The quality of education in many parts of sub saharan Africa is still woefully low and equity is still a far off goal – it is worth spending time reflecting on recent statistics and considering effective action.
RESEARCH: Africa Learning Barometer Focusing on Quality Education in sub-Saharan Africa
Brookings Centers – Center for Universal Education
The Africa Learning Barometer illustrates the urgent need to accelerate education progress and improve equity in learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa where disparities in achievement exist: between boys and girls; between urban and rural communities; and between the wealthy and the poor, which is the most divisive of disparities.
Even as access to education has improved in sub-Saharan Africa (primary school enrollment has increased from 59 percent to 77 percent in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade), learning achievement remains alarmingly low. Regional assessments show low and uneven level of knowledge acquisition during the foundational years of primary school. This has adverse implications for knowledge and skills acquisition in later grades and for the long-term development and economic growth of the region.
The challenge facing the region now is to continue to expand access in order to meet the growing demand in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly for the most marginalized, while also implementing policy and programs to address the achievement gap. With a regional fertility rate of 5.1, compared to a global average of 2.4, and a 2030 projected population size of 1.5 billion people, there needs to be an increase in the supply of educational opportunities for all children.
Although there are assessments at regional and national level in sub-Saharan Africa, there is no comparable measure of learning across countries (World Bank, 2009) to show learning challenges in context and to benchmark countries’ progress. The Africa Learning Barometer used assessment data on literacy and numeracy at primary level for 28 countries. Although data was not comparable, it sheds light on the depth and nature of the problem. More needs to be done to understand the nature of the learning challenge affecting children’s development at pre-school, primary school and post-primary school and across a range of learning domains.
Current measures of education quality in sub-Saharan Africa often fail to capture important aspects of learning that cannot easily be demonstrated by cognitive tasks, such as behavioral attributes that are acquired through schooling, such as punctuality, teamwork, honesty, interpersonal skills and loyalty even if they are not building academic skills. These attributes are rarely accounted for in current forms of assessment though they are linked with a range of life outcomes.
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