Un blog sur l'éducation dans les pays du Sud – A blog on education in the developing countries

20 novembre 2017

Why does Burundi perform on PASEC test ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Étiquettes : , , — education_south @ 13 h 33 min

Burundi case study by Pierre Varly

The World Bank has commanded a report explaining the good performance of Burundi in international tests. Burundi is one of the poorest country in the World : the GDP per capita is only 218 USD and dropping since 2014. Burundi’s Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2015 is 0.404 positioning it at 184 out of 188 countries and territories. However,  between 1990 and 2015, mean years of schooling increased by 1.6 years and expected years of schooling increased by 6.2 years. Burundi is experiencing political instability and security issues, with concerning human rights. Bilateral donors have withdrew from education funding and the World Banks is gauging the feasibility of investing in education in Burundi.

Several sources of data concur regarding the good performance of Burundi: the two PASEC surveys (2009 and 2014), the two EGRA datasets (2011 and 2012) and literacy surveys. Kirundi which is the predominant language in Burundi, spoken by 95 % of the population, is used as medium of instruction until grade 4 and in the tests in early grades. In the 2014 PASEC results, Burundi have the highest position in grade 2 both in reading and math (more than 100 points above average of 500 points) where tests are in Kirundi in Burundi and French in other countries.

Pasec data

Source: PASEC (2014)

In the EGRA data collections, there are 20.4% of non-readers in grade 2 (cannot read a word aloud) in Burundi versus 33% on average for the countries participants to the EGRA barometer[1] and 53.8% in African countries.

Table : Proportion of non-readers by Country and maternal language

Country Language Grade Proportion of non-readers
Burundi Kirundi 2 20.4%
Liberia nd 2 30.7%
Uganda Luganda 3 35.8%
Tanzania Kiswahili 2 37.9%
Mali* Bamanankan 2 64.2%
Ghana Ewe 2 64.6%
Zambia Chitonga 2 88.2%
Nigeria** Hausa 2 88.3%
Average     49%

Source: http://www.earlygradereadingbarometer.org/files/EarlyGradeReadingBarometer.pdf

Burundi has the lowest proportion of non-readers among African countries after Rwanda where pupils were tested at grade 4.  In the 2009 PASEC evaluation, at grade 2 the results in Kirundi are much better than in French. When French is used for international comparisons in grade 2, Burundi has one of the lowest performance in language. In Grade 6, where pupils were tested in French, the performance of Burundi in reading is close to the average but higher in math.

Despite the relative good performance in grade 2 in Kirundi, still 37% of the pupils cannot count after 80 at the end of the school year while the objective is to reach counting to 99. Average reading fluency is around 26 words per minute in grade 2 (the same as Rwanda), far below industrialized countries (the median is 89 words per minute in the USA). 26 words per minute falls in the 10th percentile in the USA. If Burundi has a higher performance than other PASEC countries, it does not yet reach international standards in educational achievement.

The youth (15-24) literacy rate (2008-2012) is 89.6 for male and 88.1 female, one of the highest in Africa, because of the good performance of the education system and since religious community have had literacy campaigns for decades. The relative written tradition of Kirundi, compared to other African languages, is one plausible hypotheses of the high literacy rate in Burundi that positively impact pupils learning.

Burundi is an outlier both in terms of input and learning outcomes. In 2014, Burundi spent 35% of his budget on education and its education expenses structure is well aligned with international standards. Burundi receives a substantial aid for education (35.9% of education expenses in 2015). As long as resources are turned into results, education expenses are probably one reason for Burundi’s success together with the technical expertise, rigorous budget mechanisms, monitoring and evaluation procedures that comes with foreign funding.

However, class size and repetitions rates are high, double shift account for 46% of the classrooms and official schooling time is low (855 hours annual vs 914 in PASEC countries). The classroom and school equipment levels are close to other PASEC countries average. There is a lack of textbooks in the classroom (5.1% of pupils have their own textbook versus 35.7% in PASEC countries), lack of books in the schools (5.1% of schools have a library versus 12.4% on average) and at home and pupils have little opportunities to practice homework : 45.7% of grade 3 teachers never give homework. Violence is frequent in and outside schools. The learning conditions are relatively poor in Burundi and not conducive to achievement. Burundi does not fit the traditional model usually associated with education performance.

However, a focus on resources (trained teachers and materials) on the early grades is specific to Burundi and could explain why results are good in grade 2. For example, 72.7% of grade 2 teachers have had 2 years of training (36.3% on average) compared to 68.2% in grade 6 (42.2% on average). Private education represents only 1% of enrolment. Religious communities run government dependent schools (one third of enrolment) that have higher test scores: 25.4% of non-readers in grade 2 in public schools versus 11.8% in “écoles conventionnées”. In those schools, director is chosen by religious communities, show higher commitment than in public schools, receive more training  and parents are more involved than in public schools. School management committee are progressively implemented.

