, no matter the education system, from the most 'high performing' to the most dysfunctional.

Because I've had lots of comparative experiences visiting schools in 'other places' around the world, I am sometimes asked to provide an 'international perspective' on what is happening within a set of schools in a given country, part of a larger effort to benchmark what is being done and planned against norms in other countries. It can be a pretty cool gig at times (although the travel can be rather punishing). I am always learning, and the dynamism and determination of students, teachers, principals and education officials whom I observe and chat with quite often leaves me inspired and (re-)energized.

Since I have been doing this for so long, I sometimes help 'train' people (at ministries of education, at NGOs) who are assuming leadership positions in educational technology initiatives on how to develop their own "carpenter's eye" -- the ability to make quick assessments and judgments about what they are seeing in ways those less experienced in the field may struggle to do.

What's a 'carpenter's eye'?
A carpenter can often quickly judge whether an angle is truly 90 degrees, or that a wrong tool was used for a particular job, or make educated guesses about why one material was employed instead of another, or that something is destined to break. Such judgments may not always be accurate, and may be informed by various biases, but they are often qualitatively different than those of people less skilled and experienced with woodworking, who may not notice such things -- and who in fact may not care about them, nor understand why they might be important.

In my personal experience working with new technologies in the education sector, many of these folks have come from 'technical backgrounds' and typically direct their gaze toward, and ask the majority of their questions about, the technology itself. Often times the end goal of such investigations is meant to build an accurate inventory the equipment that is available in a school, rather to trying to learn about how the equipment itself is being used (and not used), why this might be the case, and how people feel about this. Fair enough: We all have different bosses, different ideas about what is important, and different incentives for doing whatever it is we may do. I don't mean to deny the importance of surveying what technologies are currently available in schools. But in my experience, visiting a school to learn about the technology it has and only focusing on that technology (what processor a device has, which operating system it runs, how much memory is available) represents a real lost opportunity to learn about and gain insight into many more things at the same time.

In case it might be of use to anyone else, I have assembled a quick list of some of the things that I often ask about and consider, usually automatically and unconsciously, when I visit a school to learn about how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are being used (and not used) for a variety of purposes. It's by no means comprehensive, and of course every context is different, but I find that these are often the types of things that I ask about and look for (in addition, of course, to the more general educational and demographic stuff that would be common areas of inquiry related to most school visits, and the hyper-specific stuff that might be the reason I am visiting one school in particular).

I have cobbled this list together from a much larger, slightly unruly 'master' list of questions that I maintain, which draws on notes and emails I have shared with people over almost two decades of school visits, working with hundreds of people, many of whom had little prior experience in visiting schools to assess what was happening with technology. Sometimes -- if not often -- sharing these sorts of questions is meant as much to spark discussion and debate within a team about what might be important (and what isn't so important), and how to go about finding this out, as it is to suggest actual questions that should be posed. Every context is different.


Predicting success for infrastructure in emerging markets: Moving from art to science

Jyoti Bisbey's picture

with research contributions from Zichao Wei

At conferences, in meetings, and even during casual work conversations, I am asked the same two questions:  “Which countries are ideal for investments in infrastructure?  Where should the investors invest and what new opportunities should they look toward?” 

While sitting in the World Bank gives us a bird’s-eye view of emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs), it doesn’t offer the up-close-and-personal perspective that investors demand in order to answer these questions in a succinct way.  Not that there’s any shortage of synoptic responses. Any number of “market gurus” can assess projects in a second, gathering all the low hanging fruits which are out there in EMDEs.  If there is a private deal to be made, then the deal is already done.

Investing in climate action in Africa

Benoît Bosquet's picture
Last week in New York, 175 nations signed the Paris Agreement on climate change. It was adopted at COP21 in Paris last December. Subject to sufficient ratifications (by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions), the Agreement will enter into force in 2020.
Why does this matter, and what does it mean for the World Bank (WB), and the Africa Region in particular?

Strengthening Lao PDR’s financial system by making room for failure

José de Luna-Martínez's picture


To function properly, a financial system needs to have two doors in place: an “entry” and an “exit”. The first one enables qualified local or foreign institutions to enter the marketplace to provide innovative products and services – such as savings, investments, credits, payments and insurance – to households and firms at competitive prices. The second facilitates the rapid and orderly dissolution of those financial intermediaries that are not able to survive competition, manage risks properly, or comply with rules and regulations.