Mozambique, in common with many other developing countries, has achieved impressive increases in access to education. Since 2000, the number of children attending primary school has more than doubled, as have the number of schools. Enrolment into secondary school also has risen rapidly--in 2004, less than 8,000 young people graduated from secondary school (12a classe) in the whole country; by 2014, the number of graduates exceeded 50,000.
These trends are positive, but they only paint half the picture. The flipside of access is whether children are learning once they are in school. The evidence here is patchy, but broadly suggests that Mozambique is lagging a long way behind many of its developing country peers in the quality, rather than the quantity, of education that it offers its children.
From access to learning
It is not difficult to grasp why the quality of schooling matters. Weak educational systems create burdens for both employers and workers. If educational certificates are not a good guide to the kinds of skills a person possesses, employers can find it difficult to identify the right kinds of qualified candidates. This can lead to higher turnover or costly recruitment processes. It can also lead employers to demand higher levels of education, even where the specific tasks of a job do not demand it. Today, technological change also is increasing the demand for skills--even labour-intensive manufacturing firms prefer better-educated workers who are able to operate equipment and follow production goals.
A major education challenge in Mozambique is to ensure that all children who start primary school go on to complete it. Data from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources suggests that in each grade of primary school, only around 80% of children go straight to the next grade. Although not all of these children drop out, the probability of a child who starts primary school completing the full seven years is less than 50%. So, many young Mozambicans are entering the labour market without having even completed a primary education.
But completing primary education does not mean young Mozambicans learn enough through schooling. This is revealed by a recent face-to-face survey of children in Nampula implemented by TPC Mocambique, part of Facilidade-ICDS (Instituto para Cidadania e Desenvolvimento Sustentavel). The survey follows a model originally developed by Pratham in India, now used in many countries. The data from these surveys...