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The East African : Aug 9th 2015
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK AUGUST 8-14,2015 Pupil numbers soar, education falls behind A la≥ge numbe≥ of people who have gone to school haven’t lea≥ned anything By EDUARDO PORTER New York Times Service A quarter of a century ago, barely half the children of primary school age in sub-Saharan Africa were enrolled in school. By 2012, the share was 78 per cent. In South Asia, primary school enrolment jumped to 94 per cent from 75 per cent over the same period. This did not happen by chance. Policymakers around the world have come to understand the importance of learning for every aspect of human development. Universal primary education was one of the United Nations’ core Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which mobilised large amounts of aid in the first decade of the century for poor countries to expand access. Despite this phenomenal ad- vance, a peek under the headline statistics suggests that much of the world has, in fact, progressed little. If the challenge were to provide a minimum standard of education for all, what looks like an enormous improvement too often amounted to a stunning failure. “We’ve made substantial progress around the globe in sending people to school,” said Eric Hanushek, an expert on the economics of education at Stanford University. “But a large number of people who have gone to school haven’t learned anything.” Can the world do better? Ex- perts and diplomats have been working for two years to create a set of Sustainable Development Goals to succeed the previous millennium goals in guiding development strategy and steering international aid over the next 15 years. The targets are expected to be formally adopted by the United Nations in September. An educated population is a critical precondition for broadly shared prosperity — an essential tool for nations seeking a role in the global production chains driving economic growth around the world. But simply pursuing “universal education” will not get us there. It cannot do MDGs SCORECARD 31 Pupils of Nakasero Primary School in Kampala play in class during a teachers’ strike. Picture: File the job alone. Aiming resources at expand- ing access will probably be fruitless without an understanding of what a quality education means. And without some clear, measurable standards laying out the skills that must be achieved, the strategy is likely to fall short again. A report published by the Or- ganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs the PISA standardised tests taken every few years by a sample of 15-year-olds in some 75 countries, offers a distressing take on the state of the world’s learning. Even among relatively wealthy countries, many students fail to master the most basic skills. In Uganda, only one in five el- ementary schoolteachers meets the minimum standard of proficiency in maths, language and pedagogy. In surprise visits to public schools, researchers found that 27 per cent of teachers were absent. Of those present, 56 per cent were not in the classroom during scheduled teaching hours. The OECD report — aimed at influencing the debate over development goals at the United Nations — proposes a target of providing universal secondary education by 2030 that ensures all students achieve the basic level of skill as measured by PISA. The economic gains, it argues, would more than pay for the effort. The educational goals under discussion do not focus on quality. The draft of the UN document hazily promises “equitable and effective” universal secondary education that produces “relevant and effective” learning outcomes. But it fails to define the terms. The promise to eliminate illiteracy among the young is the nearest it comes to a concrete, meaningful target.
Aug 2nd 2015
Aug 16th 2015