State of Education in Africa Report 2015
The section on Quality of Education in Africa explores whether students are meeting education targets and learning outcomes as well as teacher training and effectiveness in African schools. The Public Spending on Education Systems section looks at the investments in education at all levels by African governments.
The Report Card assesses where education stands today and can guide stakeholders on the key priorities to enhance the African education system. The key education indicators were gleaned from World Bank statistics and UNESCO data on a regional level.
Early childhood Education
The early years of a child’s life lay the foundation for their socio-emotional development. More often than not, early childhood years will determine whether a child will be successful in school, gain decent employment and income, as well as influence the lives of future generations.
Vocational and Technical Training
Greater attention has centered on the importance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in enhancing Africa’s global competitiveness and creating decent employment.
Technical and vocational skills development helps to strengthen the local workforce in emerging economies. A skilled workforce also creates an attractive economic environment for investors.
Companies operating in African repeatedly cite insufficiently skilled labor as a bottleneck to growth. By improving the knowledge and skills of workers through technical and vocational education and training, local economies can build a skilled workforce to increase the production of goods and services and contribute to economic growth.
While technical and vocational education and training builds a strong skilled workforce, the training does not create jobs. The majority of people in African countries—nearly 80 percent—work in the informal sector, according to the World Bank. An estimated 40 million more youth are projected to drop out of school in the next decade. Lacking adequate work and life skills, many will face an uncertain future. Governments and private sector alike must develop workforce development and training programs that recognize that most youth will be self-employed or work for a small enterprise.
Higher education yields significant benefits for both African young people and society, as a whole: better employment opportunities and job prospects, improved quality of life, and greater economic growth.
And investments in higher education pay off. Returns to investments in higher education in Africa are 21 percent—the highest in the world. As the world becomes more technological, the school curriculums in Africa need to evolve to provide the right education and training for jobs in today’s workforce. A severe mismatch still exists between the skills of young African workers and the skills that employers need for today’s global workforce.
African countries will reap substantial socio-economic benefits from increased investments in improving higher education and developing strong curriculums for a knowledge-based global economy. A commitment to improving higher education will give the next generation of leaders an opportunity to create a better future for themselves, their community, and their country. With limited funds, African governments are entering into public-private partnerships with companies and investors like U.S.-based Africa Integras for infrastructure development projects to build academic facilities, student and faculty housing, and other facilities on university campuses.
Quality of Education in Africa
Indeed, while more students are in school classrooms, there is a deeper learning crisis at play: many students are not gaining basic skills while attending school. In fact, some students in school are not much better off than those who missed school. Consequently, the quality of education in Africa is in a perilous state. Private institutions are increasingly stepping in to educate children who lack access to an education or to fill the gaps in a country’s public education system.
The power of effective teaching can transform children for the rest of their lives. However, a severe shortage of trained teachers is a stark reality for much of the continent, impacting overall learning outcomes. In 2012, the average pupil/teacher ratio in primary school was 42:1. That statistic has not changed since 1999.
The quality of education offered within a country is a strong predictor of economic growth rates, according to the World Bank. African nations stand to benefit from a better-educated labor market where workers possess the skills and knowledge to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. While universal access to schooling yields some economic benefits, significant improvements in the quality of learning will achieve a greater impact for advancing development progress and economic growth in countries. The rise in private schools should not be seen as negative, but instead as a viable alternative to a failing public education system.
Public spending on African Education System
Public investment in education is vital in building a highly skilled and educated workforce and in sustaining Africa’s prosperity and progress. Recognizing the strong correlation between education and socio-economic development, countries in subSaharan Africa have gradually increased public spending on education by more than 6 percent each year.
Improving education quality at all levels is imperative for African development. Education is primarily funded by African governments, which allocates its public education resources based on the country’s priorities and needs. While public education spending priorities will vary from country to country, increased investment in education will help to successfully meet key education targets and build a skilled workforce.
Building a skilled workforce for 21st century jobs
Africa is the world’s most youthful continent with some 200 million young people between ages 15 and 24. Finding productive jobs for young people is critical to the continent’s future. An educated and skilled population is attractive to many employers and investors. Many employers across Africa have been critical of the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills of graduates. Strong education systems are key drivers of economic growth in African nations. The quality of secondary, vocational/technical and higher education is often measured by the performance of workers in the labor market, UNESCO maintained. That is why the African education system must be strengthened to absorb the entry of millions of African young people into the national and global workforce.
The rapidly growing working age population is a wake-up call for African governments, universities, and employers to collectively take action to boost job creation and innovation in the formal and informal sectors. Young people must be prepared for jobs in today’s globalized economy to ensure a smooth transition of graduates into the labor market. Andela, a tech company co-founded by Nigerian tech entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, is building a network of computer programmers in Africa by recruiting and training individuals to be software developers. Trainees, in turn, make a four-year commitment and are placed with a technology company where they receive ongoing training and professional development.
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