Just because you call yourself the “World Bank” does not mean you care about the world. The bank was created after World War II by the United States and Great Britain to ensure their economic influence over countries devastated by the war and domination over former colonies.
While the World Bank claims one of its goals is to reduce global poverty, the way it goes about doing it manages to keep poor countries in perpetual debt to pay for questionable capital improvement projects and for refinancing debt they already owe to wealthy nations.
Critics of the World Bank, and there are many, include Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement, and writer Naomi Klein. Stiglitz argues that World Bank loans to developing countries emphasize quick upticks rather than long-term benefits to a country. Hardstaff claims that conditions placed on World Bank loans benefit dominant capitalist nations by ensuring that poor countries repay debts as a condition for the new loans. Klein documents specific World Bank projects that manipulate Third World countries and calls the bank’s credibility “fatally compromised.” The World Bank forced Ghana to charge public school students and their families school fees, pushed to eliminate food subsidies in war-torn Iraq, and required Tanzania to privatize its water system.
More recently, David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, questioned the World Bank’s new Human Capital Index (HCI). The bank will use the index to decide on loan applications from poor countries and it says it wants them to invest more heavily in health and education programs. HCI supposedly will measure the “human capital” that a newborn will acquire by the time it completes secondary school through an algorithm that combines the probability of survival to age five, the availability of healthcare, and levels of education determined by standardized test scores. In other words, to receive debt relief, the World Bank will force Third World countries to adopt the kind of packaged curriculum and curriculum-aligned high-stakes testing being promoted by edu-companies like Pearson.
Edwards has three key complaints about the World Bank’s HCI. First, he objects to education being treated as a capital investment rather than as a human right. For Edwards and Education International, “Merely churning out workers for the capitalist economy is not the purpose and value of education.” It should be about achieving a “more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
Second, Edwards questions the need for another metric for measuring poverty. The HCI is a device for promoting the World Bank and demonstrating its concern for the poor, rather than something that will actually help poor nations.
Edwards’ third point is something that directly concerns parents and teachers in the United States where students are battered by high-stakes standardized assessments that turn schools into test prep academies. The HCI ranks countries “based solely on admittedly imperfect test-scores.” Edwards charges that the World Bank’s ability to use loans to dictate government policy will mean that instead of strengthening education systems, HCI ratings will encourage “teaching to the test and a narrowed curriculum.”
Waiting in the wings to benefit from the World Bank HCI loans are corporate vultures like British-based Pearson Education. Pearson is targeting what it euphemistically calls “emerging markets” as its textbook and testing business in North America reports multi-year declining profits. Egypt is currently seeking a large funding package, estimated at $2 billion, from the World Bank to finance their latest educational reform strategy. No surprise, Pearson is in line to provide the hardware, infrastructure, and training for the “reforms” new digital testing system and a “bank” of exam questions.
Pearson Education also partners with the World Bank to sponsor Bridge International Academies (Bridge), a U.S.-based for-profit school chain that is trying to supplant public education in African and Asian countries. In Uganda, courts found Bridge guilty of deliberately setting up illegal schools that violated national laws and regulations. However, in Kenya, Bridge continues to receive support from Pearson and the World Bank. Poor families and local governments pay fees to Bridge, whose “schools” employ unqualified teachers that follow the company’s scripted curriculum. As of July 2018, the World Bank had invested more than $10 million in Bridge’s African operations alone. In 2015 Pearson even managed to weasel a multi-million dollar Ebola Emergency Response grant from the World Bank to supply textbooks to West African countries.
The only thing certain is that when Pearson and the “World Bank” partner on an “education reform” program the world better watch out.
Follow Alan Singer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReecesPieces8