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The East African : February 10th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK FEBRUARY 8-14,2014 35 mands change of curriculum when 60 per cent of the students who sat O-level exams in 2012 failed. Whether or not our children are learning is of secondary concern. The education systems of the EAC member states share a crisis of learning. Our schools fail too many children: Half of the children who sat the 2013 Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations scored below average; 49 per cent of the children who sat Tanzania’s Primary School Leaving Examination in 2013 scored below average; and 46.5 per cent of Uganda’s children who sat the Primary Leaving Examination in 2013 scored below Division Two. If you believe that education is the currency of the knowledge economy, then we are disenfranchising half of all our children. This is a holocaust, an unprecedented slaughter of human capital. Re-imagining education The education systems in the KEY QUESTIONS BARRIERS: The Unesco EFA Global Monitoring Report, Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all, highlights the need to address gender-based violence in schools, a major barrier to quality and equality in education. It underscores the importance of curriculum and assessment strategies to promote inclusion and improve learning. For example, in Cameroon, the switch to local language instruction in the early grades improved learning outcomes. GOALS: Pauline Rose, the director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, said: “What’s the point in an education if children emerge after years in school without the skills they need? The huge numbers of illiterate children and young people mean it is crucial that equality in access and learning be placed at the heart of future education goals. New goals after 2015 must make sure every child is not only in school, but learning what they need to learn.” EAC region are faithful to the logic of their colonial purpose — to produce unthinking, uncritical and subservient minions for the colonial overloads. The system was not created to encourage children to engage in the kind of critical thinking, creativity and complex reasoning that a knowledge economy demands, and which is a prerequisite to realizing the bold dreams of national vision statements. We must re-design our education systems to deliver the hopes and aspirations articulated in our vision. But whenever we try re-imag- ining or reforming our education system, I am reminded of the American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887). In the first stanza of his poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant, Saxe writes: “It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind”. Constrained by limited per- spectives and contingent on what they touched, the blind men characterised the elephant variously and erroneously as a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan and a rope. But as Saxe writes in the last stanza of the poem: “And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!” John Godfrey Saxe’s poem is a brilliant analogy of the hubris of the expert. Armed, often, with limited understanding, we rush to conclusions and argue extensively in defence of our expert opinions. Like the blind men in Saxe’s poem, as policymakers or educators or economists or donors we have been exceedingly “stiff and strong” about what we perceive to be the problem with our education system. I have listened with bemuse- ment as different experts diagnose what ails our education system. With a “silver bullet” mindset, the experts often cite factors such as curriculum, or teacher quality, or access, or physical infrastructure, or school management, or class size, or language of instruction, or textbooks, or technology, or finance, or assessment. What is needed is an allof-the-above solution to re-build the school system in all of its essential dimensions, and delivers learning for our children. The curriculum is at the heart of the learning crisis. We must re-imagine curriculum in the image of the child. It must be a curriculum that liberates the child to play, experiment, question, collaborate, co-create imagine and reason. The curriculum must prepare the child for careers that do not yet exist; hence not encumbered by content, but liberated and inspired by a flaming desire to innovate and solve problems. It must be a curriculum that dethrones the teacher as the “all-knowing” oracle and installs the child as selfdirected learner. Dr Awiti is the director of the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University. inc≥eases gap in lea≥ning basic skills shortage of four teachers. But teachers also lack training; some do not understand what they’re teaching. The report shows that in a 2010 survey of primary schools in Kenya, grade six teachers scored only 61 per cent on tests of grade six mathematics material; none of the teachers had complete mastery of the subject. Teachers also need more class- based experience. They are also not receiving training to ensure children participate in class, so the teaching tends to veer towards test/rote learning. Teachers who are working in dis- advantaged areas, like the refugee camp in Dadaab, need special training in helping these children break down their barriers. Only 10 per cent of teachers in the camps are qualified; the others are drawn from among the refugees. It is also vital that someone train the trainers. But in Kenya, teacher educators have no instruction in training teachers for basic education. Lastly, teacher governance in the country is still lacking; 13 per cent of teachers are absent from primary school classrooms, says one survey. Some 12 per cent of teachers are on contract; they were hired in 2009 to cope with the huge rise in school enrolment. Contract teachers often experience salary delays and very low monitoring of their teaching methods and skills. There are some positives; Kenya, which has higher learning rates than its neighbours, has an ongoing onthe-job training for teachers. There is a programme that extends support to teachers working in poorly-performing districts. And the government has made plans to make multi-grade teaching a reality for many schools. Young readers. Good teachers are the key to better learning. Pic: File Global education c≥isis costing $129b pe≥ yea≥ By A CORRESPONDENT The EastAfrican THE 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report reveals that a global learning crisis is costing governments $129 billion a year. Ten per cent of global spending on primary education is being lost to poor quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn. In sub-Saharan Africa, this situation has left 40 per cent of young people unable to read a single sentence. The report concludes that good teachers are the key to improvement, and calls on governments to provide the best teachers to those who need them most. This year’s report, Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all, warns that without attracting and adequately training enough teachers the learning crisis will last for several generations and hit the disadvantaged hardest. The report reveals that in many subSaharan African countries, that only one in five of the poorest children reach the end of primary school having learnt the basics of reading and mathematics. Poor quality education is leaving a legacy of illiteracy more widespread than previously believed. On current trends, the report projects that the richest boys in sub-Saharan Africa will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086. In addition, it will take until the next century for all girls from the poorest families in the region to finish lower secondary school. In a third of countries ana- lysed, less than three-quarters of primary school teachers are trained to national standards. Mali has one of the most unfa- Teachers need to be recruited globally by 2015 5.2 million vourable ratios, at 92 children for every trained teacher. On its past trend of trained teacher recruitment, Mali will not achieve a ratio of 40 pupils per trained teacher until 2030. More teachers “Teachers have the future of this generation in their hands,” said Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova. “We need 5.2 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education. We must also make sure that there is an explicit commitment to equity in new global education goals set after 2015, with indicators tracking the progress of the marginalized so that no one is left behind.” The report calculates that the cost of 250 million children around the world not learning the basics is a loss of an estimated $129 billion. In total, 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are losing at least half the amount they spend on primary education because children are not learning, rising to 70 per cent in Burundi, for example. By contrast, the report shows that ensuring an equal, quality education for all can generate huge economic rewards, increasing a country’s gross domestic product per capita by 23 per cent over 40 years. If education inequality in sub-Saharan Africa had been halved the annual per capita growth rate in the period 2005–2010 would have been 47 per cent higher. The report shows that to achieve good quality education for all, governments must provide enough trained teachers, and focus their teacher policies on meeting the needs of the disadvantaged. This means attracting the best candidates into teaching; giving them relevant training; deploying them within counties to areas where they are needed most; and offering them incentives to make a long-term commitment to teaching.
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