Tanzania’s Education System Deeply Flawed in Skills Development–Research Findings

Research Report Authors Recommend Introduction of Entrepreneurship Education in Primary Schools.

Jacques Morisset (L) Mahjabeen Haji (R)


By TZ Business News Staff.


Tanzania’s formal education system is “deeply flawed” in terms of preparing learners for employment.  School attendance does not guarantee learning in Tanzania where one out of every five teachers is absent from school on any given day.

When teachers are present, primary school students experience less than three hours of learning on average per day in the country where about half of the basic education budget is spent on students who are repeating classes and/or fail to graduate.

These findings are contained in a research paper titled: “Building a Skills Agenda Toward Productive Employment.” The paper by researchers Mahjabeen Haji and Jacques Morisset forms part of the newly published book “Tanzania, The Path to Prosperity” which will be launched at the Bank of Tanzania (BoT)on Tuesday, 19 September, 2017.

The book, which identifies education as key to working skills acquisition and a country’s prosperity, was edited by BoT Governor Prof. Benno Ndulu and University of Oxford economists Sir Paul Collier and Professor Christopher Adam.

Research Report authors say the deeply flawed formal education system in Tanzania means the effect of schooling on productivity is far from reaching its potential, and that it makes it difficult for youth to get jobs that require skills.

Educational attainment tends to shape employment opportunities, the book says in part. The authors add that while formal education is not the only way to acquire skills for a particular type of job, the acquisition of basic numeracy and literacy skills is imperative for a country that hopes to reap the demographic dividend of a largely young population.

“Despite the near-universal enrollment in primary schools, the proportion of the [Tanzanian] labour force with middle and high level skills remains very low,” the researchers report. Less than 12% of the total population completed lower secondary education.

“National learning assessments conducted by Uwezo in Tanzania since 2010 have revealed that those currently enrolled in the education system do not seem to be learning. In particular,  learning in primary school is often minimal; for example by the time they enter the third year of primary school, about 70% of children cannot read  basic Swahili even though it is the national language and widely spoken  across the country. About 90% of  the children  cannot read basic English,  and 80% cannot do basic mathematics,” the researchers report, adding however,  that they learned some effort to deal with the problem were in place through a government program called “Big Results Now.”

Beyond the cognitive skills typically acquired through formal education, many youth also lack the behavioural or soft skills such as communicating effectively and getting along with others. Improvements in the level of basic education are necessary to improve the chances of productive youth employment opportunities, the report says..

Authors recommend introduction of entrepreneurship education in primary schools.  While skills development takes place largely outside of the formal education system, they argue, opportunities to facilitate the acquisition of key skills at an early age can be availed by the inclusion of entrepreneurial and vocational training in the education system. The target would be relatively educated youth, building on their basic knowledge to improve specific skills.

This idea has already been successfully implemented in other countries such as Singapore, where students receive one year of mandatory entrepreneurship education within the primary school system. In Mexico, students learn basic economics and business skills before high school and can progress towards creating and managing their own businesses by the time they are 18 years old.

Tanzania, The Path to Prosperity: A Book Preview

The book spans a wide range of economic policy issues likely to confront Tanzania over the coming decade. The unifying idea turns on the core tenet that prosperity builds on productivity and productivity depends on the emergence of effective organisations. These organisations need to be capable of managing increasingly complex processes of production, trade and distribution in the market economy and, through effective bureaucracies and public policy, they need to be capable of coordinating public sector inputs into these processes.

Through their papers, authors identify the big strategic challenges facing Tanzanian policymakers over the coming decades. The book is prefaced by an elegant Tanzania economic history presented  by BoT Governor Benno Ndulu. This initial presentation traces the evolution of economic thinking on growth and development across the country’s first four presidencies. In this way, the papers set out an ambitious agenda for the country over the coming decades.

At the heart of this agenda are a cluster of issues concerned with the deep structural determinants of growth and prosperity which include the following: management of offshore natural gas reserves; opportunities for processes of urbanisation to alter the fundamental organisation of production and consumption; how infrastructure and logistics need to be structured to support a modern and urbanising economy; how the development of effective rural-urban links is essential to supporting the rapid expansion of an increasingly affluent urban population.

Other issues tackled in the book include job creation, income and poverty, and the implications for macroeconomic agencies. These topics will be discussed in greater detail.