Only 20% of Nigerian children can read after primary school — World Bank

by Bassey Udo,

A new World Bank report released this week says only about 20 percent of young Nigerian adults who have completed primary education can read.

The World Development Report 2018: ‘Learning to Realize Education’s Promise’ was co-launched in Abuja by the World Bank Group, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry of Education on Tuesday.

The report calls for greater measurement, action on evidence, and coordination of all education actors.

“Millions of young students in low and middle-income countries face the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them to succeed in life,” the report noted.

It warned of a looming ‘learning crisis’ in global education, pointing out that “schooling without learning was not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide”.

Without learning, the report said, education would fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all.

“Even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math. This learning crisis is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them. Young students who are already disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills,” it noted.

The report said when fourth grade(Primary 4) pupils in Nigeria were asked to complete a simple two-digit subtraction problem, more than three-quarters of those asked could not solve it.

“Among young adults in Nigeria, only about 20 percent of those who complete primary education can read,” the report said.

World Bank lead economists, Deon Filmer and Halsey Rogers, who co-directed the report team, said although the diagnosis in the eeport was disheartening, it should not be interpreted to mean all was lost, but that only too many young people are not getting the education they need.

“Learning shortfalls eventually show up as weak skills in the workforce, making it less likely that young people will find good-paying, satisfying jobs. But change is possible, if systems commit to learning, drawing on examples of families, educators, communities, and systems that have made real progress,” they said in joint statement.

The report recommended policy steps to help developing countries resolve their dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilizing a strong social movement to push for education changes for ‘learning for all.’

They said education remained critical to global development and human welfare in every society, especially for Africa and indeed for Nigeria, given the state of its development.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said the Muhammadu Buhari administration had initiated several strategies to tackle the problems of education in the country.

They include the N-Power programme, the home-grown School Feeding Programme, to reduce the number of out of school children and also the World Bank sponsored Better Education Service Delivery for All Programme designed to bring out-of-school-children into the classroom.

In his speech at the occasion, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the government must stop just spending on education.

“We must begin to look at our spending as an investment in education. The Federal Ministry of Education after several consultations with stakeholders in the education sector, including the World Bank, developed a road map for the education sector captioned ‘Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan.’

The plan is built on 10 pillars which address the well-known areas of education.

The three policy recommendations in the report included the need for developing countries to measure learning at the end of primary and lower secondary school; attract highly capable people into teaching and keep them motivated by tailoring teacher training that is reinforced by mentors.