Report: Most Standard Two pupils can't read

Most Standard Two pupils in Kenya cannot perform simple reading or mathematics tasks, the latest World Bank report shows.

At least 60 per cent of all Standard Two pupils in Kenya cannot tackle simple subtraction sums, same as Iraq, according to the report titled World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realise Education’s Promise. 

It however points to a more hopeless situation in Ghana, one of Africa's most advanced democracies, with more than that number of pupils being unable to read.

However, the report cautions that the data is only from selected regions and may not therefore be representative of the national figure.

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The report says its findings illustrate the challenges education systems are facing and calls for their constant reviews.

Education systems

"Schooling is not the same as learning. Children learn very little in many education systems around the world. Even after several years in school, millions of students lack basic literacy and numeracy skills," says the report released yesterday.

The survey further says most education systems around the world expect students to acquire foundational skills such as reading by the time they are in grades 1 or 2.

"Yet in Kenya, the curriculum has been designed for the elite. Teachers and textbooks focus on advanced topics that are of little use to students," says the report.

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"This slow start to learning means even those who make it to the end of primary school do not master basic competencies."

"The percentage of primary school students who pass a minimum pro?ciency threshold is often low, standing at 15 per cent for Mathematics and 8 per cent for reading."

The report warns that illiteracy at the end of grade 2 has long-term consequences for many reasons.

"First, learning is cumulative. Education systems around the world expect students to acquire foundational skills such as reading by grades 1 or 2. By grade 3, students need to read to access their curriculum," says the report.

"Students who master these skills early are at an advantage as skills from early grades have a positive impact on future school performance."

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In 2007, the survey says, less than 50 per cent of Standard Six pupils in Southern and East Africa were able to decipher words. Less than 40 per cent got basic numeracy skills.

The reports also show up to 50 per cent of teachers in Kenya were absent from school or did not go to class during unannounced visits.

The report says some of them could not score 80 per cent on a test of Standard Four material.

Many of them also lack the necessary skills as only a few public primary school teachers are able to assess children’s abilities and can evaluate their progress. Few engage in the practices with good teaching.

As a result, teachers do not have suf?cient mastery of concepts they are expected to teach. The study showed that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 per cent of primary school teachers are not as knowledgeable as their students.

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In Kenya, up to 82 per cent of teachers sampled can not comprehend a Standard Four mathematics curriculum.

Present in class

Another 66 per cent can't understand a Standard Four tasks, yet out of the 50 per cent who are present in class, only 45 per cent teach.

The report shows that children from poor households in Africa learn much less. Political factors have also been blamed for diverting schools, teachers and families from a focus on learning.

The report says without objective information on learning, parents may be unaware of the poor quality of education offered. This prevents them from demanding better services from school managers and governments.

The research says providing meals and textbooks to learners might not necessarily improve their performance.

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