The Quality Level of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa and Education Effects

Research Background

The region of Sub-Saharan Africa has various historical, political, cultural, and environmental contexts. Moreover, it has diverse climates and geographical peculiarities. The northern part is characterized by little vegetation due to deserts; a central Africa has tropical forests while a cross-continental plateau stretches from the eastern to the southern part of the continent. Hence, the geographical diversity, combined with different contexts of economic, social, cultural, and political development have created a unique mosaic of societies and nations across the region.

Education has always been considered the most promising path to a better future and increased productivity, as well as the economic and social development of a nation. Education in Sub-Saharan Africa was introduced by missionaries. They introduced formal education to people who practiced traditional skills and led an oriented way of life. Many local communities developed their forms of education, which was different from the formal education. Older females taught young girls, and males trained young boys. In this way, valuable knowledge was passed from one generation to another. The introduction of formal education revolutionized the lifestyle and life perspective of the Sub-Saharan Africa citizens. Moreover, it provided Africans with a new ability to make informed choices (Watkins).

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The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa have different education systems and some regional tendencies in the structure. The number of years required to graduate from school is different across the region. Varying systems of education lead to differences in the reference grade for the completion of primary education (UNESCO 22).

Over 30 million children lack basic primary education, and more than 22 million teenagers do not attend schools due to numerous reasons (UNESCO 24). It is evident that the system of education in Sub-Saharan Africa is in crisis today. Therefore, governments and different non-governmental organizations join their efforts in order to change the situation. However, there are many factors that prevent the rapid improvement in the sphere and limit the stakeholders’ efforts. Most females in the region are illiterate and have low literacy levels.

The socio-economic diversity, different developments of historical and political aspects and insufficient economic growth have negatively influenced the development of education in Sub-Saharan Africa. The countries have attempted to improve the quality of education, but various economic, social, and environmental contexts interfered with their aim. Nowadays, many countries are still struggling with the development of education system in hope to build a better future.

Concept of the Education Quality

It is difficult to define the term of education quality. Moreover, the notion of quality has changed over time and became dependent on the societal values. In many cases, the education quality is defined by the results of the national examination. Nevertheless, in developing countries, emphasizing examination results can be harmful to the learning and teaching quality as educators usually sacrifice these activities to preparing children for the tests (O’Sullivan 256). Studies indicate that the quality relates to numerous difficulties as it is difficult to be achieved, measured, and improved (Bergmann 586). However, everything depends on how people see their preferred schooling outcomes. In general, in each nation, quality education is unique and specific.

Quality is a multi-faceted notion as it includes different elements and aspects of the basic model that addresses inputs and outputs. It closely relates to the school system efficiency that considers the balance between inputs and outputs. Inputs mean different materials, such as blackboards, desks, textbook, students, and teachers. In turn, outputs mean the achievement proxies and actual achievement measures, including the amount of acquired skills. However, the education quality presupposes a number of indicators that are indicated in the scientific literature; they attempt to determine proper inputs of the school quality required to enhance the student achievement.

A minimum quality level may refer to a full functional literacy. Moreover, it includes a good mastery of the basic operations in mathematics (Bergmann 592). The education quality is also associated with the interaction between a teacher and a student. At the same time, this interaction depends on the curriculum quality, implemented methods, and contents. In turn, the curriculum implementation quality strongly depends on the teachers’ professional skills, materials used for teaching and learning, working conditions, the total time needed for providing instructions, among others. In such a manner, these factors define the control exercised by the educational institution.

Function and Effect of Good Quality Education

The concept of the education quality is arguable and controversial. However, it is evident that the good education quality enhances the process of knowledge and skill acquisition. Moreover, it helps to achieve essential goals that cover different aspects of life. There is a direct link between education and different social and economic benefits. A high quality of education positively influences the economic potential of a nation. In addition, it provides substantial benefits to the social life. Studies suggest that the basic education, for example, numeracy and literacy, positively influences fertility among women (Glewwe, Maïga, and Zheng).

Students who perform well at school have an opportunity to move up the academic ladder and enter a university. It means that better achievements keep students at schools for a longer period and result in higher rates of completion at all schooling levels. There is a belief that quality education can strongly influence the development of a country. Hence, formal schooling is among the most essential contributors to the improvement of individual skills and human capital as a whole. Schools not only provide education and influence skills but also depend on public policies. Moreover, the personal income distribution in the society is closely related to the number of educated people. Thus, more schooling is associated with increased incomes.

