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About 20% of adult primary school holders in Nigeria can read

Ndubuisi Francis and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The African continent is facing a severe learning crisis which hinders its economic growth and the well-being of the citizens, according to a new World Bank study.

The World Development Report (WDR) 2018: ‘Learning to Realise Education’s Promise’, was co-launched in Abuja yesterday by the World Bank Group, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry of Education.

It raised concerns that millions of young students in low and middle-income countries face the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life due to the failure of their primary and secondary schools to educate them to succeed in life.

The report did not only warn about a ‘learning crisis’ in global education, it called for greater measurement, action on evidence, and coordination of all education actors.
According to the World Bank report, the African region had made significant progress in boosting primary and lower secondary enrolment.

“The region has made considerable progress in boosting primary and lower secondary school enrollment, but some 50 million children remain out of school, and most of those who attend school are not acquiring the basic skills necessary for success later in life,” said the study.

It noted that among second-grade students assessed on numeracy tests in several sub-Saharan African countries, three-quarters could not count beyond 80 and 40 per cent could not do a one-digit addition problem.
“In reading, between 50 and 80 per cent of children in second grade could not answer a single question based on a short passage they had read, and a large proportion could not read even a single word,” said the study.

The report noted that when third grade students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were asked recently to read a sentence such as “The name of the dog is Puppy” in English or Kiswahili, three-quarters could not provide the name of the dog.

In Nigeria, the report added, when fourth grade students were asked to complete a simple two-digit subtraction problem, more than three-quarters could not solve it. The World Bank report stated that although the skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds have improved, at their current rate of improvement they will not reach the rich-country average score in Maths for 75 years.

“In reading, it will take over 260 years. Among young adults in Nigeria, only about 20 per cent of those who complete primary education can read. These statistics do not account for 260 million children who for reasons of conflict, discrimination, disability, and other obstacles, are not enrolled in primary or secondary school.

“The diagnosis in this World Development Report may make for disheartening reading, but it should not be interpreted as saying that all is lost—only that too many young people are not getting the education they need,” said Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, World Bank Lead Economists, who co-directed the report team.

“Learning shortfalls eventually show up as weak skills in the workforce, making it less likely that young people will find good-paying, satisfying jobs. But change is possible, if systems commit to learning, drawing on examples of families, educators, communities, and systems that have made real progress.”

According to the report, when third grade students in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda were asked recently to read a sentence such as “The name of the dog is Puppy” in English or Kiswahili, three-quarters could not provide the name of the dog. Other evidence shows that in Nigeria, when fourth grade students were asked to complete a simple two-digit subtraction problem, more than three-quarters could not solve it. Although the skills of Brazilian 15-year-olds have improved, at their current rate of improvement they will not reach the rich-country average score in math for 75 years.

In reading, it will take over 260 years. Among young adults in Nigeria, only about 20 per cent of those who complete primary education can read. These statistics do not account for 260 million children who for reasons of conflict, discrimination, disability, and other obstacles, are not enrolled in primary or secondary school.

“The diagnosis in this World Development Report may make for disheartening reading, but it should not be interpreted as saying that all is lost—only that too many young people are not getting the education they need,” said Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, World Bank Lead Economists, who co-directed the report team. “Learning shortfalls eventually show up as weak skills in the workforce, making it less likely that young people will find good-paying, satisfying jobs. But change is possible, if systems commit to learning, drawing on examples of families, educators, communities, and systems that have made real progress.”

The report recommends concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve this dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilising a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion ‘learning for all.’

“Providing a high-quality basic education for children across the region is an economic necessity, as well as a moral imperative,” the World Bank’s Senior Director for Education, Jaime Saavedra said.
“This report provides a sobering look at Africa’s learning crisis and the region’s potential to solve it.
“Young Africans can transform the region and create lasting economic change, but they need to be equipped with the skills and human capital to do so,” the report said.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said, “Education remains critical to global development and human welfare in every society, and especially for Africa and indeed for Nigeria, given the state of our development.

“Several strategies targeted at the education sector are currently being undertaken by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. This includes the N-Power programme, the home-grown School Feeding Programme, aimed at reducing the number of out-of-school children and also the World Bank sponsored Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) Programme designed to bring out-of-school-children into the classroom,” she said.
In his remarks, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu said, :“We must stop just spending on education; we must begin to start looking at our spending as an investment in education.