Although every child in Tanzania who has achieved at least Standard 3 should have mastered basic literacy and numeracy skills at the Standard 2 level, in reality this goal is far from being achieved. Over the past three years, literacy levels have remained low and largely unchanged, but results for children’s math skills show improvement. The following five facts about learning outcomes and five facts about the learning environment highlight some of the key findings from the 2012 assessment2.
FIVE FACTS about learning:
FACT 1: Only one in four children in Standard 3 can read a Standard 2 story in Kiswahili.
Very few children learn to read in the early elementary school years. Nationwide, only one in four children can read a story at Standard 2 level in Kiswahili in 3rd grade. It is not until 5th grade that the majority of students can read at the Standard 2 level.
FACT 2: Four out of ten children in Standard 3 are able to perform multiplication at the Standard 2 level.
More and more children seem to be acquiring number skills earlier. Pass rates for the numeracy test were higher in all grades in 2012. For example, 44% of students in Standard 3 passed the numeracy test, up from 37% in 2011. However, seven counties were not included in the 2012 assessment, and these results will need to be further confirmed in future years.
FACT 3: Fewer than one in ten children in Standard 3 can read an English story at Standard 2 level
Competence in reading and understanding a story in English remains low. Uwezo 2012 confirmed that literacy in English is significantly worse than in Kiswahili in all classes. By 7th grade, half of all students leaving elementary school have not acquired basic English skills that are taught in secondary school.
FACT 4: Where a child lives can affect whether and when he or she learns to read and do math.
The 2012 data clearly confirm regional, district, and urban-rural disparities in children’s learning outcomes. In general, children living in urban counties scored higher on the assessment than children living in rural counties.
FACT 5: On average, seven out of ten children in Tanzania do not know the meaning of the three colors of the national flag.
The national flag is ubiquitous in Tanzania, especially in schools. But do children understand the meaning of the colors of the flag? The results show that 69% of children between the ages of 7 and 16 cannot explain the meaning of the three main colors of the flag. Inequalities exist between those who attend school and those who do not, and between rural and urban areas.
5 FACTS ABOUT LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
FACT 1: Class sizes are still too large. In 2012, there were more than 47 students for every teacher in public elementary schools.
The student-teacher ratio of 47:1 found in the 2012 assessment remained virtually unchanged from 2011 (48:1). It is noteworthy that the Dar es Salaam region, with the lowest student-teacher ratio in the country (34:1), performed better than all other regions on all three tests (Kiswahili, English, and numeracy). Teacher absenteeism barely improved from 19% in 2011 to 18% in 2012. This means that almost 1 out of 5 teachers was absent on the day of the Uwezo exam.
FACT 2: Resources to support learning vary widely by region.
As with most school facilities, there are wide regional variations in the number of students using textbooks. In Dar es Salaam, 14 students share one textbook, while in the Kigoma region there are 41 students to one textbook. Even in the highest performing region, Dar es Salaam, too many students share too few books.
FACT 3: Nationwide, only 4 out of 10 government elementary school have access to safe drinking water.
School conditions can have a detrimental effect on learning outcomes. Lack of drinking water is an important indicator of the school environment and can negatively impact children’s ability to absorb new knowledge at school.
FACT 4: Nutrition programs are offered by 3 out of 10 schools nationwide.
Nationwide, 29% of schools offer nutrition programs. This figure masks significant regional differences: no school in Kigoma offers such a program, while 79% of schools in Kilimanjaro do.
FACT 5: On average, 3 out of 10 schools have libraries.
All schools should have libraries, but many do not, and there is wide variation across the country. In the Kagera region, 67% of government elementary school have a library, compared to only 5% in Lindi.
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