Poor primary education, long-lasting effects.

A few days ago I read an article that presented some astounding data about the dismal status of primary education in Tanzania.  A study released last week by Uwezo Tanzania and Twaweza East Africa showed that students in primary schools are not learning effectively.  According to the study:

– Only four out of 10 pupils in Standard 7 in the country can read and understand simple paragraphs in English and Kiswahili and perform the basic arithmetic expected of a Standard 2 pupil, according to the study.

– Rural children have it particularly bad as urban children in Standard 3 are twice as likely to have gained Standard 2 level skills as their rural counterparts.

– Enrollment rates at the secondary and university levels are among the lowest in the world (ranked 131st and 136th respectively out of 139 countries surveyed)

– Only three in 10 Standard 3 pupils can read a Kiswahili story, and only three in 10 can add, subtract and multiply. Scores are worse in English, where only one in 10 can read a basic English story.

– By Standard 7, only about half of Tanzanian children could read a story in English, set at a Standard Two level, compared with 94% in Kenya.

– 32% of  Standard 7 children could not do a sum set at Standard 2 level, compared with 15% in Uganda and 12% in Kenya.

These statistics show that children are not learning at primary levels — a problem, the article states, that could be filtering up to other levels and weakening Tanzania’s skill base.  Failures at the most basic level could spell out failure in the future. Poor education may be hurting Tanzania’s ability to create skilled jobs and compete in the regional economy. It could also deny it the critical “21st century skills”: information literacy and ICT literacy, critical thinking, creativity, innovation and intellectual curiosity.

Improving education in Tanzania is not simply about short-term goals of improving test performance or teaching a child to read a book, its about building a foundation for Tanzania to become a more educated and competitive nation as a whole.  Poor education doesn’t just harm students now, it has long-lasting and far-reaching negative effects.

More up-to-date statistics on education coming soon!



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