Teaching conditions appear to be better than in other African countries and Burundi teachers have more positive opinions than others in that regard. More than 80% of teachers have a positive opinion of the school management (44.5% in Cameroon). Initial training of primary school teachers is organized in the teacher training colleges and entrants are recruited after lower secondary education. They are trained to teach the different domains. Secondary level teachers are recruited at upper secondary level and receive 3 years of training at Ecole Normale Supérieur.

Curricula has not changed over time and teachers have enjoyed a certain consistency in terms of official instructions and in school textbooks. While a better curricula both in terms of content and standards cannot be cited as a reason of success in reading, teachers seem better prepared to teach than in many countries. They also benefit from coaching from district supervisors and from radio programs or through distance learning interventions (IFADEM). Supplementary teachers can be mobilized when teachers are absent.

The majority of teachers and school head are females (81.2% of female teachers in grade 6), an untypical situation in Francophone Africa. That could explain the overall good performance, why girls perform better than boys in tests and the gender parity reached in enrolment.

In quantitative terms, pedagogical practices in the classroom are similar to other African countries and explain little variation of the performance. However, more in depth observations of reading lessons show that a participative approach is used in teaching of reading and writing in the 1st and 2nd years.  Whole word method and pedagogical supports such as posters are mobilized. Reading and writing are done at the same time, both playfully and actively.

Moreover, in the early grades, teaching and learning is facilitated by the fact that the medium of instruction is the home language of teachers and pupils. Together with the relative simplicity of the language (transparency), the fact that mother tongue is used as medium of instruction is the core explanation for Burundi’s relative success. Kirundi language is phonetically coded using the Latin script. Linguistic transition from Kirundi to French as medium of instruction occurs at grade 5. The Ministry of Education is considering the generalization of bilingual education in pilot schools from 2012 to 2015, as part of the ELAN-Africa Francophone initiative. Along with Kirundi, 3 languages are taught as subjects from grade 1 : Kiswahili, English and French, with little teachers content knowledge and preparedness in Kiswahili and English.

Burundi is undertaking several reforms: compulsory nine years of education, shortening of the lower secondary education duration (from 4 to 3) and revision of the syllabus (competency based approach). Other reforms include the revision the classroom based assessments and increase of the time spent teaching overall and in Kirundi. Together with a sharp decrease in donors’ aid due to political instability, Burundi faces some challenges ahead and education reforms bust be supported technically and financially to preserve the relatively good service delivery of the education system.

Source : Summary from Varly P., Mazunya M., Thacker S. (2017), Report on Burundi performance, working document, World Bank.

[1] http://www.earlygradereadingbarometer.org/files/EarlyGradeReadingBarometer.pdf

Publicités

12 septembre 2010

Towards a global education fund?


Towards a global education fund?

In a few days, a Millennium Development Goals summit will be held in New York. MDG’s objective 2 is to ensure primary education for all. The school coverage has improved, particularly in Africa, but « the pace of progress is insufi cient to ensure that, by 2015,  all girls and boys complete a full course of primary schooling », according to a recent UN report.

In the World Bank education statistics, the proportion of students completing primary education increased by nearly 15 percentage points between 2000 and 2008 in Africa and South Asia. The ten countries with the lowest completion rates are all in Africa. In Chad, only 30% of pupils complete primary school, others have little chance of becoming literate.

Development aid has greatly contributed to these results, but are just a small part of funding needs. The Fast Track Initiative set up in 2002, helped to allocate more resources to education, to develop well structured investment plans and facilitated donors support harmonization. What is this?

The FTI and the harmonization of aid

From a project approach, where each donor funds directly activities, sometimes outside of government structures and with an effort duplication risk, donors have shifted to support programs or long-term plans implemented by the administration. State budgets receive direct support, from the European Union in particular, to foster other types of actions than projects driven ones (paying salaries to teachers, for example). This financing mechanism also poses other risks … In simple terms, projects are « A la carte », while program or budget supports are « Au menu » and FTI was initially a french driven « cuisine ».

The idea is to pool technical expertise and funding from donors, through « shared or catalytic funds » and to ensure greater consistency of technical and financial support, though mulitple meetings and joint missions. In the field, things have changed quite favorably, but with a background of rivalry between major donors. In practice, most donors prefer bilateral aid (from one state to another), without going through the « shared funds » box. Some donors have mainly project driven assistance, as the USA. According to Oxfam, « Cambodia had in 2006, 16 donors supporting 57 projects in education … » France has virtually abandoned the project approach (Fonds de Solidarité Prioritaire) turning to program and budget support by the AFD (Agence Française de Développement). Meanwhile, AFD took over the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the USA, the G. W. Bush Millenium Challenge Account took over USAID, so far….

The amount spent by the Fast Track funds is approximately $ 2 billion in 42 countries, a water drop when estimating the ocean needs to $16 billion per year. The time between the decision to allocate funding and their arrival has been shortened from 1 year to 6 months. Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are the main contributors to the Catalytic Fund, while France only participates in a manner quite marginal and United States simply don’t. These are the two largest donors to education in developing countries.

