Education in Africa: Are all children learning, and learning fast enough?

15th February 2021 : 17:00 - 18:00

Category: Public Seminar

Speaker: Dr David Johnson

Location: Online - Zoom

Convener: David Johnson

Audience: Public


This paper looks at whether children in the developing world are learning; and learning fast enough to allow them to make the transitions between one phase of education to another. It examines whether it is right to talk of a ‘learning crisis’ in Africa when many current studies show deficiencies in how learning is understood, and assessed. The paper argues that talk of a learning crisis has led to an ‘urgent’ global question; that is, ‘what can be done to raise learning outcomes in the developing world’. It is not altogether without merit that the conditions under which children learn, the manner in which they are taught, and the resources they have at their disposal, are the subject of deep concern. But it is the reduction of ‘learning’ to measurable metrices in the absence of learning theory and pedagogical interpretation that is the real concern. The manner in which learning is understood and assessed has led to a slew of deficient design experiments, many of which have been evaluated through randomised control trials; and the results of these have led to debates about ‘scalability’ and sometimes even in the absence of larger trails, into ‘policy options’ for the developing world that are not only costly in budgetary terms, but also for the ‘national mission’ for the development of young minds. The paper draws on the findings of a three-year longitudinal study in Sierra Leone, and on National Learning Assessments in Sudan (2014 and 2017) and Nigeria (2019).