Photo: courtesy of the ITUC
Photo: courtesy of the ITUC

EI on the World Development Report: “One must have a vision to have hope”

published 19 September 2018 updated 3 October 2018

Education International urges the World Bank to radically change its approach, which is damaging to workers, democracy and the future of our societies.

In an open letter to Jim Yong Kim, Director of the World Bank, general secretary of Education International (EI) David Edwards raises the global union’s concern about the policy views and values contained in the Draft 2019 World Development report (WDR).

The letter, which was sent out today from EI’s headquarters in Brussels, raises concerns about the Bank’s lack of vision and “warped and damaged thinking”, both reflected in the draft of the World Development report to be published in 2019. The letter looks at topics such as the future of work and of enterprises, collective bargaining, taxes and education.

Increasing precariousness in the world of work

Edwards highlights the growth of precarious work, persistently low wages and poor working conditions in many parts of the world as among the biggest threats to prosperity, well-being and growth, and notes that the Bank’s proposals in terms of solving these issues tend to repeat the past, which “the same advice [that] is given even if it has not worked”.

The result, according to EI, is that “instead of learning lessons from past failures, the Bank seems intent on giving lessons to perpetuate or even aggravate those failures”. Education International is particularly critical of the Bank’s persistent call to maintain low wages in developing countries, its reliance on flexibility and deregulation and its disregard of formal employment.

Deepening inequality

While the report recognises that development is often hindered by the lack of adequate tax revenue, according to EI it under-estimates the impact of inequality and misses out on the opportunity to suggest a progressive income tax as one solution that would provide sustainable funding for government services like education.

A distorted view of education

The letter focuses on the Bank’s view of education and criticises its “narrow understanding of the role of education in society”. It states that the institution has a “one-dimensional view related almost exclusively to the needs of the economy – one that can be reduced to limited learning outcomes and misguided measurement and assessment schemes”.

According to Edwards, the Bank also seems to continue to under-estimate the importance of teaching as a profession, ignoring the voice of educators as expressed through their organisations. This stands in the way of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Conclusion: dangerous omissions

Education International considers that the Bank’s WDR leaves out many of the key factors that are affecting people’s lives and threatening the future. The global teachers’ organisation calls for a new social contract based on solid social values, that involves the social partners and that does not separate development from human rights, tolerance and dignity. It expresses its wish to continue to contribute to improving the drafts of the report in the hopes that it will have “a human face; one that considers the compelling and multiple needs of society”.

The letter is available here.