The World Bank’s Approach to Reducing Learning Poverty in the Middle East and North Africa: Advancing Arabic Language


  • Andreas Blom Education Practice Manager World Bank
  • Laura Gregory Senior Education Specialist World Bank


Arabic, learning poverty, literacy, MENA region


A learning crisis across Arabic-speaking countries is leading to human capital deficits, undermining efforts to reduce poverty and putting achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at risk. The World Bank has introduced the concept of learning poverty to highlight this crisis — measured as the percentage of 10- year-old children who are unable to read and understand a simple text. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, this affects around 6 in 10 children, and likely more, because of the COVID-19-related school disruptions. The World Bank has proposed a path to reduce learning poverty through advancing Arabic language teaching and learning. The proposed path comprises a set of purposeful actions that governments and stakeholders can take to reorient education systems so that they can best achieve essential core Arabic language skills and learning for all. This includes, for example, setting literacy goals, aligning instructional resources to follow a systematic phonetic approach with a focus on reading comprehension in a literature-rich environment, ensuring high-quality instruction, and identifying and intervening early with struggling readers. As the largest external financier of education in the developing world, the World Bank has a significant role to play in helping countries to recognize these key challenges and to mobilize resources to address them effectively and efficiently. This paper outlines the World Bank’s approach and explores how it is taking shape in the World Bank’s support to countries’ education programs across the MENA region.

Author Biographies

Andreas Blom, Education Practice Manager World Bank

1818 H Street NW (Mail Stop J5-507)
Washington, D.C. 20433

Laura Gregory, Senior Education Specialist World Bank

1818 H Street NW (Mail Stop J5-507)
Washington, D.C. 20433


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Additional Files



How to Cite

Blom, A., & Gregory, L. (2023). The World Bank’s Approach to Reducing Learning Poverty in the Middle East and North Africa: Advancing Arabic Language. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(1), 1–17. Retrieved from