The World Bank recently released the latest World Development Report and, for the first time ever, it was solely focused on education.  The report, entitled ‘Learning to Realize Education’s Promise’ calls for an urgent, comprehensive, and evidence-based response to the worldwide need for quality education.

Great gains have been made over recent years in school attendance and access.  However, widening, and frightening gaps remain in quality.  In fact, gains that would otherwise be felt as a result of infrastructure investments are not fully realized because the quality gap persists, and compromises other investments in education.

The end result of this is that children across the world are being served an injustice, rather than the education they deserve.  Education policy makers, actors, organizations, funders, school leaders, and teachers must evaluate their current activities in light of this report and critically consider their next steps.

The delivery of quality education faces complex challenges; teacher absenteeism, teacher motivation, relevance of school inputs, teacher training, and changing demands on curriculum.  Of course, particularly in our context, this complexity is compounded by poverty, inequality, and marginalization.

However, the report concludes that there is evidence to support successful interventions that do lead to learning gains, and that these learning gains lead to benefits such as additional years of schooling, higher earnings, and lower poverty.  Education policy makers, actors, organizations, funders, school leaders, and teachers simply need to listen to the evidence and be intentional about applying it in order to achieve learning goals.


According to this report, the evidence suggests that, “Struggling education systems lack one or more of four key school-level ingredients for learning: prepared learners, effective teaching, learning- focused inputs, and the skilled management and governance that pulls them all together. Putting all this together sheds light on three sets of promising entry points: prepared learners, effective teaching, and school-level interventions that actually affect the teaching and learning process.  Each of these priority areas is founded on evidence from multiple contexts showing that it can make a real difference for learning.”

As I read the report, I was overwhelmed by two conclusions:

  1. The relevance of Dignitas’ program
  2. The significant, worldwide need for the kind of intervention that Dignitas offers

The relevance of Dignitas’ program

Dignitas is a leading education development organization. We use an innovative training and coaching approach to empower schools leaders and educators in marginalized communities to transform students’ opportunities.  We imagine a world where schools are a vibrant place for all children to develop the skills and strength of character to thrive and succeed.

The World Bank report claims some key areas of intervention to address the current global learning crisis:

  • Effective school leadership that improves teaching quality, ensures effective use of resources, supports teachers to solve problems, offers instructional advice, and sets goals that prioritize learning.
  • “Programs to improve pedagogy have had an impact greater than the equivalent of an extra half a year of business-as-usual schooling and an 8 percent increase in the present discounted value of lifetime earnings.”
  • Effective mechanisms to mentor, support and motivate teachers to improve their skills

The report describes an approach that is accurately descriptive of Dignitas’ program for School Leaders and Educators; “For effective teacher training, design it to be individually targeted and repeated, with follow-up coaching—often around a specific pedagogical technique. Focus school management and governance reforms on improving teacher-learner interaction, by providing feedback to teachers on lesson plans, (and) action plans to improve student performance, and classroom behavior.”  This is exactly what we do! 

The significant worldwide need for the kind of intervention that Dignitas offers

It was insightful to realize that, according to this report, there is a global learning crisis.  Not a Sub-Saharan Africa learning crisis, but a global crisis.  The report highlighted challenges from USA, Western Europe, as well as Africa and Asia.

Given that Dignitas has a model that speaks to key points raised in this report, and ten years of learning around the same; how can we share and collaborate?  How can we join with others developing similar interventions in other parts of the world?  How can we measure and evaluate our work in a way that creates valuable learning for the sector?  How can we apply our learning to influence policy?

The title of the report is particularly apt for our East Africa context – ‘Learning to realize Education’s Promise’.  For families living in poverty, the promise of education is huge.  In fact, Dignitas was founded out of this very promise.  When our founders first engaged with families, and community stakeholders in Nairobi’s informal settlements, and enquired about their priorities, the answer was consistently; ‘Education’! Children and families living in poverty place their hope in the promise of education every day – they hope that education will deliver on the promise of a brighter future, the promise of escape from poverty, the promise of employment, the promise of health and wealth.  The work of Dignitas grew out of an aspiration to make this promise a reality.  This World Development Report calls us all to do the same – to build education systems that deliver quality learning and teaching experiences, and in turn, realize the promise of education.

Contributor: Deborah Kimathi