In addition, the education quality is considered one of the factors that influence the economic growth of a country. The relationship between the measured quality of the labor force and economic growth can provide a stronger effect than the influence that the school quality and human capital have on the productivity and incomes. It is obvious that the economic growth enables one to determine improvements in the living standards of respective society. Moreover, an educated community translates into high innovation rates, better overall productivity, and ability to introduce new and improved methods of production, as well as a faster technology introduction.

Research Aims and Objectives

The aim of the present research is to identify and analyze the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as investigate its effects on the region. The study investigates the concept of the education quality, analyzes the current state of education in the Sub-Saharan African countries, and examines the main factors that prevent the region from the substantial developments and improvements in the sphere of education.

The paper will analyze the level of education in Sub-Saharan Africa and its influence on the overall well-being, as well as the political, social, and economic development of the region. Outlining the research objectives help in carrying out a detailed and well-planned study.

The research objectives of this study are:

  • to study the level of the education quality in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa;
  • to analyze the factors that influence education in the region;
  • to examine the need for the high-level education;
  • to investigate the influence of education on the development and well-being of nations.

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Research Questions

To meet the research goals and objectives, the study should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the current situation with education in Sub-Saharan Africa?
  2. What is the level of education quality in the region?
  3. What factors influence education in Sub-Saharan Africa?
  4. What are the key issues of the education sector in Sub-Saharan Africa?
  5. How can education influence the country, its development, and well-being?
  6. What can be done to improve the situation with education in the region?

Research Justification

A rapid growth of the population and a constantly-increasing demand at all levels of education, as well as financial restrictions in the education sector, may remain unchanged. However, some countries of the Sub-Saharan African region experience challenges in meeting the goals of the sustainable educational development. It is associated with the international and regional initiatives, external environments, the active role of non-governmental organizations, increased national and international commitments, and others.

The region has a very young and fast-growing population. This fact translates into increased demand for education. This demographic situation has some essential implications on the education financing. Thus, there is a need to increase the number of schools and qualified teachers, as well as to provide students with proper learning materials and equipped classrooms. The situation in the education sector in Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly difficult. The situation is caused by the increased poverty rate and associated consequences, such as illiteracy, hunger, high rate of HIV/AIDS pandemics, uncontrolled growth of population, and many other issues (“Revitalizing Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa” 2).

Today, the Sub-Saharan African region experiences some improvements in the sphere of education. However, the rate of literacy in most countries remains relatively low (UNESCO 16). In most states around the globe, education is financed by the government. It is explained by the fact that education provides society with essential external benefits. Public provision of educational services is restricted by the availability of the public resource. However, many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa have a relatively weak capacity of the public resource collection. It affects the resource allocation for education. Therefore, it is very difficult for many countries of the region to raise public revenue due to high instability in terms of the macroeconomic growth, high debt ratios, wide informal sectors, and weak administration of the tax system (UNESCO 19).

Although the formal education gave rise to a positive change within some communities, it still requires improvement. Nowadays, in many Sub-Saharan African countries, the quality, availability, and level of education are absent or extremely low. The current research focuses on the level of education quality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, it addresses the role of high-quality education in the growth of a nation. It is evident that business sectors need to develop the skills of competitiveness. Hence, many African entrepreneurs need access to the information, innovation, and ability to create viable businesses. However, the local system of education cannot equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge. Therefore, it is essential to carry out some research in order to analyze the current state of education in the region and make a contribution to the development and improvement of the local education system. The paper can help the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa improve their education quality and create a solid analytical base for the education cost allocation and financing if the information is effectively used.

Research Structure

  • The first chapter provides instructions. It outlines the research background and makes an emphasis on the concept of the education quality and the function and effect of good-quality education. Moreover, it presents the research aims, objectives, and questions. Finally, it provides the research justification and research structure.
  • The second chapter is a literature review. It discusses the concept of the education quality, main factors that influence education in the region, and analyzes the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa, benefits of quality education, as well as provides challenges in measuring learning.
  • The third chapter is the methodology that describes in details the research method used in collecting the data for analysis and discusses the benefits of the secondary sources.
  • The fourth chapter provides research results and discussion. It presents the results received in the process of research and discusses the research data, including the current state of education in the region, measurement of the education quality, causes of the poor education quality, key issues of education systems, as well as recent changes in the education systems of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The fifth chapter is conclusion and recommendations. It presents the key results of the paper, summarizes them, and provides recommendations that can help improve the educational system of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Literature Review

