Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Maximum Capacity

Hi all, and happy May Day to you.  Check out this article from The Citizen dated April 25th.

In Swahili, uwezo means "capacity" or "capability."  The piece below discusses inequity of access to quality primary education in Tanzania across socioeconomic and geographical lines.

Clearly, the education sector in TZ is not functioning at maximum capacity, and it is interesting to note that many of the grievances pointed out as government failings are things that Toa seeks to address: poor learning outcomes for students, students' pass rates based on age rather than ability, over-worked and under-incentivized teachers, uninformed and uncommitted parents, and lack of learning resources.


Making Tanzanian Children Learn 

Among children aged 9 to 13, many are unable to complete Standard 2 work.  These are the findings in the newly launched report titled "Are Our Children Learning?  The Sixth Uwezo Tanzania Annual Learning Assessment Report 2017."

The new Uwezo data shows improvements in basic Kiswahili literacy but inequalities persist across the country.  The gap between the lowest and highest performing districts is 60 percentage points.

Iringa Urban is the best performing district, where by 74% of children aged 9 to 13 are able to pass basic literacy tests in English and Kiswahili and basic numeracy tests, while the corresponding figure in Sikonge is 15%.  In Dar es Salaam, 64% of children aged 9 to 13 years are able to pass the three tests while 23% of their peers in Katavi can do the same.

The report shows that four out of ten children (42%) in ultra-poor households passed all three tests compared to close to six out of ten (58%) of their counterparts in non-poor households.

Aidan Eyakuze, Executive Director of Twaweza says that, "It is very encouraging to see the improvements in basic Kiswahili literacy among our children, but we still have a very long way to go."

"One cause for worry is the growing inequality in outcomes based on location.  Our data indicates that where a child lives has the most profound effect on whether or not they will learn, more than whether a child's mother is educated, whether the child attended pre-school, or even whether they are stunted or not," says Eyakuze.

Adding to that, he says, between 2011 and 2015 the pass rates for Kiswahili among Standard 3 pupils almost doubled from 29% to 56%. In Standard 7, the pass rate has increased from 76% to 89% during the same period.

Zaida Mgalla, Manager of Uwezo, says that when we talk about learning at schools, the majority of people think of children's enrollment and examination performances, and forget to ask themselves, are the children enrolled at the right age?  Or are they in the right classes at the right ages?

Adding to that she says, the report chose children at age 11, and 48% of these children are in Standard 4; however, according to their ages, they are supposed to be above Standard 4.  In 2011, children of the same grade stood at 33%.  This means that as the years go on, children's enrollment at the right age slows down, so we must ask ourselves, with the given scenario, are we really following the education policy?

"We commend the government for their efforts to ensure children are mastering basic Kiswahili and for providing more children with textbooks.  The declining rates of access to school could signal a fading of the initial enthusiasm over free primary education that produced a surge in enrollment," says Mgalla.

She says that the experience that followed the struggles with under-resourced schools and classrooms, over-stretched teachers, and low-quality learning outcomes led to declining rates of enrollments.

"Our common challenge is to ensure that this does not happen again.  We will do this by checking our children's books and homework every day, by paying close attention to how our schools are managed, and by focusing at least as much on improving the results that come from schooling as on the inputs that go into our schools," she says.

At the launch, Antony Komu, Member of Parliament from Moshi Rural said that the findings by the report that shows 79% of the pupils in rural Moshi children are fed school lunches in order to help pupils stay at schools, however he still thinks the "free education" initiative has resulted in so many challenges in the education sector.

"How many teachers have been added to help the increase of the enrollment, and where are the desks for the pupils?  In order to help our children learn in schools, we should consider employing new teachers and get enough desks for a start," says Komu.

Fatma Toufiq, a Member of Parliament's Special Seats says that the findings remind legislators, parents, and teachers on their roles to ensure children are learning.

She says that parents should follow up on the children's progress at the schools as the majority leave the burden to the teachers.  As a result, the lack of enough teachers and lack of parents' commitment leads to poor performances by the children.

She recommends that the government should add more money in the education sector to help in purchasing of learning materials, as well as take teachers for on-the-job trainings.  This will help teachers to get new skills that will help them teach with more passion.

"I also think if the textbooks ratios can move from 1 book for 3 pupils to 1 book for 1 pupil, it can help stimulate the level of understanding," she adds.

The report shows that the pupil to textbook ratio has seen rapid improvements moving from 30 pupils sharing one book in 2013, to 8 pupils sharing one book in 2014, down to 3 pupils sharing a book in 2015.  This data clearly shows the rate of change that is possible with strong and well-managed interventions.

The Uwezo Tanzania report provides strong indications that enrollments are declining, especially in rural areas.  In 2011, 77% of pupils aged 7 were enrolled in primary school compared to 55% in 2015.  When considering enrollment of the same age group in any educational institution (including pre-school), the figures have dropped from 86% in 2011 to 81% in 2015.

Further analysis shows that these declines are happening almost exclusively in rural areas: the enrollment among pupils aged 7, in any educational institution (including pre-school), dropped from 84% in 2011 to 78% in 2015.  In urban areas, the corresponding figures are 94% (2011) and 93% (2015).  Similarly rural enrollment rates show declines among all age groups while urban enrollments have remained stable.

The report is based on data collected by Uwezo Tanzania which is part of Africa's largest citizen-led assessment of learning outcomes implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In the sixth round of data collection by Uwezo Tanzania in 2015, a total of 197,451 children were assessed from 68,588 households.  Data was also collected from 4,750 primary schools.

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