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Lessons from Uwezo learning assessments 2011 to 2015

Uwezo is part of Twaweza, an independent East African initiative that works on enabling children to learn, citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The data for this report were collected between 2011 and 2015.

This report is based on results from the series of five nationwide Uwezo learning assessments undertaken by Twaweza in Kenya, mainland Tanzania and Uganda over the period from 2011 to 2015. These assessments mobilized thousands of volunteers across all districts of the three countries and collected data on more than 1.5 million children.

The assessments are, by a long way, the largest, most comprehensive, independent surveys of households and children ever implemented in the East Africa region. Moreover, as the learning assessments are conducted on an individual basis during household visits, they provide an opportunity to assess learning achievement across the full distribution of children not just those attending educational institutions. 

Monitoring of learning achievement is critical. Education is one of the biggest and most important investments undertaken by parents and by the government. In Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, primary school has been free and compulsory since the early 2000s or before. Moreover, numerous commitments have been made to improve children’s access to schooling and raise educational standards. More recent interventions in these countries target the improvement of learning outcomes, especially reading in the early grades of primary school.

These interventions, implemented by governments with support from development partners, necessarily require regular and rigorous monitoring to gauge their impact. The transparent and independent monitoring of educational outcomes conducted through the Uwezo assessments, therefore, is essential to identify successes and failures and inform changes to educational policies and programs. It is also critical to empower citizens and provide tools through which education systems can be made to deliver.

The year 2015 was historically significant as the deadline for achieving the six Education For All (EFA) goals. The results of the Uwezo assessment for 2015, which was conducted at the end of the school year in all three countries, can, therefore, be viewed as a snapshot of the status of education in East Africa at the close of the EFA era. At the same time, the results can provide baseline data for measuring progress towards some of the targets of Goal 4 of the recently launched 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In particular, the Uwezo surveys are uniquely placed to contribute data towards monitoring of the indicators for the first target of SDG 4, which aims to “ensure by 2030 that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”

In addition to reporting on children’s learning outcomes, this report takes stock of the lessons learned from the five rounds of the Uwezo learning assessments from 2011 to 2015 and what changes may be needed to improve future surveys. Specifically, the report seeks to: 

  1. Highlight the main trends in enrolment rates and learning outcomes over this period
  2. Evaluate the extent to which primary education systems in East Africa are equitable and inclusive Identify the main drivers of differences in learning outcomes
  3. Present conclusions and reflect on ongoing challenges for the assessments and for education policy in the region 


  1. On average, enrolment rates are generally high in all three countries, but emerging evidence indicates that fewer children are being enrolled in school.
  2. The gap between expected and actual years of schooling is large and is widening in all countries.
  3. Literacy and numeracy skills are generally low, vary between countries, and show no clear signs of progress over the last five years.
  4. On average, girls tend to outperform boys on the Uwezo literacy and numeracy tests, but this is not consistent across all locations within each country.
  5. Children from poorer households perform consistently lower in the Uwezo tests, in literacy in Tanzania and Uganda.
  6. Children attending private schools outperform children attending government schools, and the difference is more pronounced in literacy.

Inequalities in learning within and between countries are pronounced. In addition to the general concern that children’s level of literacy and numeracy is not as high as desired, results reveal worrying pockets of very low learning achievement. This suggests that a large number of children are being left behind.

Click here to read this report.



Read more: Annual Learning Assessment Report

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