In 2015, results from the Zimbabwe Early Learning Assessment (ZELA) showed that 53% of grade 2 students reached or exceeded the learning benchmark in English, and 66% did so in mathematics, with girls outperforming boys.
The number of grade 7 students who pass their exams has also steadily improved. In 2015, 42% of students succeeded, compared to 32% in 2012, and only 20% in 2009.
These improvements in learning were largely due to the focused strategies and programs implemented by the government of Zimbabwe, supported by GPE, UNICEF and other partners.
Zooming in on what can improve learning: teachers
In 2014, the first GPE grant to Zimbabwe of US$23.6 million, supported teacher’s professional development. The grant focused on supporting teachers to understand what they should know and be able to do in the classroom so that children learn.
The component included a variety of activities:
- a comprehensive early reading initiative (ERI) to teach reading in the first grades
- A catch-up initiative called performance lag address program (PLAP) to help children who fell behind in age and grade-appropriate performance,
- the development of a teacher development information system,
- the adoption of teacher professional standards.
Teaching early reading skills to young children
The Early Reading Initiative (ERI) targets grades 1 and 2 children with the view to maximize quality learning outcomes.
Under the program, in-service training was provided across the country to just over 31,000 teachers. Manuals and materials on early reading and numeracy were developed and distributed to support teachers from early childhood centers up to grade 2.
Teachers were taught and encouraged to prepare their own learning materials. They showed immense resourcefulness and eagerness during the workshops organized by the ministry.
"With ERI you can really see the difference.n phase 1 of the project, strengthening the supervision, improving both infrastructure and learning material as well as teachers’ professional standards were the heart of the work,“ noted Education Secretary Sylvia Utete-Masango.
No child left behind
The performance lag address program or PLAP helps schools recognize that all children can learn, that all children have a right to learn and that children learn differently.
"Don’t start the teaching and learning process until you have established the level at which the learner is performing,” said Mr. Muzawazi, acting principal director for primary & secondary education at the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
During the PLAP pilot phase, the ministry discovered that grade 5 students were actually performing at the level of grade 1 students. And so teachers went back to grade 1 lessons.
The students were older, so they understood quicker and learned faster. Within two months, they had mastered grade 1 lessons and were studying grade 2 curriculum.
Two months later, students moved on to grade 3 lessons. Shortly after, they were finally able to read, write and count, which they were not able to before they began the remedial program
“One thing I like about GPE is that their intervention is directed to the needs of partner countries. In our situation, we targeted that issue that learners were not performing at their expected levels. The PLAP is the solution we put in place. The Global Partnership for Education has enabled us to train up to 50,000 teachers and the results for every child have clearly improved,” said Mr. Muzawazi, acting principal director for primary & secondary education at the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Continued support from GPE
ERI, PLAP and the teacher professional standards have been so well received that the intention is to consolidate the gains made by integrating the methods into the new curricula and pre-service teacher training. This will ensure that these gains are sustainable.
In December 2016, Zimbabwe’s education sector received a boost with a new US$20.6 million grant from GPE. The grant aims to enhance access to quality education and improve learning for children and youth, especially through PLAP and ERI.
Thanks to these programs, many more children in Zimbabwe will be able to learn.