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An education

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Education, Tanzania

Recently, I sat down to dinner with Hilary Armstrong MP, who was in Tanzania to undertake some voluntary work in a leading Tanzanian non-governmental organisation working in education.

She was in the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) – an organisation that matches volunteers with organisations in developing countries who can benefit from their expertise.

As with many such volunteers, she got involved because she wants to get hands on experience of life for people in a developing country, and she says she is keen to work in this NGO because they help parents and teachers have a voice in government policies.

Hilary Armstrong MP at work with the Tanzanian NGO Tenmet - click for bigger picture

Earlier in the week she came into the DFID office for some briefing on what the UK Government are doing to help, as well as a chat with staff about life in Tanzania.

As the statistics adviser, it is my job to explain to her what the figures show. And on the surface the story is good – Tanzania has already achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for universal primary education and gender equality in primary schools (as 97% of kids are enrolled in school). In 2001 the government made schooling free for the first time, opening up education to children who previously could only have dreamed of going to school. In 2000 some 4.4 million children were enrolled in school, in 2008 there are some 8.4 million.

A Tanzanian classroom - click for bigger picture

However this massive expansion of children in school poses problems - quality being the main issue. Shortage of teachers means class sizes of over 50, and pass rates of key exams are falling.

We discussed all of this, and what it means for children on the ground, and she was particularly interested in the differences between the administrative data (which counts how many children enrol in school at the start of the year) and survey data (which asks families whether their child goes to school throughout the year) – as they show some key differences, especially in the rural areas.

Education is the key sector for DFID Tanzania, it receives the bulk of our budget support (more on that later) and is one area where we are one of the donor leads in terms of technical support. So it’s good that this visit has meant it is one of the first areas I need to get an understanding of, and it’s also been fascinating to meet Hilary, and hear her interesting stories about life in government!

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  1. Comment by Adam Hooper posted on

    Hi Emily! I stumbled onto your blog and had to say something. I just finished volunteering for VSO in Dar es Salaam :).

    The best part of working in Dar is long weekends on Zanzibar. Make friends from Stone Town so you have somewhere to stay (and people to help swat away the touts). Ooh ooh, and visit Pemba! And ooh ooh the food! Be sure to eat lots of chipsi mayai and kiti moto :).

    Inshallah utapata muda mzuri kabisa :).

  2. Comment by Andrew Cooper posted on

    I would be very interested to hear more about the differences in the data, given my current project.

    Meanwhile could I plug the Tanzania related blog I've set up (click my name above to visit it)? As you'll see from the 'about' page it's the start of an attempt to make a specific connection between education in Tanzania and the UK.

  3. Comment by Emily Poskett posted on

    Thanks very much to all the people that have commented with great places to go, thinks to see etc - it is a fab country and I am enjoying exploring it, I will investigate your proposals.

    To Andrew, on the differences in the data, the official enrolment data shows that 97% of children of primary school age are enrolled in school. However the Household Budget Survey from 2007 (from which some preliminary results have just been published) asked households "is your child in school" and the result showed that only 84% of children are in school (91% in urban areas and 82% in rural areas). This is an impressive increase from the 59% recorded in the previous (2001) survey (71% urban, 56% rural), but it isnt 97%. So what needs further investigation is whether this is a genuine difference (do all children enrol in school and then some dont go?) or if there is a flaw in one or both of the data sources. There are mixed views on this.

  4. Comment by JH posted on

    Dear Emily -- Thanks for your blog. Very interesting.

    A policy note prepared by the World Bank sheds further light on the education issue. It shows that in 2004/5 there was a 20 point discrepancy of net primary enrollment between the survey data and administrative estimates ¾ of which could be accounted for by inaccurate reporting of the age of students in the admin data system; for another ¼ it reflects an overestimation of the absolute number of enrolled students. The 2007 HBS will need to show where we stand now.

    Inadequate administrative data are likely to have persuaded policy makers into believing that Tanzania is on track to reaching the MKUKUTA and MDG targets of universal primary education. But as the MDG is defined as 100% of children having completed primary education it seems quite possible that this target will be missed for Tanzania. Worse, the fact that many children enter school late (when they are 8, 9 or 10) and that a substantial fraction of children still does not to go to school has been ignored by policy makers. In 2004/5 it was found that by the age of 11, some 12% of children aged 10-13 had not yet started and these children tend to come from poor households. These issues will need to be addressed by the education system

  5. Comment by Kathy, diplomas teacher posted on

    Emily, may I request some information about teachers' feelings and expectations... All of us understand that such programs are beneficial for the children and overall situation in the developing countries but I wonder about the level of knowledge those children can get in comparison with the USA and European contries. How many children out of let's say 100 can succeed in life? I have worked with difficult children for some time, and we were happy when just 5-7 guys out of 100 scored well... Children in Tanzania you're working with must be different but the situation is more difficult I think. What can you say?

  6. Comment by Emily Poskett posted on

    Kathy. I would guess that the expectations of teachers all over the world will be to have sufficient skills to enrich and teach their students in a way that allows them to build their capabilities to function in the "real world" when they complete a full cycle of education.
    If this can be measured by exam results, then around half of children who complete primary school passed the exams last year. The large class sizes are obviously making life more difficult for teachers, but there must be satisfation in seeing more children coming to school and passing exams.
    The challenges are big, but there are dedicated teachers here trying their best in difficult circumstances. The passion among many of the students is also admirable. I spend some time in a local orphanage helping the kids with their homework, and have just been working with one boy who was taking his secondary school entrance exams (and passed!). His enthusiasm to grasp the opportunity he has is inspiring.

  7. Comment by Kathy, diplomas teacher posted on

    Thanks, Emily. You're really doing a great job!