How can emerging economies reduce poverty when many of their youth enter the job market without the skills they need to succeed? IFC is working to narrow this critical gap.
More than 61 million children in developing countries do not receive any education, and over half of them are girls. In some countries, up to half of students who have gone to primary school cannot read a single sentence, and a third cannot do basic math. Traditional education models are not providing these students with access to the high-quality education they need to pursue their ambitions in the workforce.
IFC believes private education can make a significant contribution in emerging markets—by complementing the efforts by governments to provide education to the poor. In a little over a decade, IFC has invested over $700 million in 94 projects in 35 countries to educate children and create opportunities for young professionals. These projects support about 1 million students annually and employ some 50,000 people. About 37 percent of these projects are in the world's poorest countries.
Technology can improve primary education
Consider Diana, a primary school student in Nairobi, Kenya. In her previous school, her schoolteachers failed to show up for class about a third of the time. When they were present, they averaged just three-and-a-half hours of teaching per day. “The teachers…did not teach all the subjects,” Diana said. “They rarely marked my homework.”
Today Diana is a Class 6 prefect at Bridge International Academy, a private provider of high-quality primary education for children from poor families. The school’s tuition fees are minimal—averaging $7 a month. It uses an innovative new model to ensure that students get their full share of class time. Teachers use computer tablets to deliver scripted lessons prepared by a world-class team. The tablets track when the teacher uses the tablet, completes the lesson, and enters assessment scores. The tablets also offer professional guidance for the teachers.
Diana is one of ten million children that Bridge aims to enroll by 2025. Thanks in part to a $10 million investment from IFC this year, Bridge will be able to expand its activities to several other developing countries, raising the quality of education, ensuring that teachers are fully engaged in their work, and keeping more young children in school.
Connecting education to employment
In higher education, classes are too often disconnected from the needs of employers. This shortfall is especially acute in the Middle East and North Africa, where more than 25 percent of youth are unemployed—at an estimated economic cost of up to $50 billion. Moncef Marzouki, the interim President of Tunisia, has even described his country’s universities as “factories to train jobless people.”
Since 2012, IFC has collaborated on the Education for Employment Initiative, or “e4e” —bringing together public and private partners in the region to develop a more employment-driven education sector. The goal is to improve post-secondary education and vocational training, so that schools can supply better-trained workers for key industries such as tourism, health care, and construction.