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How efficient is education system after 50 years?

AS a sector which functions as a springboard for development of skilled human resource, education in Zambia has continued to attract a lot of interest from various sections of society.
Since Zambia’s attainment of political independence 50 years ago, the government, individuals, as well as many local and international organisations have all taken keen interest in policies that have been formulated to ensure that many Zambians access high levels of education.
For 50 years now, emphasis has been on increasing access to education, raising the quality of education offered at various school levels, including offering of education which is not only relevant but also affordable to most people. But due to various factors, this has not been achieved.
Government expenditure on education over the years has been increasing and the 2013 allocation being about 20 percent of the national budget.
Huge capital projects by way of construction of schools, colleges and universities have continued to be undertaken. Human resource development in the education sector through teacher education and recruitment has also been receiving attention.
Against this background is the question of how efficient our education system is. What is known as that internal efficiency in education will indicate to us how well we have been doing as a nation in ensuring that as many pupils as possible, who get enrolled in school, progress up to as high a level as their potential can allow them.
Low rates of repetition by learners and a reduction in drop-out rates are some measures of how efficient an education system is. If most learners are able to progress through school unhindered by whatever circumstances, then an education system is seen to be efficient.
A look at the education statistical bulletins for the country as we attain 50 years of independence reveals that efficiency in our education system is below satisfactory levels.
In terms of learners transitioning to a higher level, it must be noted that there still are larger percentages of pupils who are not able to progress beyond grade seven or grade nine.
In 2013, for instance, only 62.9 percent of pupils at grade seven transitioned to grade eight, leaving about 30 percent dropping out of school.
At grade nine, only 43.2 percent were able to transition to grade 10. Now, that is not a very efficient education system, especially for a system which has existed for 50 years.
Another aspect which indicates how efficient our education system is today is the repetition rate.
By definition, repetition rate is “the proportion of pupils from a cohort enrolled in a given grade (grade seven) in a given school year (2013), who study in the same grade (grade seven) in the following school year (2014)”. It measures the number of learners repeating a grade.
The Zambia Educational Statistical Bulletin indicates that in 2013, the repetition rate stood at 6.2 percent for learners in grades one to nine, while for grades 10 to 12, only one percent of the total learners were found to have repeated a grade. The ideal situation is for a country’s education system to have repetition rate at zero percent.
As a measure of efficiency, a high repetition rate is interpreted to suggest problems in internal efficiency in an education system.
When we look at the higher repetition rate at lower grades, it should confirm to us that we still have capacity constraints at that level and some children have to repeat a grade to enhance their chance to progress to the next level the following year.
A third indicator of efficiency is the drop-out rate. This is defined as “the proportion of pupils who leave the [education] system without completing a given grade in a given school year. The national drop-out rate at the close of 2013 stood at 1.8 percent for grades one to nine and 1.2 percent for pupils in grades 10 to 12.
As can be expected, the drop-out rate at any level has been higher for girls than for boys. The total percentage drop-out rate for girls from grade one to 12 stood at 3.8 percent whilst the rate for boys was 2.1 percent. Teenage pregnancy and early marriages contribute to the higher drop-out rate among girls.
An aggregate of all this points to the fact that even as we celebrate 50 years of a post-independence education system, there is inefficiency in our education system.
Lack of capacity to keep all children in school until grade 12 is a factor which translates into our education system being inefficient. This inefficiency may also be indicative of the social and economic hardships of people at household level.
We have to continue to strive to ensure all children remain in school till grade 12.
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