Education Quality in the Countries of Sub-Saharan Africa

So far, the education quality has been studied by many researchers. However, scientists provide different definitions of the concept. The absence of a concurrent view may be associated with the fact that education and its quality has been changing over time. Moreover, they may present different values to the respective society. It has been found that the education quality is often associated with difficulties. According to Motola (2001), it is a complicated task to find a proper definition of the concept and apply it to all situations (65). Some scientists define quality according to certain setting (O’Sullivan 249). Hence, the quality of education is based on social relations and cultural traditions, as well as the political and economic life of the country. It indicates the idea that quality education is specific to each culture and nation.

In addition, the concept of the education quality may differ geographically. The main reasons for this phenomenon are variations, different functions, and means of realization. Hence, education strongly depends on people and their perception of education (Castro-Leal, Dayton, Demery and Mehra 50Schultz). Most definitions focus on the elements of the basic model, which employs outputs and inputs that are commonly used in the education research (UNESCO). In this case, the quality is associated with the effectiveness of the school system taking into account the input and output balance. Therefore, a more effective system of education gets more output for a given resource input. The education output presupposes the growth of the number of students and their development to explain the specifics of their educational experiences.

Bergman (1996) states that a minimum quality includes functional literacy and basic mathematical skills. He also suggests measuring the quality in terms of the interactions between a teacher and a student. Therefore, it is essential to use a proper teaching approach that will suit certain situations and optimize students’ opportunities. Moreover, teachers should provide relevant and error-free teaching content (Schultz 97). The quality of the learning and teaching process strongly depends on the curriculum quality, its methods, contents, and implementation manner. In its turn, the curriculum implementation quality is associated with teaching and learning materials, teachers’ professionalism, working conditions, time spent on providing instructions, and others. It is possible to improve the quality of learning and teaching by improving the classroom interaction quality (O’Sullivan 257). Gender differences also influence the education quality. Therefore, scientists assert that there is a need for the further investigation of gender differences in the school enrollment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is difficult to compare the education content and level across the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa as the schooling years are different. Barro (1991) made an attempt to measure the education quality in the region (408). The researcher indicates that a primary school ration has a substantial effect on the economic growth of countries. Moreover, the family income and education attainment tend to affect the academic performance of children. Moreover, a smaller number of students in the class, higher teacher salaries, as well as spending per student can significantly improve test scores. However, Sequeira and Robalo (2008) state that the most essential school quality measures are the inputs and background (education and income) (5). The scientists do not agree with the idea that teacher salaries and expenditures should be taken into consideration.

Benefits of Quality Education

A lot has changed in the region since the beginning of the 21st century. The education system has undergone drastic changes leading to the increase in the life expectancy. However, the sector still requires much more reforms, educational institutions, and continuous investment in order to increase the accessibility of the education and make its quality high. Many families cannot afford to send their children to schools as they live on barely $0.65 a day (World Bank 83). Poverty may become a dynastic attribute due to a severe lack of capabilities, such as nutrition, healthcare, and education.

Good performance at school is reflected in grades and translates to higher income in the future. Moreover, the high quality of education is beneficial to the economic potential of a country as a whole. Moreover, it presents numerous social benefits. Students with perfect grades have an opportunity to enter a university. However, skills are the most essential issue that influences and determines the earnings. Thus, the literature analysis has shown that the high quality of education influences the economic growth of both a person and a state.

Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

It is evident that the capabilities, including nutrition, healthcare, and education are essential as they influence the well-being of the region. However, these capabilities are a human capital that can increase the standard of living and incomes. An emphasis is put on education as it is considered a key to higher incomes. The current state of education makes Sub-Saharan Africa leg far behind other regions of the world (World Bank 86).

Numerous efforts to promote early childhood care and education (ECCE) were made in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the access to these benefits creates numerous challenges. The rate of enrollment at pre-schools is less than 10%. The main reasons for this fact are poverty and unavailability of the institutions (Schultz 101). It is essential to highlight that in many Sub-Saharan countries, pre-school education is not a part of the formal system of education. Nevertheless, many governments believe pre-school education to be essential as it prepares children for the formal education.

It has been found that ECCE reduces stunting, malnutrition, and positively influences the cognitive development of children. In addition, it can increase the school participation. Many ECCE programs across the region report a considerable progress, but their quality remains unsatisfactory. Therefore, it is crucial to improve the ECCE quality.

