Sondergaard, Lars M.

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Last updated September 20, 2023
Lars M. Sondergaard is a lead economist in the World Bank’s Education Global Practice, East Asia and Pacific Region. In different regions of the world, he has led both operational and analytical work to support improvement in educational outcomes. His policy research encompasses a range of issues, including education, poverty, growth, and fiscal policy. He is the coauthor of several World Bank publications, including Skills, Not Just Diplomas: Managing Education for Results in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Getting Back on Track: Reviving Growth and Securing Prosperity for All. Before joining the World Bank, he was a senior economist at the European Central Bank. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in economics from Georgetown University.

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Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
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    Skills, Not Just Diplomas : The Path for Education Reforms in ECA
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-05) Murthi, Mamta ; Sondergaard, Lars
    Europe and Central Asia (ECA) countries are currently emerging from the deepest recession among all developing regions. In the post economic-crisis world, financial resources are more limited and more expensive and export growth is restrained by potentially slower growth in the destination countries. Restoring and sustaining growth in this context require reforms to boost competitiveness and increase labor productivity. ECA had a well-regarded education system prior to the end of central planning. While the intervening years have taken some of the shine off this reputation, the countries continue to have some strong achievements in the field of education. Notably, enrollments are high at all levels of education. The socialist legacy is particularly visible in the low income countries in the region which show the highest secondary enrollments in the world for their income level. Whatever measures countries take, it would be important to continue to build learning assessment systems and monitor and evaluate the impact of the reforms on desired outcomes. This is the only way of telling whether the adopted measures had the intended effect and whether course correction is needed. The education reform agenda ahead of the countries in the region is an extremely important one as it lies at the heart of their competitiveness. The reform will take time, suggesting that there is no time to lose to make a start.
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    Skills, Not Just Diplomas : Managing Education for Results in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
    (World Bank, 2012) Sondergaard, Lars ; Murthi, Mamta ; Abu-Ghaida, Dina ; Bodewig, Christian ; Rutkowski, Jan
    The countries of Europe and Central Asia (ECA) are currently emerging from the deepest recession suffered by any developing region. Post-crisis conditions are very different from those of preceding years. Financial resources are more limited and more expensive, and export growth is restrained by potentially slower growth in destination countries. Restoring and sustaining growth in this context require reforms that boost competitiveness and increase labor productivity. Such reforms are all the more important given the shrinking of the working-age population in many countries of the region. This book uses a range of different data sources to argue that the skills problem in the ECA region relates more to the quality and relevance of the education provided in ECA countries than to problems of access. A central argument of the book is that ministries of education are constrained in a number of ways from effectively managing their education and training sectors. The three most important and interrelated impediments to improving quality and relevance are the lack of systematic data on key skills-related performance issues (i.e., how much students are learning and whether they are finding jobs after they graduate), the legacy of central planning, and inefficient use of resources. Lack of data on student learning and employment outcomes makes it difficult for education ministries to address the legacy of central planning, which emphasizes centralized management based on inputs. Ministries of education in the region continue to micromanage the sector using detailed norms and regulations. This input-oriented style of management leads to the inefficient use of resources and results in a rigid education sector not the type of flexible sector needed by ECA to create modern, skilled workforces. This book highlights how these constraints manifest themselves and then presents ways of overcoming them, relying on the experience of ECA countries that have successfully addressed them, together with international experience. Recommendations are presented in separate chapters for pre-university, tertiary, and adult education.
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    Analysis of Teacher Stock versus Flow in Primary Education in East Asia and the Pacific Middle-Income Countries: A Simple Model and Results from Simulation between 2020 and 2030
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-07-10) Tanaka, Nobuyuki ; Sondergaard, Lars M.
    Too many children are not learning to read in the East Asia and Pacific region’s middle-income countries. In some countries in the region, such as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Philippines, more than 90 percent of 10-year-olds cannot read and understand an age-appropriate text. To accelerate learning in these countries, better teaching will be needed. To improve teacher quality in the next 10 years, where should countries focus their attention? On improving the teaching skills and content knowledge of their existing stock of teachers, on recruiting and better training new teachers, or on doing both? This paper contributes to this discussion by addressing two policy questions: (i) will East Asia and Pacific’s middle-income countries need more or fewer teachers in the coming decade, and (ii) quantitatively, how important will the newly recruited teachers be (the flow) relative to the teaching workforce who have already been recruited (the stock)? To answer these questions, the paper uses a simple model that projects the required number of primary school teachers in each of the East Asia and Pacific region’s 22 middle-income countries. The model is based on several factors, such as: (i) the size of future cohorts of children, (ii) the proportion of those cohorts who end up in school, (iii) the pupil-to-teacher ratio, and (iv) teacher attrition. Two key messages emerge with an important policy implication. First, significant heterogeneity exists across the 22 countries, with seven countries projected to need fewer teachers overall in the next 10 years relative to the teacher stock in 2020, while the rest will need to expand their teacher workforce. Second, despite this heterogeneity, in every East Asia and Pacific country, teachers who are already “in the system” are expected to constitute the majority of teachers still employed in 2030. In some countries, teachers who have already been recruited will constitute more than 70 percent of those who will be in schools in 2030. The finding has an important policy implication, namely: if countries want to improve the quality of teaching in schools, their primary focus in the next 10 years should be on improving the stock, that is, the quality of their current teacher workforce (through more and better teacher professional development).
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    Fixing the Foundation: Teachers and Basic Education in East Asia and Pacific
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-09-20) Afkar, Rythia ; Béteille, Tara ; Breeding, Mary E. ; Linden, Toby ; Mason, Andrew D. ; Mattoo, Aaditya ; Pfutze, Tobias ; Sondergaard, Lars M. ; Yarrow, Noah
    Countries in middle-income East Asia and the Pacific were already experiencing serious learning deficits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-related school disruptions have only made things worse. Learning poverty -- defined as the percentage of 10-year-olds who cannot read and understand an age-appropriate text -- is as high as 90 percent in several countries. Several large Southeast Asian countries consistently perform well below expectations on adolescent learning assessments. This report examines key factors affecting student learning in the region, with emphasis on the central role of teachers and teaching quality. It also analyzes the role education technologies, which came into widespread use during the pandemic, and examines the political economy of education reform. The report presents recommendations on how countries can strengthen teaching to improve learning and, in doing so, can enhance productivity, growth, and future development in the region.