Facing forward: schooling for learning in Africa; overview

Author(s): Bashir, Sajitha; Lockheed, Marlaine E.; Ninan, Elizabeth; Tan, Jee-Peng

Organisation(s): World Bank; French Development Agency

Date: 2018

Pages: 88 p.


Knowledge capital enables countries to harness the world’s storehouse of information to grow their economies and improve the well-being of their citizens. Sub-Saharan Africa cannot afford to lag behind other regions in developing this asset. The region is entering a new phase of economic development—one with greater economic diversification and urbanization, closer economic integration with regional and world markets, and larger potential for new, higher productivity jobs. The continent’s youths, a sizable and growing share of the population, are essential for realizing this transformation—provided they enter adulthood and the labor market well equipped to facilitate the acquisition, adaptation, and diffusion of new knowledge and technologies. An educated youth population would also help reduce income inequality, promote social mobility, foster social cohesion, and jump-start the stalled fertility transition in Sub-Saharan Africa. Enrolling students in primary school is the first step in building the region’s knowledge capital, and Sub-Saharan African countries have focused on this effort for the past 25 years. On this count, the region has made tremendous progress. However, for the region’s knowledge capital to catalyze socioeconomic transformation, all its young people will need 9 to 10 years of basic education, with adequate competencies in literacy, numeracy, and science— and many of them must be educated and trained beyond basic education. Such knowledge capital remains thin, even as the frontiers of knowledge push forward at a rapid pace. How to improve the learning outcomes in basic education while expanding access and completion is the focus of this book. It draws lessons—from the region and for the region—about “what works” to boost learning and how to better implement what is known to have worked. It also adds to the literature its extensive new analyses of multiple datasets from the region, integrating findings about children’s learning, access to school, and progress through basic education.

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