The primary education plays an essential role in the national development. Nevertheless, today, it faces numerous challenges and difficulties in terms of the enrollments and participation. Poverty is among the main reasons for the low participation. Especially in the rural areas, people cannot afford to send their children to schools. O’Sullivan (2006) asserts that it is possible to improve the quality of the primary education by increasing the amount of instructional materials (248). There is a belief that the greatest problem of African schools is a lack of learning materials in the classroom. In the recent years, the number and availability of instructional materials have substantially reduced.

Malnutrition is another major barrier that is strongly associated with acquiring education in the region. Poor nutrition prevents many children from the development of a strong mind, memory, and good health. The situation with malnutrition is especially critical in Ethiopia, Burundi, Malawi, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Rwanda. More than half of children living in these countries suffer from stunting.

Most children of the appropriate age do not have access to the secondary school system. Most governments consider that the quality of secondary education in the Sub-Saharan African region facilitate the achievement of the secondary school objectives. This education differs from one state to another. Some countries provide large science laboratories and workshop blackboards while, in others, the equipment of an institution is the parents’ responsibility. The main strategy of teaching at the secondary schools presupposes teachers’ lecture. Students mostly play a passive role at lessons. National examinations access the efficiency of the secondary school system. Nevertheless, in most countries, students get very low scores as they have poor or no knowledge of the foreign languages and lack learning and teaching resources. Moreover, most students use rote memorization that is not always effective.

Higher education is vital to the development of Africa. Therefore, the region should make an emphasis on the research projects, programs, and policies that can help it grow and improve. Universities prepare students to take the responsibility for the governmental issues and business and become professionals in any sphere of life. Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa experience rapid spread of higher education; however, there is still a large demand for learning places. In addition, only a small number of people has access to universities. The age of students ranges from 19 to 24 years. In some countries, less than 2% of the given age group has a chance to attend a higher learning institution. Moreover, the total number of students who attend public and private universities is nearly 3% of all eligible people. An access to higher education in the region is characterized by substantial imbalances (Bold, Kimenyi, Mwabu, Ng’ang’a, and Sandefur 74).

In most countries, there is a decline in the number of the female students’ enrollment. There are substantial gender disparities at universities due to the situation with the previous education levels. Researchers measure the quality of university education in the same way as for other education levels, taking into account inputs (facilities and technologies used in teaching and learning, curricula, staff, and others) and outputs (examinations and tests).

The analysis of relevant literature has shown that many countries in the region face substantial difficulties with spreading schooling and building educational institutions. Governments and responsible authorities join their efforts to decide on relocating resources and determining priorities that will help in the improvement of the current system of education (Schultz 135). It is essential to emphasize that most countries in Africa will not manage to sustain the rapid growth due to insufficient investment in the local population. Many people in the region do not have access to proper health care, education, and other social benefits. Therefore, education is not the only sphere that requires investment.

Challenges in Measuring Learning

Learning is measured through conducting national and regional assessments of Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there is no common learning measure for all countries that would indicate learning problems in appropriate contexts and the progress (World Bank). It is difficult to compare literacy rates in different states of Sub-Saharan Africa due to numerous factors. One of them is the nature of the learning as it affects the development of children at different learning levels and learning domains. The quality of education has a multi-faceted nature. The same may be told about its relevance and quantity. Therefore, there are some challenges in measuring learning in the region.
The quantity of education is usually measured through the rates of school enrollment, attendance, drop-out rates, as well as completed years of schooling. Each of these aspects conveys some information that is difficult to compare (Bold, Kimenyi, and Sandefur 49). It is possible to measure learning outcomes with the help of the knowledge acquisition, cognitive ability mastery, and acquirement of practical skills. The analysis of relevant literature has shown that the measurement of the education quality is mainly focused on the education inputs, outputs, and the learning process itself. There are numerous limitations in terms of the measurement of the education relevance in terms of the labor market.

The current education quality measures in the region do not address essential aspects of learning reflected in cognitive tasks. Moreover, many children that belong to pastoral communities cannot perform simple addition (Mwabu and Ackerman). However, the teacher’s guidance may be beneficial to them as they become more responsible and able to use logics. Children often learn behavioral attributes related to productivity enhancing. These attributes are usually gained through schooling but are seldom taken into consideration in the current assessment forms.


