Democratic Republic of Congo's pathway to education system transformation

The Democratic Republic of Congo is building on progress and lessons learned to transform its education system and improve learning for more children.

March 21, 2024 by GPE Secretariat
3 minutes read
6th grade class at Tuyebonso Primary School in Kananga, DRC.
6th grade class at Tuyebonso Primary School in Kananga, DRC.
Credit: Credit: GPE/Claire Horton

Since joining GPE in 2012, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased the primary school completion rate from 29% to 70%. Still, too many students enrolled in primary school do not complete it, and as of 2023, one in five primary age children were out of school.

For those in school, 73% are not proficient in reading and 81% are not proficient in math (PASEC 2019). To unlock large-scale change, DRC is working with GPE and other partners to improve the quality of teachers and teaching.

As explained in DRC’s Partnership Compact, better trained and supported teachers are expected to enhance the learning environment, boost student performance, and create a more resilient education system. And an increase in the number of female teachers will help address barriers to girls’ education.

To agree on this priority reform, the ministries responsible for education engaged sector stakeholders to assess persistent challenges and identify solutions that have the potential to leverage system transformation.

The context shaping DRC’s priority reform

The introduction of free primary education in 2020 improved equitable access but led to a rapid increase in the number of students, which was challenging for the system to accommodate. With many children in school but not learning basic competencies, DRC had a growing learning crisis, which was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, as of 2023, DRC continues to suffer from one of the world’s most complex and protracted humanitarian crises. Armed conflicts since the 1990s have displaced millions of Congolese within the country, and more than half of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The strong commitment of the government to prioritize education and work in partnership to improve learning for all Congolese children has resulted in progress despite enormous challenges. Prior reforms have laid important foundations for achieving results at scale.

Improving learning in primary education

A US$100 million GPE grant, implemented by the World Bank from 2017 to 2022, helped address low teacher effectiveness and shortages of teaching and learning materials.

Pre-service and in-service teacher training focused on early grade reading and numeracy in national languages. In 2009, the government developed a policy for the use of national languages (Lingala, Kikongo, Kiswahili and Tshiluba) for the language of instruction, replacing French.

The GPE-funded program trained over 80,000 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers in how to effectively teach reading in national languages nationwide.

Teachers also benefitted from pedagogical support: by the end of 2022, 93% of 2nd grade teachers in targeted provinces reported having frequently used a teachers’ guide for reading.

GPE funded the provision and distribution of learning materials to improve literacy and numeracy, including:

  • 9 million reading textbooks in national languages for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders
  • 1.5 million French textbooks for 3rd and 4th graders
  • 4.8 million math textbooks to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders
  • 2.9 million science textbooks to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders.

Additionally, the program supported the creation of the first independent unit for assessment in DRC, and a large-scale standardized student learning assessment–the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA)–was undertaken in 2019 and 2022. Having reliable and timely data on learning supports evidence-based policymaking.

EGRA in grade 2 focused on reading in national languages and grade 4 focused on reading in French. The average of the subskills results nationally showed that reading tests scores had increased by a little more than 2.5 points, and project provinces had mixed results.

The results help provinces design reading training programs for teachers and help teachers understand the learning challenges of their students.

The pathway to achieving results at scale

DRC recognizes the need to accelerate progress. The government and partners aim to strengthen teachers’ mastery of disciplinary content and maintain support for teaching in national languages.

Additional measures to upgrade the profession include merit-based teacher recruitment, a quality assurance system, and improved social protections to support teacher retirement. Improvements to infrastructure and equipment will make schools a better place for teachers to work and for students to learn.

Better training and supporting teachers are expected to have a catalytic effect on DRC’s education system, improving learning for Congolese children and better preparing them to contribute to society.

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