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Isabelle D’Arcy: World Bank Uses Fuzzy Math to Leave Kids Behind

As global citizens, we have the responsibility to hold the organization to its word on providing education funding

Students in Santa Barbara County are getting back into the rhythm of school, but 61 million children around the world won’t be stepping into a classroom this fall.

Isabelle D'Arcy
Isabelle D’Arcy

In 2010, the World Bank pledged to increase its commitment to making sure every child has access to basic education by promising a five-year, $750 million increase in funding. However, in a website statement last year, World Bank officials quietly changed their math and their numbers so that they could potentially get away with an overall decrease in global education funding and still technically keep their promise.

It worked like this: They promised a 40 percent increase in funding based on the current level of funding. They got tons of great press for their bold steps in tackling the problems of global education. And then last year, they changed their minds and decided that they would achieve a 40 percent increase in funding based on the average level of funding for the past 10 years. Given how low World Bank global education funding was a decade ago, this means a serious moving-back of the goal post — from a target of $6.8 billion to $4.3 billion over a five-year period.

Let’s say your teacher tells you at the start of class that you will receive five extra percentage points on your final grade for the course. Your grade for that class will, as always, be an average of all the grades you receive on assignments and tests for that semester, plus the extra bonus at the end.

Then imagine you get to the end of the semester and the teacher tells you, “You got an A this semester so add five percentage points and that’s an A+ … but I’m going to take the average for your last three semesters. You didn’t do so well two semesters ago, so your average grade is actually a B. But I’m still going to boost your grade, so you’ll get a B+.”

This is the same kind of logic the World Bank is trying to retroactively employ in order to get out of keeping its word. But in this case, the consequence is not just getting a B+, it’s millions of children who will be denied an education.

Education is the key to improving the health, security and economy of whole nations. Women who have received a primary education are twice as likely to vaccinate their children and 70 percent less likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS. The 9/11 Commission Report stressed the importance of global education to our national security. Every additional year of primary school a child attends translates to a 10 percent wage increase (Colclough, Christopher, Geeta Kingdon and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “The Pattern of Returns to Education and its Implications,” Research Consortium on Education Outcomes and Poverty, Policy Brief 4, April 2009).

The World Bank’s self-proclaimed mission is poverty reduction. As global citizens, we have the responsibility to hold the World Bank to its word, so that not only can students in Santa Barbara enjoy a good education, but all children can go to school in the first place.

— Isabelle D’Arcy is a senior at Amherst College and a Dos Pueblos High School graduate, and she is a group leader of the Amherst chapter of RESULTS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization creating the political will to end hunger and poverty.

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