Theoretical Framework

The research methods implemented in the current study optimize the data extraction related to the quality level of education in Sub-Saharan Africa and education effects. This chapter aims at discussing the research methods used in collecting the research data. Moreover, it highlights the primary characteristics of research designs and establishes the rationale for the selected research method. The choice of the research method is relevant to the research aims and objectives.

There are two most commonly used research methods: qualitative and quantitative ones. Qualitative research provides a better understanding of opinions and motivations, as well as ensures comprehension of the research problem. Quantitative research methods are used to get the problem quantification. Moreover, they generate numerical data for the further transformation into statistics. Moreover, quantitative research presupposes formulation of opinions, facts, ideas, and patterns. The research uses a qualitative strategy to carry out research. The research strategy choice is explained by the fact that qualitative research methods enable to understand and interpret the problems under investigation better.

The methodology is essential as it is a core of any research. Proper research methods help answer research questions (Blaxter, Hughes, and Tight 14). Moreover, it is important due to the ability to identify potential solutions to the researched problems. Research questions will be thoroughly explained and discussed with the help of research approach and strategy. The chosen research methods helped to optimize the data regarding the quality of education in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and the influence of education on the region.
Any research needs reliability and validity. Reliability does not depend on a researcher while research validity is closely associated with the true reflection of the current situation. Research findings should demonstrate the relevance to professional practice as the study applies the analysis of the secondary sources and their reliability cannot be doubted.

Benefits of the Secondary Sources

Many types of research cannot be undertaken without the use of the secondary sources. It is related to the fact that secondary data can help draw conclusions and answer research questions. In some cases, the primary data collection approach is unnecessary. It is the case of the current study. The researcher has applied only the secondary data analysis due to its benefits. First of all, it is a cheaper way of the data collection. Moreover, it provides a great amount of information that enables to answer all research questions, as well as to meet the research aim and objectives. Second, a researcher does not need much time to gather the data (Bernard and Ryan 15). Third, secondary data sources tend to be more accurate than the ones obtained through primary data research. Fourth, secondary data play an essential role in the exploratory phase of any research when it may be difficult to define the research problem or formulate hypotheses and variables. The analysis of secondary data always helps a researcher get a better understanding of the issue under investigation, as well as assists in outlining different inquiry lines and alternative action courses. Fifth, the secondary sources are very helpful in the case a researcher needs to define the population and structure the sample to be taken. In this case, the government statistics on the education enrollment and rate of illiterate people will help make essential conclusions. Moreover, many secondary data sources have become available via the Internet. The development of technology has made the process of data searching much easier and quicker that it was in the previous century. Finally, the secondary data analysis enables to generate new insights from the previous studies. Thus, the analysis of data enables to make relevant conclusions, as well as verify previous results.

The combination of the secondary data sources provides a researcher with an opportunity of inexpensive data analysis and comparison. It enables to get valuable and reliable information about the quality of education in the region, the number of students, teachers, and schools, as well as identify the learning needs of the local population. Moreover, the secondary data can be extremely informative and valuable as it can offer a means of reflecting the socio-economic conditions in the region. Therefore, it is an effective method of collecting data for the economic analysis. The chosen research approach helped the researcher save time and money and spend more time on analyzing the key issues. Moreover, it provided an opportunity to compare the rate of literacy, access to education, and enrollment in different countries of the region.

Data Collection and Analysis

The data are collected to analyze the quality of education in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The main advantage of a qualitative study is the ability to get a clear picture of the research question. Theoretical data were collected from reports, articles, journals, the Internet resources, and observation. The collected data concerned the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa and its influence on the region, in general.
In the process of the study, the researcher used the secondary data that include literature reviews, as well as knowledge obtained from different scientific reports and researches carried out by different scientists. The analysis of the secondary data was used to investigate the opinion of people who have a direct relation to the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the researcher analyzed the data presented by other scientists and those from numerous reports and governmental papers. In addition, note making helped to make sure that all necessary information is gathered. Hence, the implemented research methods helped the researcher describe the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Results and Discussion

Current State of Education in the Region

In general, there are approximately 128 million children of school age in the region. Nearly 17 million of them will never attend school. Another 37 million of children will learn little and will not be much more literate than those who will never attend school. Therefore, the forecast for the social development and future economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa is poor (van Fleet). The figure below represents the number of the graduates by educational level in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nowadays, Uganda and Ghana have become the target countries for the local students. Meanwhile, the countries of South Africa are attractive to students of all educational level as the region hosts nearly 22% of the Sub-Saharan African students. The introduction of graduate programs and establishment of new universities have resulted in the increased number of PhDs. However, the number of PhDs is not going to rise in the following years due to limitations in terms of infrastructure and funding. These issues are among the major problems of the whole system of education in the region (Trayler-Smith). The figure below shows improvements in the education systems indicating an increase in the number of learners in the region.

