There is a real risk that the progress made in persuading parents and communities of the value of education will be wasted unless serious efforts are made to address the quality of teaching and learning in schools.
It’s the quality of education that counts
Children have a right not just to education but to a quality education that equips them with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their full human potential.
While progress has been made in terms of getting more children enrolled in school there are still serious gaps in the quality of the teaching and learning they experience in the classroom.
The experience of school, what children learn in the classroom and the skills they acquire are what ultimately count in terms of reaching the Education for All Goals.
Quality lagging behind
Over the last decade, remarkable progress has been made in primary school enrolment. Worryingly, improvements in quality have not kept pace with improvements in enrolments with millions of children leaving school without mastering the basics of reading, writing and maths.
According to the 2012 UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report, it is estimated that of the 650 million children of primary school age enrolled in school, as many as 250 million either do not reach fourth class or, if they do, fail to attain minimum learning standards.
High dropout rates in the early classes are a feature of many education systems, with many others failing to meet minimum standards and leading to high repetition rates and inefficiencies.
200 million children who are in primary school today are learning so little that they struggle to read even the simplest sentence.
Pressure on education systems
The massive expansion in primary school enrolments has placed a considerable strain on already-weak education systems.
Overcrowded classrooms and poorly-trained teachers make for a very difficult learning environment. A significant proportion of teachers are untrained at both primary and secondary level.
And too often, teachers lack the information on students’ learning as many developing countries do not have national assessments or standardised tests to monitor learning progress.
More trained teachers essential
Attracting qualified people into the teaching profession, retaining them and providing them with the necessary skills, support and supervision is a critical part of improving quality and access to education.
If universal primary education is to be achieved, an additional two million teachers have to be recruited by 2015, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
As well as that, national assessments are an essential component of efforts to improve quality and design effective strategies to target children at risk.
Investments at risk
There is a real risk that the huge investments that have been made in persuading parents and communities of the value of education and convincing them to send their children to school will be wasted unless serious efforts are made to address the quality of teaching and learning.
Our priority is to ensure that all children and young people leave school equipped with the knowledge and skills they need in order to live their lives to the full and make a contribution to their communities and society as a whole.
In particular, in our partner countries we support a range of initiatives in teacher education, curriculum reform and the development of national systems for the assessment of learning outcomes.
Development of a National Quality Assessments in Mozambique
A new national quality assessment is being developed by the Ministry of Education in Mozambique, which will monitor improvements in quality over time and also identify areas where further attention is needed to improve quality.
We, along with other donors, are supporting this important work, as part of our overall support for the Mozambican education sector plan.
Curriculum reform in Uganda
We support Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports Education Sector Strategic Plan, which prioritises curriculum reform and teacher education in the primary education sector, and curriculum reform in secondary education.
We are also working with Japan on a joint teacher training initiative that is helping to improve the quality of instruction in science and mathematics in Karamoja.
Improving the quality of teacher education in Zambia
We have contributed to improvements in teacher education in Zambia and the professional development of participating lecturers through our support to the Zambia Initial Teacher Education Training Initiative (ZITEP).
It is collaboration between five Irish and two Zambian teacher education colleges:
- Patrick’s College, Drumcondra
- Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
- Coláiste Mhuire, Marino
- Church of Ireland College of Education
- Froebel College
- Kitwe Teachers College
- Charles Lwanga College of Education
Research on best practice approaches to teaching in sub-Saharan Africa
Over the course of the last decade, Irish Aid, in partnership with the World Bank undertook a series of initiatives and studies aimed at improving the quality of education with a strong focus on the recruitment, training and deployment of teachers.
You can read more in the World Bank’s publication: Teachers in Anglophone Africa: Issues in Teacher Supply, Training and Management (PDF, 729.5)