To prepare today’s young people for life in the 21st century, gains in access to education must be accompanied by improved quality of learning. This calls for a sharper focus on quality to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and school attendance, and to help children develop cognitively, creatively and emotionally while they acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes they need to become responsible, active and productive citizens.
Studies have shown that the top four skills needed to succeed in today and tomorrow’s world will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and people management. Curricula must be updated and culturally relevant to prepare children for today’s jobs and future needs.
The majority of pupils in West and Central Africa are barely learning the basics. A 2014 report found that more than 70 per cent of early primary pupils failed to gain sufficient skills in language and 50 per cent failed to do so in mathematics. By the end of primary school, competency gaps had widened substantially, the weakest students were still struggling to read.
Among the issues to be addressed in West and Central Africa are access to high-quality pre-primary education; links between the language of teaching and mother tongue instruction; early support to pupils starting primary education; promoting a culture of evaluation; quality of school environment, teacher training, and support to children still performing poorly at the end of primary school.