An Increase in the Number of Learners in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nearly 17 million more children are attending schools in the region today. This figure indicates a rapid increase (45%) in the number of school children. It is explained by the increase in the school-aged population and considerable improvements in the number of years spent at school (Castro-Leal, Dayton, Demery, and Mehra 51). More children have got an opportunity to acquire at least the minimum standard of learning and reading. However, the improvement in the sphere of primary education has not influenced the overall quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, the poor education quality still depends on the recent problems as most of them remain unaddressed. Therefore, the quality and quantity of education should not be treated as a trade-off. The future goals should take into consideration both aspects. Moreover, it is vital to provide appropriate learning resources to people who experience the greatest risk of not attending schools or receiving a very poor quality of education.
Namibia, Ghana, Cameroon, Lesotho, and South Africa are the countries with low and moderate participation levels. However, since recent years, they have substantially improved their ratios. Although there are advances in the sphere of pre-primary education, there still remain many problems that require urgent addressing as they are neglected in many countries. The ratio of pre-primary education does not even reach 2% in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Uganda, and Nigeria. However, this ratio is nearly 100% in such countries as Seychelles and Mauritius. It has been found that children enrolled in the pre-primary schooling tend to come from affluent households. At the same time, children from very poor families get the most from the programs for the early childhood (Regional overview: sub-Saharan Africa 2).

The repetition rates at primary schools are high. In every third county, there are more than 20% of repeaters. This number is higher in Camaros, Burundi, and Gabon. In addition, the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa experience a low enrollment in terms of vocational and technical education (Regional overview: sub-Saharan Africa 4).

Measurement of the Education Quality

The research results have shown that the quality of education should be measured taking into account the following factors:

  • Monitoring learning outcomes. Many countries began to conduct learning assessment at the beginning of the 21st century. It has been found that between 2000 and 2006, almost 33% of the Sub-Saharan African countries undertook at least one national assessment. This number was less than 24% till 1999. In addition, more countries began to participate in assessments prepared by Southern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and the Analysis Programme of the CONFEMEN Education Systems (PASEC), namely Malawi, Kenya, Mali, and Chad, among others.
  • Learning achievements. The literature analysis has shown that there are extremely low learning results in the region. Achievement levels have decreased. However, national assessments indicate an upward trend in Senegal, Ethiopia, and South Africa. At the same time, some countries experience lower achievement levels in mathematics and language. This situation is more common in the rural areas.
  • Instructional time. Many countries around the globe usually require an average of 700 annual instruction hours in grades 1 and 2. Grade 3 requires nearly 750 hours. This number increases to 810 hours by grade 6. Although, in most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, official requirements are very close to the global standards, children receive less instructional hours (Castro-Leal, Dayton, Demery, and Mehra 53). It has been found that many schools in the region cannot comply with the official school year as there is a high teacher turnover. Many entities begin the school year one or two months later than supposed. Therefore, such a loss of instructional time leads to decreased quality of education and has a negative influence on learning outcomes.
  • School and learning atmosphere. Many countries in the region experience a lack of reading materials. Some classrooms have no books at all. This situation is common for Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Up to 40% of teachers state that they do not possess a guide or book on any subject. More than 47% of school buildings need complete rebuilding or substantial reparations. In such a manner, Seychelles have nearly 40% of schools that are in poor conditions. Almost 70% of school buildings in Lesotho require rebuilding. This number reaches 78% in Uganda. Moreover, less than 13% of schools have favorable conditional for learning and teaching in many countries, such as Malawi, Chad, Zanzibar, and Guinea. In the countries that use PASEC and SACMEQ, nearly 90% of schools have a blackboard and chalk (except Zambia, Chad, and Uganda). Burundi and Mozambique have a damaged education infrastructure. Conflicts in Liberia of 2001-2003 substantially destroyed the school infrastructure. As a result, more than 22% of schools were completely destroyed, and nearly 18% were seriously damaged (Facts on Education in Africa).
  • Teachers. There are more than 2.5 million primary school teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1999, the number of teachers at schools has increased. However, many countries still experience a lack of staff. The region has the highest primary Pupil/Teacher Ratio (PTR). In Congo it is 83:1 while in Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Ethiopia it is higher than 60:1 (Knight and Sabot 38). It has been found that national averages tend to hide the real picture of huge in-country disparities in the teacher distribution. Moreover, PTRs are usually much higher at public than private schools. Many countries, such as Burundi, Mali, Benin, Eritrea, Mozambique, Senegal, Madagascar, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania experience a significant shortage in public school teachers. The region faces a lack of trained educators. For example, in Togo, Chad, and Madagascar, there are less than 50% of trained professionals. In Mozambique, Chad, and Madagascar, PTR exceeded 100:1. The situation is contrary in Namibia, in which 90% of primary school teachers have proper training. This number was less than 30% in 1999 (UNESCO).

