The FINANCIAL — The Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank on September 17 approved a US$50 million loan to the Republic of Belarus for a new Education Modernization Project aimed to improve access to quality learning environment in 120 general secondary schools, and strengthen student assessment and education management information systems of the country.
“We have had a long and fruitful history of partnership in improving the delivery of infrastructure and social services in Belarus, including through institutional and policy development. However, this project is actually the first investment operation funded by the World Bank specifically designed to support sustainable development of the education sector in Belarus,” said Mr. Young Chul Kim, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “It expands our cooperation with Belarus into human development areas and provides an important foundation for long-term collaboration in education, which is fundamental to position Belarus as a competitive and dynamic player in the global economy.”
Like many countries in the region, Belarus has faced a steady decline in the number of school-age children over the past two decades. In response, the Government has undertaken an ambitious effort to consolidate the education network, adjusting the school infrastructure in line with demographic trends. As a result of this project, an estimated 25,000 boys and girls affected by school optimization are expected to benefit from an improved learning environment through rehabilitation of school facilities and provision of the necessary laboratory equipment for physics, chemistry, biology, and information technology, according to the World Bank.
The project also aims to modernize the management of the education sector and bring it in line with international best practices. With the help of a World Bank grant, Belarusian Authorities are currently evaluating how their system collects and uses information for evidence-based policymaking. Under the loan, existing approaches to student learning assessment and data analysis will be strengthened to achieve better system performance and improve student learning outcomes.
Although Belarus has a national system of education quality monitoring, it has never participated in a major international assessment of student learning, having little comparable data about the quality of secondary education and how it evolved over time. The project will facilitate Belarus’s participation in an internationally comparable system of student learning assessment – the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) – for the first time in 2018 and to be carried out every three years thereafter.
“PISA 2018 will become a benchmark, which can be used for assessing the quality of education in Belarus compared to more than 70 other counties,” noted Igor Kheyfets, World Bank Project Team Leader. “Looking at competencies of 15 year old pupils in the field of mathematics, reading, and science, PISA measures to what extent the learning acquired can be applied to everyday needs and helps countries to identify areas for improvement.”
Since the Republic of Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992, lending commitments to the country have totaled US$1.48 billion. In addition, grant financing totaling US$28 million has been provided to various programs, including those with civil society organizations. With the approval of this project, the active investment lending portfolio financed by the World Bank includes eight operations totaling US$988 million.