The World Bank Group and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), are trying to harness big data’s potential to support national education systems, with their recently launched ‘Systems Approach for Better Education Results’ initiative, which collects and shares comparative data on educational policies and institutions from countries around the world.
Jin-Yong Cai, the executive vice-president and CEO of the International Finance Corporation, writes that big data “can provide teachers and companies with unprecedented amounts of information about student learning patterns, helping schools to personalise instruction in increasingly sophisticated ways”
Bridge International Academies, an IFC client founded by American entrepreneurs, tests different approaches to teaching standard skills and concepts by simultaneously utilizing two versions of a lesson in a large number of classrooms in Kenya. Exam results are recorded, with more than 250,000 scores logged every 21 days; from these data, Bridge’s evaluation team determines which lesson is the most effective and distributes that lesson throughout the rest of the academy’s network.
Information technology offers the right tools to broaden access to high-quality, affordable education, that will provide countries with the skilled, talented young people necessary to spur economic growth. Students’ performances are subject to many individual factors that can cause them to decline, but by gathering results on a large scale, variables flatten out, and the important differences come to light.
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