Survey shows that Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya top regional maths and reading scoresDar-es-Salaam - Sixth grade students in the Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Tanzania are outperforming their peers throughout southern, eastern and central Africa, according to a sweeping new survey of educational quality carried in some 15 countries of those regions.
According to the research, 13 year olds from the Seychelles are the best readers in the countries covered, followed by Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius. The lowest performances came from students in Lesotho, Namibia and Uganda.
In mathematics, students from Mauritius scored top marks, ahead of Kenya and Seychelles. The lowest marks came respectively from sixth-graders in Namibia, Lesotho and South Africa.
The results of the survey were released here today during the Eighth Conference of African Education Ministers (MINEDAF VIII) and are based on data covering 46,560 sixth grade students from 2,493 schools. It was carried out by the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), comprising the ministries of education from Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe, and supported by UNESCO.
The survey examined the success of school systems in each of the countries concerned, establishing criteria for minimum and desirable performances. According to results, two thirds or more of sixth grade students in Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda had not reached the minimum reading level required to "barely survive at the next stage of schooling."
It also revealed great disparities in individual school performances, by comparing the results of students within each country. Pupils in the Seychelles showed the least range of difference in their results, indicating a fairly even quality between schools. South African schools showed the greatest difference, indicating what the report calls "major inequalities" between schools.
Apart from testing and comparing students' reading and numeracy, the SACMEQ survey also examines a range of other general conditions of schooling that could influence educational quality, including enrolment rates, government spending on education, language differences, student nutrition, teacher age and qualifications and school facilities.
In all countries, for example, nearly half of the pupils were in schools that head-teachers felt required major repairs or needed to be completely rebuilt. The situation was most critical in Uganda and Lesotho where over three quarters and one third of all schools respectively fell into this category.
Almost half of all pupils were in schools without electricity, as against only 15 percent that were without water. In Kenya and Uganda, less than one quarter of pupils had their own reading and maths textbooks. In Tanzania, only six percent of the surveyed children had them.
The amount governments devote to education varies widely. The country with the highest percentage of government spending (Swaziland, 28.5%) was more than four times that of the country with the lowest allocation (Tanzania, 7%). "Where percentages are low," says the study, "it can be expected that resource provisions to schools will be correspondingly lower, unless resources are mobilized from other sources."
The survey shows that nearly half of all pupils in the countries involved had repeated a grade at least once. Seychelles was the only country where grade repetition was not a major problem, said the study. Seychelles also enjoyed one of the highest enrolment rates, joining Mauritius and South Africa as the only countries with over 90 percent of primary school-age children actually in school.
SACMEQ was born out of a proposal drawn up by a team of educational planners from the region and benefits from the technical support of UNESCO's Paris-based International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), along with financial support from the governments of Italy and the Netherlands. Its survey is the most extensive educational quality study ever carried out in this region, and aims to provide hard, empirical data to education ministries and offer guidance about the specific areas they need to focus on to improve their education systems.
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Jasmina Sopova: Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section
In Dar-es-Salaam: (+255) (0)7 55 61 30 74