Causes of the Poor Education Quality and Its Key Issues

Poverty has substantially increased in most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa in the past 25 years. Almost all heavily indebted poor countries of the world are located in this region. The fact that almost half of the African population lives for less than US $1 a day impacts the health and education of citizens (Devarajan and Reinikka 154). More than 70% of urban citizens in the region live in slums. Moreover, the enrollment at primary schools is the lowest in the world. Only two-thirds of children who start primary school stay there till the final grade (Facts on Education in Africa).

The primary reasons for low literacy levels are early marriages as they disrupt education programs making people homemakers. The gender inequality also influences the number of females enrolled in schooling negatively and prevents women from getting access to the basic education. However, the female education positively influences the country’s economy. Unfortunately, the rates of enrollment at universities in the Sub-Saharan African counties are the lowest in the world. An insufficient number of qualified and professional teachers, infrastructure, and lack of resources also affect the quality of education. Thus, schooling in the region does not always presuppose learning. This phenomenon is related to the fact that many countries lack the most essential elements, such as teachers, classroom, textbook, and stationary. These issues limit the access to a meaningful process of education.

Research has shown that in some countries, 40% of children fail to meet a minimum learning standard by grades 4 or 5. At the same time, in Zambia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, more than half of all students fail to learn the basic skills at primary school. A great number of children tends to drop out of schools (Castro-Leal, Dayton, Demery, and Mehra 51). It has been found that more than 60 million of children will reach adolescence and will not have basic literacy skills to lead a productive way of life. Moreover, there are substantial inequalities between the poor and rich, which is reflected in the system of education (van Fleet).

Recent Changes in the Education Systems of the Sub-Saharan African Countries

Research has shown that the rate of literacy has improved in the region over the last decades, but the situation still needs an enhancement as nearly 40% of Africans aged 15 and over, as well as 50% of females over 25, remain illiterate (“Facts on Education in Africa”). Moreover, it has been found that the number of children enrolled in primary school in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 59% to 77% over the past decade. In addition, many countries have a better education access, but the achievements in learning are still very low. Only 28% of the sixth-grade students in Tanzania are reading in accordance with the grade level. This number is 19% in Kenya and not more than 10% in Uganda (“Facts on Education in Africa”). It is evident that the low knowledge acquisition level during primary schooling negatively influences the skills and knowledge acquisition at later stages.
Since 2000, the enrollment at primary schools has risen. Moreover, many countries have made successful attempts to combat the gender inequality at educational institutions. Hence, one-third of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have achieved gender equality in the primary education. However, getting more females into schools needs changes in the attitudes towards them. Moreover, it requires changes in the practices of household labor. Unfortunately, women still account for over 65% of the adult illiterate population (O’Sullivan 251). The largest rate of illiteracy is in Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Education and Its Impact

Literacy is considered a fundamental right of humans. It reduces poverty and broadens social perspectives and participation. However, it is still the major problems in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. A constant growth of the population increases the number of the adult illiterates.

The main factors that negatively influence education system in the region are gender disparities, poverty, governmental support, public spending, and place of residence. However, the highest illiteracy rates are common for the countries with the greatest rates of poverty. Therefore, poverty is one of the factors that significantly reduce the rate of the school participation. Moreover, the research has shown a negative impact of poverty on the attendance rate at primary schools in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have already doubled the number of teachers. Despite substantial progress in the sphere of education during the past decade, an absolute deprivation of issues and challenges remains at extraordinarily high levels across most countries. In Mali, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso, schools practice bilingual education that improves educational outcomes, attendance, and enrollment.

