African Union releases 2012 Education Outlook report in Abuja

The African Union Commission (AUC) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) released a comprehensive outlook report to monitor the state of the Second Decade of Education on the African continent.

This report was produced for the Fifth Conference of African Ministers of Education of the African Union known as COMEDAF V, which took place in Abuja, Nigeria from 23rd to 25th April 2012.

Presenting the report to a group of African education policy makers, experts, activists and journalists as well as representatives of many of Africa’s development partners, Angela Arnott from the ADEA Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support informed the gathering that although it is still premature to determine impact, some lessons have been learnt for the second half of this Second Decade on Education in Africa. There have been sizeable achievements of countries and regions in reaching some goals, and some of the positive changes in education and training developments aligned to the Decade’s goals can be explicitly linked to the Plan of Action. However, there remain considerable challenges. Whereas successful partnerships and coordination mechanisms have been established in recent times between countries, organizations and other stakeholders to establish monitoring mechanisms for monitoring the Plan of Action, there are significant challenges on the ground to ensure adequate progress.

Despite progress in developing Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) nationally and regionally, many countries lack critical data on key education issues. In the area of higher education, the development of a continental quality rating mechanism, and the establishment of the Pan African University (PAU) to support research collaboration and enhance science and technology capacity across the continent are notable achievements. In addition, the African Union’s Mwalimu Nyerere Scholarship Scheme enables young Africans to study in leading African universities while requiring them to work in any African country for at least two years after graduation. However, inequity in higher education remains a challenge with fewer women and students from rural areas and vulnerable groups gaining access.

According to the report, many countries are unlikely to reach universal primary education for all by 2015 partly because of a lack of teachers. Currently, only 50% of all primary-aged school children found in Africa, approximately 33.4 million of them and 3 million children fewer than in 2006 attend school. There is progress but uneven trends in gender equity across countries. Women make up 63 per cent of Africa’s 203 million illiterate people, and of the 33 million African primary school-aged children out of school in 2009, 18 million were girls, down from 20 million in 2006.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) was introduced as a new priority area of focus in 2009, and proposed actions remain to be elaborated. Major efforts are still required for the continuous development of more ECD policies and the inclusion of ECD in other multi-sectoral and sectoral policies and strategic plans. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) remain a poorly recognized and underfunded sector by mainstream education players. The report states that 60% of Africa’s youth are unemployed, and that the urban and agricultural informal sector which employs up to 90 % of the working age population is under-qualified and the sectors and occupations with high potential for the future lack adequate levels of skills.

Curriculum development and teaching and learning materials are limited at the regional and continental levels, despite numerous countries having undertaken major curriculum reviews. Many remain wedded to their curriculum inherited through their colonial legacies, whose content and pedagogy often does not sufficiently address the needs of diverse learners.

There is a strong need for the African Union Commission to assume a much more dynamic and complete leadership role and ensure the smooth functioning of a coordinated network of regional players, who will ensure that there is uptake of the full spectrum of activities of the plan of action. The report highlighted the need to institute an effective communication strategy that keeps information flows on progress at various levels in order to improve regional and continental synergy and accountability.

“We are conscious that the frank and open exchanges among African ministers of education, senior officials, stakeholders from civil society and the private sector are essential in promoting common understandings of the challenges and progress for achieving the continental goals,” says Ahlin Byll- Cataria, ADEA’s Executive Secretary. “ The availability of relevant data is a sine qua non for informed decision making and public discourse, and the development of information systems is an essential part of the transformation of our Ministries of Education into responsive learning organizations capable of solving the critical development issues in Africa” he concluded.

The Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union (COMEDAF) is an important platform where stakeholders at the policy and technical levels meet to deliberate on issues affecting education in the continent. Since the Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa commenced in 2006, the forum has largely been dedicated to reviewing progress in the implementation at the national (by Member States), regional (by the AU regional economic communities) and continental (African Union Commission with technical and financial partners) levels. Issues highlighted by the progress reports are discussed and recommendations made in terms of areas that require renewed focus and strategy as well as promising practices that could be emulated. Participants also share experiences and network, thereby forging new partnerships and alliances.

As a technical partner of the African Union in monitoring the implementation process, ADEA and its working groups are actively involved in the production of the review reports. The reports' preparation and completion process is led by the ADEA Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support which works with the AU Observatory, CIEFFA, the regional economic communities, fellow ADEA working groups, UN agencies such as UIS and UNICEF and Member States.

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