May 25, 2014
When Uwezo education survey statistics tell half the story
Only 16% of pupils in Primary level three can pass a test of Primary Two level in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. By Primary Seven level, 20% of pupils still cannot pass the Primary Two level test. Most of those who fail are from Uganda.
Those are some of the highlights in the Uwezo Learning Assessment Survey 2013. Uwezo, an NGO dedicated to improving literacy and numeracy among school-age children between 6 and 16 years through creating social situation awareness, has published the reports since 2009. Data on learning outcomes, school conditions, and homes of the children is collected in selected districts. The Uwezo surveys are “citizen-led household based assessments” meaning that they are conducted at home not school and directed at the citizens. The idea is to gather information that can be used to monitor national and regional performance trends, and allow comparisons between countries.
The latest report entitled, “Are Our Children Learning; Literacy and Numeracy Across East Africa 2013,” is the third in the series. As has become routine in comparisons of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania on various statistics indices, the Uwezo findings have become controversial and sparked debate. The same happened when, in 2010, the UN Population Fund released a report on labour productivity in the region that claimed “six Ugandans are needed to do the job done by one Kenyan.” The same job, the report noted, would require four Tanzanians. It happened again in 2013, when a Uganda Service Delivery Indicators (SDI) report by the World Bank noted that “Ugandan doctors perform at the same level as Kenyan nurses”. In that report, the Tanzanian health service providers performed slightly lower than Ugandans.
When The Independent asked what surveys like the SDI attempt to do, Ritva Reinikka, the World Bank’s director for Human Resource Development for African Region, explained their complex aim. “It is an effort to measure the immeasurable,” she said in November 2013. She explained that SDIs attempt “to get into the quality issues on the supply side of services from the citizens’ perspective”. On education in Uganda, she noted: “We see often that primary six children are unable to read primary two paragraphs; this is quite astonishing and it indicates that pupils are not learning at school”.
The Uwezo report arrives at the same conclusion. The Uwezo report says “demonstrable learning outcomes for millions of children going to school are invisible across East Africa”. This is a sample story that Uwezo found 11% of children in Primary 7—the final year of primary education in Uganda— cannot read. “My name is Agaba. I have a friend. She is called Akello. Today my mother took us to school. She drove us in her car. It was very early in the morning. We were the first children to reach the school.”
The Uwezo administered tests are not identical but equivalent in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania based on the “curriculum expectations” of each country. In Kenya, 8% of P7 children could not read an equivalent story. Tanzania performed worst in the English test, with 48% of the pupils in P.7 failing to read the P.2 story. But then English is not the language of instruction in Tanzania; Swahili is. When Uwezo gave Tanzanian pupils the Swahili reading test, only 24% failed it. In math, or numeracy as the survey calls it, Tanzania performed best with 89% passing, Kenya followed with 85%, and Uganda was next at 84%.
Additionally, for the 2013 report, perhaps responding to the “thematic curriculum” introduced by the government in 2007, the Uwezo survey in a few districts administered some tests in local languages – Ateso, Luganda, Lunyoro-Rutoro, and Leblango. The researchers report that such peculiarities could create some “noise or non-sample error into the data”. They add that “to aid comparability across countries, only equivalent questions across surveys are included in the literacy and numeracy results”. In the end, the researchers say, the principle findings they report are not undermined. But is this really the case?
– See more HERE
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