The East African: *- News*|Study paints grim picture: Tanzanian lower primary kids not learning at all By Christine Mungai, The East African A new study paints a grim picture of literacy and numeracy skills in Tanzanian schools. The study, released last week by Uwezo Tanzania and Twaweza East Africa, shows that children in primary schools are not learning, a problem that could be filtering up to other levels and weakening Tanzanias skills base. Only four out of 10 pupils in Standard 7 in the country can read and understand simple paragraphs in English and Kiswahili and perform the basic arithmetic expected of a Standard 2 pupil, according to the study. Rural children have it particularly bad as urban children in Standard 3 are twice as likely to have gained Standard 2 level skills as their rural counterparts. The World Bank says the poor quality of education is seriously hampering Tanzanias competitiveness in the region. Although primary education enrolment is commendably high enrolment rates at the secondary and university levels are among the lowest in the world (ranked 131st and 136th respectively out of 139 countries surveyed), said the World Bank in its 2010 Global Competitiveness Report. The results are not much different from another study last year that first raised the alarm on the poor quality of education in the country. The study uses assessment tests set at Standard 2 level to measure learning outcomes among children in schools. According to our curriculum, Standard 2 is when children should master the basics of reading and numeracy. But our assessment has shown that most children complete Standard 2 without having done so, said Uwezo. Only three in 10 Standard 3 pupils can read a Kiswahili story, and only three in 10 can add, subtract and multiply. Scores are worse in English, where only one in 10 can read a basic English story. This could be hurting Tanzanias ability to create skilled jobs and compete in the regional economy. It could also deny it the critical 21st century skills such as information literacy and ICT literacy, critical thinking, creativity, innovation and intellectual curiosity, which are some of the pillars of a knowledge economy. Without an urgent turn-around in the education system, Tanzanians will be hard-pressed to effectively integrate into the East African Community, or create the high-skilled jobs that drive a knowledge economy said Prof Suleman Sumra, co-ordinator of Uwezo Tanzania. There is fear that with greater integration, the Tanzanian market will be flooded by Kenyans and Ugandans. These fears are legitimate, but truth be told, our education system is not delivering. A recent report by the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), founded by UNs ICT Taskforce, says that the knowledge society in Tanzania is at a very early stage. The Knowledge Index, which focuses on a countrys progress in education, ICT and innovation, ranks Tanzania in position 133 globally, way below the average for Africa. Representative sample This years Uwezo survey in Tanzania was conducted on a much larger scale than another one in 2010, making it a much more representative sample. Last year, the survey covered 38 districts and sampled 42,000 children.