Education Notes is a series produced by the World Bank to share lessons learned from innovative approaches to improving education practice and policy around the globe. Background work for this piece was done in partnership, with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-08)
Recent education planning initiatives in
West and Central Africa show that the path to EFA may be
shortened considerably by reconsidering the way basic
education is delivered in isolated rural communities. Since
independence, education systems have been expanding rapidly
and are now serving most of the easy-to-reach population.
For progress to continue, the focus must be shifted toward
the sparsely populated areas, which means adjusting the type
of schools used, and building them close to where children
live. Most out-of-school children live in rural areas.
Unfortunately, few rural schools offer the complete primary
cycle. A number of factors contribute to the
incomplete-cycle phenomenon. The most significant is that
the potential student population is insufficient for a
three- or six-teacher school. Having children walk to school
from neighboring villages also contributes to low enrollment
and low student-teacher ratios. Since teachers generally do
not teach more than 1 or 2 grades at a time in a classroom,
rural communities usually have low student-teacher ratios,
and education system administrators cannot justify sending
additional teachers to the school. In addition, schools with
incomplete cycles tend to have extremely low survival rates.
Guinea is one of the few countries
world-wide to have sustained over an entire decade the
primary school enrollment rate increases necessary to
achieve the key Dakar education-for-all goals without
degradation of quality. Gross enrollment rate increased
almost 10% annually from 1991-2001, with girls'
enrollment increasing at 12% annually each year. Gross
primary enrollments increased from 28% to 61% over this
ten-year period, in spite of a weak macroeconomic
environment. The Guinea case, then, provides guidance on how
resource-poor countries can plan and follow a steady course
toward Universal Primary Education through policy change and
hard work, even where conditions, on the surface, are not