Sep 14, 2012, 10:25 AM
The new national education policy, 2016 – 2030, which is currently being developed, is said to be premised on making inclusive quality education accessible and equitable for sustainable development.
The Gambia’s education system has undergone a number of transformations since the advent of the first education policy, 1976 - 1986.
The successor policies of 1988-2003 and 2004-2015 all recognised the issues of access, relevance and quality education.
The implementation of these policies, particularly the ongoing one, have led to a rapid expansion in access to basic education, resulting in a gross enrolment ratio of 92 per cent in 2014, according to the Generate Year Book 2014 of the Education Management Information System.
Presently, The Gambia is listed among the most advanced sub-Saharan countries in terms of enrolment and completion indicators at all levels.
In other areas such as teacher-student ratio, number of schools and other educational facilities, the country has registered a lot of enviable gains.
In spite of these, quality education still remains a challenge with low levels of learning achievements at all levels.
According to the 2010 Country Status Report of Unicef, out of 69 per cent of children starting school, only 63 per cent reach 9th Grade and only 17 per cent achieve a pass in mathematics.This indicates a major problem relating to the quality of education received at school.
In addition, a 2014 report by the basic education ministry showed that less than half of the students who sat to National Assessment Test (NAT) did not meet the minimum pass level.
NAT is conducted yearly in Grades 3, 5, and 8, and it is used to determine how well the education system is functioning.
Aside from quality, other major challenges of the current education system include retention of teachers and inadequate funding - both recurrent and development expenditure.
Well trained, qualified teachers hardly spend more than 10 years teaching due to low pay coupled with almost no commensurate motivation.
As the new education policy is being developed, there is a need to thoroughly identify and address the inherent weaknesses, capture pertinent emerging issues, and consolidate the gains registered in the sector so far.
The five-day conference organised by the Ministry of Higher Education, which is taking the lead in the development of the new policy, should serve as a springboard to generate thoughtful issues to enrich the formulation of the policy.
“African leaders must desire to liberate their people through intensive education (formal and informal). The African people deserve to be educated.”
Lailah Gifty Akita