Yesterday afternoon, Graduate School of Education students attended a lecture with Elizabeth King, a leader in the global education field.

King is the director of education in the World Bank’s Human Development Network, and her talk focused on a new education initiative at the Bank that is looking to improve education strategies in the developing world.

Her lecture, titled “Learning for All: The World Bank Strategy 2020 for Education,” was the second in the Graduate School of Education’s International Educational Development Program Lecture Series.

The new education initiative is broken up into three parts: investing early, investing smartly and investing for all.

King explained that investing in education early will help ensure a lifetime of learning and, because the entire educational system has to work, it is also important to invest intelligently. Finally, in the process of it all, the plan should reduce the existing gender and geographic disparities between students in developing countries. For example, King pointed out that the poorest students lag the most in learning.

GSE professor Daniel Wagner, a longtime friend of King’s, introduced her as “a bright light in thinking through key issues that concern us all.” King was one of the main architects of the Bank’s new effort on global education.

The World Bank is the single largest external funder for education in developing countries, so re-evaluating their goals for worldwide education is crucial. The process takes place once every decade.

King described the difference between the old program and the new as a refocusing from “schooling” to “learning.”

“By thinking about learning and not just schooling, we are thinking about learning throughout life,” she said. “If we are alive, we learn.”

This new initiative goes hand-in-hand with an effort to find new ways to measure learning. King explained that before, the success of educational programs was often measured only by the number of children in school. She said this strategy was important, “but we can’t stop there.”

Likewise, she added, a diploma does not mean a student received a good education or that they have the necessary knowledge to succeed.

“Our contribution to improving education around the world is really about knowledge,” King said, stressing the importance of building a “quality knowledge base” to better prepare students for life after school.

Nathan Castillo, a doctoral student in interdisciplinary studies in human development, said he liked that the strategy was concise and thought the “invest early” component was unique. However, he would have liked to hear more about how these plans would be implemented and continued in the long term.

Fellow GSE student Koeun Lee expressed similar thoughts. She said, “I’m very excited to see how they will implement their plan with the new three strategies and how it will affect developing countries.”

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