This education fund is not truly global in terms of participating countries and scope. It targets mostly primary education, while the secondary financial needs and social demand are enormous. Emerging countries such as India and Brazil do not participate and have their own aid mechanisms. Moreover, the issue of financing Indian education system has largely stirred debates in the creation of the initiative. Should a state of a billion people, with nuclear weapons and whose computer engineer compeete with those of Silicon Valley, be funded? Today, India is at the top of technical assistance to developing countries, in the area of reading and litteracy through the work of the Pratham NGO. In a 2009 FTI meeting, India was well placed as a key technical partner rather than a demanding country. Check the ASER site.

Critics made to the FTI

Two reports from NGOs have heavily criticized the initiative recently. In a typical alarming NGOs style, Oxfam report title is:  » How reform of the Fast Track Initiative should lead to a Global Fund for Education «  while the Global Campaign for Education, more softly states  » Envisioning a Global Fund for Education » .

The Global Campaign for Education has been awarded $ 17.6 million under the Civil Society Education Fund in 2008 but Fast Track fundings is intended primarily to governements. A very different mode of operation from the Global Health Fund … What about giving to NGOs, who charge management fees or to goverments, which may also take some… or international organizations?

The main criticism of Fast Track is about the funds governance which are almost all managed by the World Bank in countries, applying « bureaucratic » procedures. The initiative evaluation report even states about « potential conflicts of interest ». Gap between pledges and actual donations are pointed out, a classic, and countries emerging from crisis or in a post conflict situation are not dealt with appropriately. How to ensure that funds for education are not diverted to arm child soldiers militias ?

On FTI web site, reforme commitments clearly are listed on the homepage and the evaluation report is made public. See here the full version of the evaluation report, a sort of mea culpa. Geopolitical rivalry somewhat « diluted » the good intentions of the begining: « Especially Because Of The Quest for consensus decisions, this Has Often result fromthis in long negotiations marring the FTI’s Operational Effectiveness and Diluting sacrifice part of the FTI’s original intentions. »

Obama to save the world again

The most surprising is that a UNESCO report takes the same speech and stressed the important role the U.S. could play in financing and in leadership of a possible global fund education. (See page 266 of UNESCO report).

Several years were necessary for the high-level Fast Track and Unesco meetings to be merged… eternal UNESCO / World Bank rivalry. According to Oxfam, « Although a Global Education Fund for the project should be not of any one donor, the U.S. is well placed to provide strong leadership politique for a Global Fund for Education. »

President Obama has promised during his campaign to fund education in developing countries. Commitments confirmed by Hilary Clinton, who herself proposed a senate bill to fund the education for all. « The action Since Then ? » wonders Desmond Bermingham, former FTI director : « Disappointing. The high-level U.S. Commitment Has eroded politique, ou partly Because Of A Lack of clear vision in the education community on how best to use potential support. « 

Can we believe that the U.S. will really contribute further when in the list of public school supplies, American parents were surprised to see included « toilet paper » in September 2010? See here for comments from the One NGO (led by Bono) on the promises of Obama.

Private foundations to the rescue

The recent declaration of several American billionaires wanting to give half their fortunes to deal with global issues are good news. Giving pledges already amount to $ 115 billion, but have only a moral value « The Pledge Is a Moral Commitment to give, not a legal contract. »

The private foundations are taking over from the States. Rather than paying taxes, billionaires finance their own projects, through donations (which are not taxable). This is probably a more efficient, less bureaucratic education funding way. Bill Gates is already investing more than WHO in health services. Several U.S. foundations have already committed to support education in developing countries.

The example of the Global Health Fund to fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

If a global education fund is created, it should make more room for private financing and would be guided by the Global Health Fund experience, that relies heavily on calls for projects and less on government spending circuits. Check here for online application procedures. The financing mode is alike what prevailed in education before the FTI, but with more flexibility, apparently.

What are the recent changes proposed in the architecture of global health funding?
« The New Architecture will could grant the Global Fund in a better position to support a national program approach, which will allow Improved alignment with national cycles and systems. « Lead to reduced transaction costs and better for implementers enable country coordinating mechanisms reasons to be effective oversight. »

It is exactly what FTI is seeking for… but FTI evaluation report says: « The move towards use of more instruments aligned Relying on System Has not Been country strong. »
The new instrument should be called Global Fast Track Education Fund in order to please everybody.

In short, the discussion continues in the areas of education and health so that the money will arrive safely, while noting the political commitments to reduce poverty vary across countries. Look at this memo from the Brookings Institution.
Unscrupulous NGOs use « Global Education Fund » as their name or for their website. While calling for vigilance, we note the beginnings of a positioning battle to get the money.

The main challenges faced by developing education systems are building schools in the bush, ensuring teachers are paid, teachers and students are sufficiently present at school and that school textbooks are distributed ? They are far from being all resolved, wheter there is a global fund or not. However, the promises of private donations, the pooling of resources and greater aid effectiveness through the FTI put several countries on the right track.

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Pierre Varly

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