• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

African policymakers, practitioners seek evidenced-based solutions to learning crisis

African policymakers, practitioners seek evidenced-based solutions to learning crisis

Given the scale of the learning crisis, African policymakers and practitioners have called for a critical shift in how the continent addresses foundational learning, opting for evidenced-based solutions that can deliver rapid education output to learners.

The stakeholders made the call during the Education World Forum hosted recently. Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former minister of education in Nigeria and president/founder of Human Capital Africa; and Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia, who represented Douglas Syakalima, the country’s minister of education in a joint statement advocated for foundational learning (FL) in Africa.

“We believe equipping students with strong foundational literacy and numeracy skills is essential not just for their future academic success, but also for their smooth transition into the workforce and ultimately, the future prosperity of our continent.

“If nine out of 10 of our children are unable to understand a simple sentence or do basic mathematics then the workforce of tomorrow will not enable our sustainable growth,” the statement reads in part.

They maintained that unless the continent addresses foundational learning, the crisis will continue to hinder economic growth and disadvantage future generations.

Besides, the policymakers and practitioners believe the foundations must be solid for everything else to work properly in the education sector.

To achieve this, they believe that more African leaders must urgently take ownership of the challenges facing the continent.

According to the statement, “Ministers in the room acknowledged that ‘We must have African-led solutions to African challenges, by taking an honest look at the data, and not underestimating the magnitude of the problem if we are to begin to make progress.” We must also address the sometimes siloed ‘fragmented, cherry-picking’ approach by development partners.

Led by Madalitso Kambauwa, the minister of education for Malawi, they recommended the development and implementation of integrated Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) programmes by development partners, acting as a single, collaborative entity.

Furthermore, they desired increased, rigorous support from these partners to facilitate the scaling up of effective FLN initiatives.

“To achieve measurable learning outcomes, we emphasise the importance of evidence-based approaches in programme design. This includes incorporating implementation research findings to ensure programs are optimised for success.

“Finally, we recognise the vital role of collaboration at all levels. This requires a concerted effort at national, regional, and continental levels, involving implementing agencies, ministries, and all stakeholders working together towards a common goal,” they said.

However, the stakeholders believe that this collaborative approach should focus on making a difference and addressing the unique challenges and opportunities within Zambia and other African nations.

“If we build this coordination of partners under the leadership of countries with integrated programmes, it will help support scaling programmes into our systems and national planning processes.

“Good programmes exist in the continent, and ending the crisis is possible, but we need to scale to drive outcomes. We were impressed by the success stories shared by countries such as Ghana’s data-driven approach and community engagement programmes, and Malawi’s five sets approach,” they said.

In addition, they said; “Zambia’s experience and success with the ‘Teaching at the Right Level’ (TaRL) model, while keeping age considerations in mind has also clearly demonstrated how we can scale interventions that are government-led, use existing government systems, personnel, locally generated data, and technical assistance, to ensure all students receive a quality education.

There are many more examples of innovation and progress across our continent as countries lead the response to the crisis, and it is important that we take the time to learn from and celebrate them.”

As a continent, they reiterated, Africa must also acknowledge the work that still remains if it is to overcome this challenge. The continent must address teacher capacity and resourcing, equipping them with tools and cost-effective solutions like Structured Pedagogy and TaRL to improve education outcomes within the constraints of existing budgets.

“Retaining qualified teachers in rural areas remains a challenge. We are encouraged by other countries’ efforts, such as hardship allowances, to incentivize teachers to serve in these underserved communities.

“We must be informed by accurate, reliable, and comparable data, taking the time to measure learning outcomes early and well. The success of TaRL in Zambia was built on a strong and reliable dataset and we must work together to support more countries to collect, analyse and report on this data, preserving the SDG 4.1.1a indicator,” he noted.