Education partnerships, and how to evolve and improve them, was one of the hot topics at the 2015 World Education Forum in Korea, where the mixed progress and remaining challenges on the 2000 Education for All and Education Millennium Development Goals were debated and a new post -2015 agenda is emerging.
Meanwhile, in Tanzania, we witnessed the centrality of partnerships to achieving changes in the education sector. When actors that have a vested interest in the sector engage in meaningful policy dialogue and jointly transform challenges into a plan for action much can be achieved.
The 2nd annual Education Week that took place from May 11-15, 2015 is a new initiative of Tanzania’s Government culminated in the Dodoma stadium with a whole host of prizes for the best achieving students and most improved schools, being awarded by the Prime Minister and President of the nation.
Accountability, transparency and innovation
Accountability and transparency are increasingly on the agenda as part of the Open Government Partnership commitments, and useful tools such as the education dashboard are already emerging. The dashboard allows parents to zoom into a map interface to browse school performance and teacher deployment data.
At the stadium, a range of information booths promoted public and private innovative education initiatives, from Raspberry Pi computers and solar chargers, to Aeronautic degrees in China. Do it yourself teaching aids were on display such as homemade BIG BOOKS for children.
The DFID EQUIP-T program had provided robust motorcycles to local ward education officers as part of a quality enhancement monitoring initiative. The government’s Literacy and Numeracy Education Support program (LANES) supported by GPE focuses on improving reading, writing and arithmetic skills for children aged 5 to 13. With the support of the Global Partnership the government now plans to scale up the quality enhancement efforts initiated with EQUIP-T support throughout the country.
There was one clear message: Tanzania is serious about the education of its children.
Achievements in teacher in service training
This also became clear as education partners gathered at the new sprawling campus of the University of Dodoma for the meetings of the annual Joint Education Sector Review. It was positive to hear that as part of the GPE supported LANES teacher-training program over 9,000 grade 1 and grade 2 teachers had been trained on the new curricula and how best to support literacy acquisition for primary school students.
DFID’s EQUIP-T, the program of the United States Agency for International Aid TZ-2 and UNICEF are all involved in similar complimentary initiatives to cover the whole nation. A new competency based, slimmed down curriculum and books are planned to be distributed later in the year with the support of GPE-LANES.
We got a palpable sense that Tanzania may be starting to turn the corner and address the problem described by Lant Prichett as Schooling ain’t Learning, and as demonstrated in UWEZO learning assessments.
Since 2000, Tanzania had ambitiously invested in education, doubling primary and tripling secondary enrollment. Poor 2012 examination results, however, triggered new enhanced programs such as Big Results Now and LANES, which aim to support the government to sustain a ‘back to basics’ approach focusing on the 3Rs (reading writing and arithmetic), initiatives on accountability and teacher motivation and, in the case of Big Results Now, remedial tuition.
A holistic sector vision and plan is at the heart of unlocking progress
DFID and the Global Partnership for Education both emphasize the importance of data driven, long-term education plans as a pre-requisite to attain both an expansion of and quality in the basic education sector.
Tanzania has still many challenges to address. 2014 data showed for the second consecutive year declining enrollment rates in pre-primary, primary and secondary education. Net enrolment in primary school, a key indicator, had dropped to 85% nationally. In some regions, like Kitavi and Kigoma in the West of the country, the urban Dar es Salaam area on the coast, net enrollment rates were reported as low as 75%.
The partners of the Global Partnership in Tanzania are engaging in an inclusive planning and dialogue process to respond to these challenges. The government knows that evidence-based, long-term education sector plans are key to strengthening the education sector and ensuring more access for marginalized children and improving the quality of learning.
UNESCO-IIEP, with financial support from the Global Partnership for Education, will assist stakeholders to understand more about the decline in the performance of the sector and help develop a sector analysis followed by a sector-wide forward-looking strategic plan.
President Kikwete recently announced further ambitious expansions of secondary education for the coming decade. Planned consultations with all stakeholders in the education sector will help consolidate policy decisions that commit the partners to action.
Getting more Tanzanian children completing a full cycle of basic education has to start with greatly expanded access to pre-school education that is both vital and a cost-effective approach.
Today’s three-year old kids are the high school graduates of 2030 - the year being cited for the Sustainable Development Goals targets. We are hopeful that partnerships like the Global Partnership for Education that bring together developed and developing nations, civil society, teachers and other private bodies is a key part of the solution, to attaining high quality, universal access to education.