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World Bank's New Website Lets Countries Compare Data on Education

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, January 30 2014

The data portal allows users to see what education data is available per country. (credit: screenshot, World Bank)

As our partner Engine Room’s Susannah Vila recently asked in a post, can open data improve primary education in developing countries? She points to a number of grassroots education data initiatives like Check My School in the Philippines and platforms that provide school quality data for parents in Kenya and Tanzania; but the latest education data initiative by the World Bank is aimed at policymakers.

The World Bank launched last week an open data portal called the Systems Approach for Better Education Results or SABER, which has so far collected data from 100 countries on education policies and institutions. Officials can use the tool to gather and analyze information on their own education systems and compare them with those of other countries.

In a press release, the World Bank explains that 250 million children around the world still have not secured the basic fundamentals of reading, writing and math. They believe that one facet of improving education worldwide is creating a tool to better inform education policy:

Through SABER, the Bank Group aims to improve education quality by supplying policymakers, civil society, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students with more, and more meaningful, data about key education policy areas, including early childhood development, student assessment, teachers, school autonomy and accountability, and workforce development, among others.

As Susannah noted in her post, Ricardo Fritsche of QEdu, a Brazilian learning data site, says that one of the first steps in utilizing open data for education is “to make it possible for anyone to actually understand the quality of a school or the whole education system.”

The World Bank’s website, while targeted at policymakers, is accessible to the general public. It provides an interactive map that allows users to hover over a country and see what data is available and it also provides an evaluation of the country's performance in certain categories such as: early childhood development, engaging the private sector, school autonomy and accountability, school health, and teachers. Decision-makers can also compare data and ratings across countries.

A comparison of data and ratings for early childhood development in Nigeria and Uganda (credit: Screenshot, World Bank)

Nigeria, where 11 million children remain out of school, is featured as a case study. Nigeria used SABER to identify four bottlenecks in its education system: a teacher shortage; a lack of standardization in the curriculum; a lack of accountability for schools; and a lack of data for schools to make informed decisions. According to the World Bank, the results of SABER opened up a space for Nigerian policymakers to discuss and debate education policy. The World Bank’s Michel Welmond said in a World Bank statement, “The Nigeria case is unique because the reforms identified by SABER [...] were formally incorporated into the government’s policies. SABER findings became the basis for a Bank-financed project that releases funds as the government implements reforms and that has been elaborated on the basis of SABER.”

While SABER is still in its infancy, it also includes data from developed countries. Its ability to help countries visualize where their education system stands globally may help to spur change among those that rank poorly.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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