Does inequality matter? What are the effects of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few individuals?
Well, if you believe some of the world’s most respected economists – people like Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz, Branco Milanovic, Wilkinson and Pickett – it matters. And they say it is getting worse. The World Bank and the IMF made “shared prosperity” the theme of their annual meeting this year, and the IMF head, Christine Lagarde, described the rise in global inequality as “staggering”. Just in the past week, Bill Gates, the Financial Times and the (UK) Guardian have all made the case that inequality matters.
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?