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Context of the study

The World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000 set out six broad goals that reaffirmed the need to offer basic education for all. One hundred and eighty countries committed themselves to meeting this challenge. In quantitative terms, this involves 115 million children who were not enrolled in school in 2002, 42.5 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, with twice as many non-enrolled girls as boys.

The challenge to be met is posed not only in terms of quantity, but also quality. In many schools, especially in the poor countries, educational quality is so poor that even after several years pupils have not acquired a basic schooling, that is, the minimum skills needed to read, write and count. As a consequence, if we do not pay sufficient attention to improving the quality of education, the movement in favor of basic education for all could result in a terrible waste. A waste, because important resources will be invested, with no improvement in learning results, and also a waste because the children, the adults of the future, may well remain illiterate despite their schooling.

Pursuing the goal of education for all by 2015 thus means paying renewed attention to the quality of education in Africa.
This is the situation in which the ADEA steering committee set up an ad hoc group to conduct a study entitled, “The challenge of learning: Improving the quality of basic education in Sub-Saharan Africa”, in order to support the efforts of the African countries that are trying to meet the challenge of basic education for all.

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The goal of this exercise is to effectively focus the attention and efforts of the African countries and their partners on the challenges posed in improving quality in the process of Education for All. In other words, this exercise and the accompanying process aim at: (i) conducting a wide-ranging discussion on the relevant policies, strategies and practices implemented to improve the quality of basic education, while taking into consideration the specific situations in which these have been established, (ii) promoting the development of more solid political visions and greater commitment, and (iii) developing a culture of quality among everyone involved in education.

This exercise has been built on two cornerstones: the analysis of national experience and a review of the African literature. This approach, the first centered on endogenous experiences and knowledge, deliberately emphasizes the search for African solutions to African problems as well as mutual learning.
The country case studies are a key element in this process, as they will be used to establish the basis for a support framework for identifying and making decisions about strategic options to improve educational quality.

These case studies deal with at least one of four central themes:

  • Pedagogical renovation and teacher training

  • Decentralization and alternative education systems

  • Generalizing sustainable reform

  • The relevance of education: Curriculum adaptation and the use of African languages

The ADEA Biennial Meeting in December 2003 is to be organized around the theme and the results of this effort. This will provide a great opportunity for collegial discussion where there will undoubtedly be intense exchanges between ministers, agency representatives, educational professionals and representatives of civil society about many issues, including the technical and scientific aspects, the political and social dimensions, the problems of cost and funding, design and implementation mechanisms, etc.

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The study methodology

The methodology used to conduct the study is based on the practical approach so dear to the ADEA, which runs through all its activities; its leitmotiv is “learning through action, learning from action to develop and improve action”. This is based on a participatory approach that, above all, involves the concerned countries in exchanging their experiences and sharing their knowledge to develop a broader vision, cultural roots and institutional and technical capacities to constantly improve educational quality.

This exercise in educational quality will involve several levels:

  1. The countries taking part in this effort have set up national teams that are responsible for carrying out a case study before 15 May 2003.
  2. For each theme, one or two education specialists (called “theme coordinators”) will provide technical support to the national teams and draw up a theme summary that will put in perspective the lessons learned in the case studies in comparison with international knowledge.
  3. Source documents. Thirty source documents have been identified. All the subjects are related to the theme of educational quality. These documents will be edited by the theme coordinators, with the help of the ADEA working groups, the bilateral and multilateral agencies, and education specialists.
  4. The African research networks ROCARE and ERNESA have been involved in this exercise in searching existing African literature on educational quality.
  5. Finally, a discussion document will be drawn up on the basis of all this work, and will be presented to the Biennial Meeting.

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