Learning Needs

People in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa have extended their learning needs. However, governments address these needs only by expanding the formal secondary and tertiary education. It has been found that many activities of structured learning occur outside the systems of formal education and usually target the disadvantaged groups of people and school dropouts. There is a lack of information concerning the supply/demand ratio. There is a great need for monitoring the demand and supply for the non-formal education. In recent years, many countries have made successful efforts in scaling up the programs of non-formal education. However, they are diverse and have differences in terms of target groups, objectives, content, and pedagogy. Moreover, they are often not taken into consideration by multiple ministries and other government bodies. Large-scale literacy programs tend to embrace livelihoods and life skills. At the same time, national programs usually emphasize the development of skills in the informal economy. In Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, these programs focus on the development of rural areas and usually cooperate with the agriculture ministries.

There is a limited access to the information concerning the enrollment in the non-formal education. Research results indicate that the number of people that got their highest level of educational attainment exceeds 1%. It is common for Nigeria, Burundi, Chad, the Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal. In Burundi, this number reaches nearly 20% in youth and more than 30% in adults. Males tend to reach the highest educational attainment level in the non-formal education. The largest disparities are found in Nigeria and Chad. However, the highest educational attainment level in nonstandard curricula is common in rural areas of Chad, the Gambia, Burundi, Nigeria, and Senegal.

Ways to Improve the Quality of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research has shown that it is necessary to take a number of measures in order to improve the quality of education in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, many states should consider the establishment of national frameworks for the supervision, financing, and coordination of the educational programs and projects. Moreover, there is a need to control the appearance of unregistered ECCE centers. This strategy will assist in meeting the education-related objectives and goals. There is a necessity to subsidize salaries and train teachers to be competent in different spheres, including nutrition, child care, cognitive stimulation, health monitoring, and others. Therefore, it is essential to focus on the practice.

The analysis has shown that the economic development usually enhances the educational growth. Therefore, a greater emphasis should be made on the provision of resources to education. Moreover, it is important to follow the practice of industrialized countries. As the region experiences the challenge of providing teachers with monetary incentives that would enhance their morale, it is necessary to take certain measures in order to improve their professionalism and encouragement. Hence, governments and responsible authorities should improve working conditions and supervisory support. Moreover, it is essential to address the instruction medium policy.

It is possible to increase the education quality in Sub-Saharan Africa through the enhancement of physical facilities, workshop equipment acquisition, teaching resources, and others. There is an increased need for the development of textbook for secondary school examinations. Other measures of quality improvement include the establishment and gradual implementation of provisions concerning standards for the inputs to research and teaching. In addition, it is vital to ensure the provision of libraries, workshops, and laboratories with proper materials and consumables. Moreover, upgrading teachers’ academic qualifications is critical for the revival of long-term efforts. Research results indicate that there is an urgent need to improve the education process and improve the quality of education in most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, there are substantial disparities between males and females.

It is advised to withdraw user fees as many countries in the region have already done for the primary school fees. The support of community efforts can result in the delivery of quick results in the sphere of education. Moreover, it is essential to understand the educational attainment of returnees clearly. Therefore, it is recommended to establish the systems for the certification of education acquired in other countries. It will ensure the recognition of the returning refugees’ qualifications. Research has shown that there is a need for developing cross-border examinations and accelerated learning programs. It will provide local children with an opportunity to acquire basic skills of numeracy and literacy. Many children in Sub-Saharan Africa need psychological support. This need comes from the mental health problems that tend to occur as a result of witnessing armed conflicts and acts of violence. Strengthening national planning would help the countries make education inputs and develop information systems. It will provide governments with resource allocation and assist in detecting the most problematic areas in the sphere of education.

Resources available for education are inadequate in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. This fact indicates the need to develop effective programs that will aim at delivering essential services and addressing the issue of gender inequality. The future economic growth of the region depends mainly on the labor skills and the ability to accelerate a demographic transition. However, the growth strongly depends on the educated workforce. Acceleration of the demographic transition that leads to the reduction of the population growth requires education of both males and females. Therefore, it is essential to invest in people as it enables the personal development and helps eliminate poverty.

It is essential not to neglect the learning needs and recommendations for the improvement of the education quality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Local governments should ensure that more people will get access to education and schools will be provided with required facilities. Moreover, a greater focus should be made on the training of teachers.

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