Monday, 27 October 2014

African Education Needs Quality, Not Just High Enrolment

According to a 2013 United Nations report, the state of global education has developed since 2011 with net enrolment rising to 90 per cent in developing nations and 77 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there is a negative aspect to this. The rise in student enrolment has not been complemented by a rise in quality of education. 

Is Quality Rising With Quantity?
The details of this topic was discussed at the 2014 African Economic Conference in Ethiopia. Participants at the conference listened to the findings of the research presented by scholars who worked on finding solutions to this dilemma. Esther Mumbi Kinamu, a South African Researcher, analysed and examined the importance of education in economic progress in developing nations. He said that numerous learners who have already completed 9 years of education in Africa, possess skills and knowledge below the global average level. 

She said “They simply cannot compete with their peers from the developed world at that level. For the type of primary education offered to be of significant value, research finds that it should not entirely be theoretical but at least impart some basic skills.” 

Kinamu further quoted works by reputed educationalist Eric A. Hanushek and claimed that as public plans for general education remained the key prerogative of the government, a constant rise in the public investment on academic infrastructure is imminent. She added “Our findings considered neighbourhood characteristics such as access to piped water, toilet facilities and communication facilities, most of which is the work of government. Increased expenditure per pupil also has a significant effect on the quality of a child’s education.” 

Her research, entitled “The effects of pupil-teacher ratio and expenditure per pupil on education attainment in South Africa”, states that in lower grades a low student-teacher ratio has a stronger impact on the quality of education. She added “Family characteristics are important determinants of educational attainment. Our results show that having a parent with at least some secondary education increases the likelihood of attaining a higher level of education, compared to having a parent with no formal education.” 

Focussing On Removing Illiteracy
Jennifer Okwonkwo, another renowned education researcher who primarily focused on Education reforms in Francophone West African countries, believes that the African education system should be restructured to enable our students to eradicate poverty, eliminating illiteracy and improving health, instead of encouraging them to dream about having a good life. 

Okwonkwo said “Many African countries have carried out reforms in their education systems, however, the quality of education in Africa remains strikingly low. While some argue that there is no relationship between funding and reform outcomes, others conclude that increase in per-pupil expenditure has a significant positive impact on reform achievement.” She added “Our research finds that increased funding in education is very crucial, but its impact depends highly on how it is used.” 

Need For Better Quality Education
However, as per the 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report, most nations are set to achieve their primary education enrolment targets. The report was developed by the African Development Bank in association with the United Nations Development Program, the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The study reveals that 25 nations have reached enrolment rates of over 80 per cent; while 11 countries have enrolment below 75 per cent. But it backs the notion that poor quality education is still a key challenge in spite of having high enrolment ratios, said the Africa Economic Conference research papers. 

What do you think about the quality of education in Africa? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below. We would love to hear from you.

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