The Learning Crisis

Meet Beatrice, from Nyakasenyi Primary School Kyenjojo District, in Western Uganda. She is 13 and in primary six and seeks to realise the benefits of Education.

A good Education is everything to her and her parents, who “sacrifice” to send her to school. She wants to be a teacher. The founder of Power Teachers Africa has met thousands of children and parents throughout Africa over the last 33 years working in the Education sector, and they all value education.

Sadly, Beatrice and hundreds of millions like her all over Africa are not realizing their dreams and benefitting from their education, because they are not learning. Six out of ten children and adolescents globally and more than 85% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are not learning (UNESCO/UIS, 2017). This is in spite of so much investment in education and decades of support from various Aid Agencies and NGOs. 

In 2018/2019, four seminal global reports were launched:

All focused solely on the scandalous and tragic waste of human resources and potential – the Learning Crisis, which is also costing 129 billion a year (GEM 2018) i.e. the cost of 250 million children around the world not learning the basics. In total, 37 countries are losing at least half the amount they spend on primary education because children are not learning and not able to benefit from education.  

“…without learning, students will be locked into lives of poverty and exclusion…”

WB’s World Development Report, 2018, p. v

In 2019, the first ever PISA findings on achievement in development countries, PISA-D, are equally shocking – across the seven countries participating, only 12 percent of children who were tested met minimum proficiency levels for mathematics, and 23 percent for reading, compared with 77 percent and 80 percent in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, respectively.

Percentage of grade 2 students who could not perform simple reading or maths tasks, selected countries

Bar chart showing Grade 2 students who could not read a single word of a short text
Grade 2 students who could not read a single word of a short text
Bar chart showing Grade 2 students who could not perform two-digit subtraction
Grade 2 students who could not perform two-digit subtraction

Sources: WDR 2018 team, using reading and mathematics data for Kenya and Uganda from Uwezo, Annual Assessment Reports, 2015 (http://www.uwezo .net/); reading and mathematics data for rural India from ASER Centre (2017); reading data for all other countries from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Early Grade Reading Barometer, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017 (http://www.earlygradereadingbarometer.org/); and mathematics data for all other countries from USAID/RTI Early Grade Mathematics Assessment intervention reports, 2012–15 (https://shared.rti.org/sub-topic/early -grade-math-assessment-egma). Data at http://bit.do/WDR2018-Fig_O-1.

Note: These data typically pertain to selected regions in the countries and are not necessarily nationally representative. Data for India pertain to rural areas.