South Asia Development Forum

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Home to a fifth of mankind, and to almost half of the people living in poverty, South Asia is also a region of marked contrasts: from conflict-affected areas to vibrant democracies, from demographic bulges to aging societies, from energy crises to global companies. This series explores the challenges faced by a region whose fate is critical to the success of global development in the early 21st century, and can also make a difference for global peace. The volumes in it organize in an accessible way findings from recent research and lessons of experience, across a range of development topics. The series is intended to present new ideas and to stimulate debate among practitioners, researchers, and all those interested in public policies. In doing so, it exposes the options faced by decision makers in the region and highlights the enormous potential of this fast-changing part of the world.

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    Engendering Access to STEM Education and Careers in South Asia: Overview
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023) Sosale, Shobhana ; Harrison, Graham Mark ; Tognatta, Namrata ; Nakata, Shiro ; Mukesh Gala, Priyal
    Building a skilled and diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial for economic development, cross-border trade, and social inclusion in South Asia. However, underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM education and careers remains a persistent issue. What kinds of macro and micro socioeconomic interventions are needed to increase girls’ and women’s access to and participation in STEM education and careers in South Asia? Engendering Access to STEM Education and Careers in South Asia compares trends in South Asia with global trends to examine how access to and choices of STEM fields affects girls’ enrollment in upper secondary education, technical and vocational education and training, and higher education in the region, as well as selection of careers. Based on the analysis, it offers recommendations to policy makers and practitioners to improve inclusion. The following are among the findings: •Four key intervention points to increase inclusion in STEM education and careers and staunch the “leaky pipeline” are at enrollment in the upper primary, lower and upper secondary, and tertiary education levels; and during early career years. •A strong pathway from STEM education to career depends on an integrated, systematic approach that motivates students to pursue STEM fields, builds STEM skills, and removes barriers to diversity. •With the increasing migration of workers between countries in South Asia, preparing a critical mass of semiskilled and skilled STEM migrant workers has cross-border value, especially for workers migrating from smaller to larger economies. New ways of defining STEM occupations are required to help develop and sustain female interest in STEM education and careers. Potential strategies that governments can pursue include raising awareness and building knowledge and skills in STEM outside the formal academic environment, such as in after-school programs, science fairs and competitions, and summer camps, and developing and systematically disseminating standardized resources. Inclusion and diversity must be championed by governments, the private sector, and by stakeholders who stand to benefit from more diverse workforces. Though women themselves would likely be credible champions, in South Asia they are often constrained by a range of factors. This report addresses some of those factors.
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    The Converging Technology Revolution and Human Capital: Potential and Implications for South Asia
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-09-08) Bashir, Sajitha ; Dahlman, Carl J. ; Kanehira, Naoto ; Tilmes, Klaus
    South Asia is heavily impacted by the devastating loss of lives and human capital from the COVID-19 pandemic and the converging technology revolution sweeping the globe. The Converging Technology Revolution and Human Capital: Potential and Implications for South Asia looks at how the region could capitalize on these technologies to accelerate its development of human capital and promote adaptability and resilience to future shocks. The convergence of technological breakthroughs spanning biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science is driven by artificial intelligence, data flows, computing power, and connectivity. These breakthroughs can improve service delivery, productivity, and innovation, but they can also exacerbate inequalities and eliminate people’s agency and empowerment. This report analyzes these trends in the region, offering a comprehensive agenda to exploit the opportunities offered by converging technologies while minimizing the risks to vulnerable populations. It proposes strategies for building public sector capacity and promoting data and technology governance frameworks in a rapidly evolving technology landscape.
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    Ready to Learn: Before School, In School, and Beyond School in South Asia
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2020-02-19) Beteille, Tara ; Tognatta, Namrata ; Riboud, Michelle ; Nomura, Shinsaku ; Ghorpade, Yashodhan
    Countries that have sustained rapid growth over decades have typically had a strong public commitment to expanding education as well as to improving learning outcomes. South Asian countries have made considerable progress in expanding access to primary and secondary schooling, with countries having achieved near-universal enrollment of the primary-school-age cohort (ages 6–11), except for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Secondary enrollment shows an upward trend as well. Beyond school, many more people have access to skill-improving opportunities and higher education today. Although governments have consistently pursued policies to expand access, a prominent feature of the region has been the role played by non-state actors—private nonprofit and for-profit entities—in expanding access at every level of education. Though learning levels remain low, countries in the region have shown a strong commitment to improving learning. All countries in South Asia have taken the first step, which is to assess learning outcomes regularly. Since 2010, there has been a rapid increase in the number of large-scale student learning assessments conducted in the region. But to use the findings of these assessments to improve schooling, countries must build their capacity to design assessments and analyze and use findings to inform policy.