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Two out of three children in East Africa lack basic literacy

Two out of three pupils in Standard 3 across East Africa are not able to pass basic tests in English, Kiswahili or numeracy at the Standard 2 level. This is the headline finding of a new report by Uwezo at Twaweza. By the time they reach Standard 7, two in 10 pupils still do not have Standard 2 level competencies. Results from the 2011 national assessments done in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda show that little has changed from previous assessments.

According to Dr Sara Ruto, Regional Manager of Uwezo East Africa, ‘Despite significant gains in expanding access to primary schooling, actual literacy and numeracy outcomes remain significantly deficient across the region.’

While all countries do poorly, Kenyan children do relatively better than their counterparts in Tanzania and Uganda on all tests. Ugandan children performed the worst, but overtake Tanzanian students by the time they reach Standard 7. Children from low-income households perform the worst in all three countries and students in private schools do better than those in public schools, particularly in Tanzania.

Despite the discouraging results, there is also cause to be hopeful. Since the first Uwezo results were released, public debate has shifted to focus on quality and learning outcomes rather than educational inputs. Additionally, experiments on innovations in learning are taking place around the globe and can inform reforms in East Africa.

The assessment tested nearly 350,000 children in 150,000 households across the three countries, representing the largest annual data collection effort in education on the continent.

Read the full report here, including the ranking of districts from the three countries. Read the 2011 report here.

Read the reaction from East African and international media outlets on the 2012 Uwezo report:

Most children in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya fail literacy and numeracy tests, The Guardian, UK

UPE children not learning, says UWEZO report, The Independent

Quality of learning in schools wanting-report, Saturday Nation

Ugandan pupils 'slowest' in the region- report, Saturday Monitor

Survey: Kenyan Schools churning out ‘illiterates’, Standard Digital

Uwezo's 2012 numeracy and literacy test, VijanaFM

Study shows few pupils have literacy and maths skills, The Star

Watch a video of the launch from KTN Kenya here and another video from NTV Kenya with comments from Uwezo Regional Manager Dr. Sara Ruto here

Read more: Annual Learning Assessment Report basic education East Africa national assessment report 2012 Uwezo Uwezo East Africa

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