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Are our children learning? Literacy and numeracy across East Africa

Many children across East Africa are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills. Only two out of ten pupils (20%) in the third year of primary school can read and do basic mathematics at Standard (or Grade) 2 level. By the time they reach the last year of primary school, one out of four East African children (24%) still have not acquired these skills. 

These findings were released by Uwezo, a program of Twaweza, in a report entitled Are our children learning? Literacy and numeracy across East Africa. Data on learning outcomes, school conditions and households were collected in 2013 in every district across the region through citizen-led householdbased assessments. Learning outcomes are assessed among children aged 6 to 16 through tests set at Standard (or Grade) 2 level.

When considering all children aged 10 to 16, whether in or out of school, results are also poor. In Kenya 64% passed both one literacy and a numeracy test, in Tanzania 48% and in Uganda 36%. This means that, even in Kenya, the best performing country, less than 7 out of 10 of all children (aged 10-16) have mastered Grade 2 literacy and numeracy skills.

The best performing district in East Africa is Mbeya Urban in Tanzania. However the rest of the top ten is populated by Kenyan districts, which dominate the upper ranks. Tanzanian districts tend to fall in the middle ranks and Uganda districts are consistently ranked near the bottom. The best performing Ugandan district is ranked 82 in the region. Seven out of the bottom ten places are taken up by Ugandan districts.

Wealth also appears to influence learning outcomes: in all three countries, there are large gaps between different wealth groups.

  • In Kenya, seven out of ten pupils aged 10 to 16 (70%) in non-poor households, and four out of ten pupils (44%) in ultra poor households passed one literacy and numeracy test
  • In Tanzania, just under six out of ten pupils aged 10 to 16 (55%) in non-poor households, and four out of ten pupils (39%) in ultra poor households passed one literacy and numeracy test
  • In Uganda, four out of ten pupils aged 10 to 16 (42%) in non-poor households, and two out of ten pupils (24%) in ultra poor households passed one literacy and numeracy test
  • Despite the larger disparities in Kenya, ultra poor households in the country still, on average, perform better than non-poor households in Uganda.

The report also shows that learning outcomes have stagnated since Uwezo began collecting data in 2009/2010. East African children continue to face a crisis in the education system with no significant changes in learning outcomes over the last four years (up to 2013). Enrollment trends are similarly unmoving but have been high since the introduction of universal primary education in the three countries.

                                   

Uwezo metrics are used to assess progress against the Education for All goals. These goals were agreed with a 15-year timeframe in 2000 and cover both access to and quality of education. Overall, there are no significant changes in any of the metrics used to assess the goals in the four years that Uwezo data have been collected. However, enrolment is high with all three countries having over 90% enrolment rates. Similarly gender parity has been achieved in the three countries in terms of access and quality. There are no marked differences in access to schooling between boys and girls. Sadly boys and girls perform equally poorly in terms of learning outcomes. However these are national averages and so conceal geographical variation. Similarly, they do not consider any gender differences in primary school completion or secondary school enrolment.

 

Read more: East Africa education learning Uwezo

Authors: Sam Jones

Editors: Aidan Eyakuze John Mugo Risha Chande

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Organizations: Twaweza East Africa

Pages: 36

Type: Key document

Year: 2015 2016

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