Uwezo released their latest report last week, looking at learning outcomes across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. They surveyed well over 300,000 children aged 6 to 16, across all but a handful of districts in these three countries, with each child taking a short test in maths, English and Swahili (other local language in Uganda).
The tests are designed in line with the Standard 2 syllabus – though the vast majority of children taking participating are in higher classes.
Here’s my favourite chart from the report, showing test pass rates for older children (10+) in each country and each subject.
1. The chart suggests the quality of primary education is higher in Kenya than in either Tanzania or Uganda. (Though none of the results are “good”: even the top score in the chart (74%) means a quarter of children over 10 in Kenya can’t read very basic Swahili).
2. Tanzania is doing really, really badly at teaching English. With Secondary Schools using English as the medium of instruction, this could go a long way towards explaining the appallingly bad Form 4 exam results.
Is it time to reconsider the use of English in Secondary Schools? Or to focus a big push on improving English teaching in Primary Schools? Or both?
It is no secret that Daraja’s Maji Matone programme has not lived up to expectations. In particular, despite considerable resources spent on promotional work – printing and distributing posters and leaflets, as well as extensive broadcasts on local radio – we haven’t had the response from the community that we had hoped for. A six month pilot in three districts resulted in only 53 SMS messages received and forwarded to district water departments (compared to an initial target of 3,000). So we’ve made a decision – to embrace failure, learn and share lessons from the experience, and to fundamentally redesign the programme.
Admitting failure in this way is easy to support in theory, but much harder to do in practice. It may be accepted practice in the for-profit world, but it’s uncomfortable for a donor-dependent NGO. Would it be easier to continue half-heartedly with a programme that isn’t working or close it down quietly and hope that nobody notices? Of course it would. But those approaches would not benefit anyone, wasting money and missing out on valuable opportunities to learn. So we’re taking a different tack, embracing and publicising our failures, and trying to make sure we (and others) learn as much as possible from the experience. Continue reading →