Global Education Monitoring Report: Implications for Inclusive Education in Côte d’Ivoire
Sabine Nguini is a Senior Programme Manager for West Africa at Education Partnerships Group (EPG). In this article, she highlights three key recommendations for Inclusive Education in Côte d’Ivoire, in the context of Covid-19.
Last September 14th, 2020, students across Côte d’Ivoire, one of the countries where we support the Government in their quest to improve their education systems, have returned to school to start the new academic year. As with every new school year, there was a lot of excitement amongst students keen to be reunited with their teachers and friends. However, this back-to-school is the first academic year that kicks-off in the context of the Covid-19 global pandemic; a health crisis that is further testing and straining the education system in Côte d’Ivoire and its ambition to provide quality education to all children.
Indeed, since mid-March when schools closed, students have had to rely on distance learning to keep up with their studies. Whilst lessons being taught online, on television or on radio have become the norm for many, not all students have benefited from it. Although, there are yet to be rigorous data on the reach and impact of distance learning in the region, practitioners anticipate that this health crisis will exacerbate the learning gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”, as the most educated and wealthy families will better be able to support their children’s learning at home1; making it even more critical for the Government to ensure inclusive education as schools re-open.
The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report published in June 2020 is a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring education for all, and although it highlights the challenges that governments must face to ensure inclusive education, there is now a new context within which their recommendations should be applied: Covid-19. Most importantly, from this unprecedented pandemic is emerging a new group of marginalised students, who are now excluded from education because they were not able to learn with distance learning, their parents can no longer afford their studies or they need them to contribute to earning family income to make up for loss of income. This thought piece discusses the relevance of three of the GEM report’s recommendations for Côte d’Ivoire with this new Covid-19 lens.
“From this unprecedented pandemic is emerging a new group of marginalised students, who are now excluded from education because they were not able to learn with distance learning, their parents can no longer afford their studies or they need them to contribute to earning family income to make up for loss of income. “
Recommendation 1: Prepare, empower, and motivate the education workforce so that all teachers are prepared to teach all students
Inclusion cannot be realised unless teachers are equipped to teach at the right level for every child. This academic year, teachers can anticipate three types of students: 1. Students who are up to speed because they were able to keep up with their studies in spite of lockdown; 2. Students who may need to brush up on some lessons because though they engaged with distance learning, they may not have been as responsive to this new teaching approach; and 3. Students who have seriously fallen behind. They not only lost three months’ worth of learning because they could not engage with distance learning, but they also lost previously acquired learning. All of these students may well end up in the same classroom, leaving teachers to figure out how best to level the playing field, whilst ensuring that they are learning and progressing through their academic cursus.
Côte d’Ivoire already has several initiatives aimed at supporting children who have fallen behind learning. There are for instance the “bridging classes” who provide an accelerated education to 9-13-year-olds out-of-school to help them re-join the conventional educative system2. There is also the Programme d’Enseignement Ciblé (PEC) implemented by the Ministry of National Education with the technical support from TaRL Africa. PEC is based on the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) model, an evidence-based remediation approach that teach students based on their learning level rather than their age or grade. Building on these initiatives, there is an opportunity for Côte d’Ivoire to not simply bring students back to the classroom but to think about how teachers and their pedagogy can be adapted in the Covid-19 era to include the new marginalised groups and ensure that they don’t fall further behind.
Recommendation 2: Target financing to those left behind as there is no inclusion while millions lack access to education
Providing inclusive education is a costly enterprise. In 2018, Côte d’Ivoire spending on education represented 4.37% of its GDP, when the world average was 4.17%3. At the secondary level alone, between 2012 and 2019 subsidies to private schools to ensure secondary education for all increased from 17,164,320,000 FCFA (USD 30,945,0004) to 72,520,080,000 FCFA (USD 130,744,0005)6. Yet, in spite of this considerable financial engagement by the Government, this year up to 1.6 million Ivorian children aged 6-16 years old were out of school7.
As it stands, prior to this pandemic the Government of Côte d’Ivoire was struggling to provide subsidies to non-state providers to cover the tuition fees of existing secondary students and meet their promise of a free secondary education for all. The economic impact of lockdown and social distancing measures have affected the livelihoods of many, thus increasing the number of households that will need public funding to maintain their children in school, especially to cover the required costs above and beyond the tuition fees. More than ever, it is imperative for the Government to revisit its approach to education financing, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness by targeting and reaching those who need it the most. The ongoing work that we, at the Education Partnerships Group (EPG), are doing to inform a potential reform of the secondary school subsidies programme in Côte d’Ivoire, is a good example of reform opportunities that have the potential to ensure that education financing in Côte d’Ivoire target all of those left behind, including those newly made vulnerable by this pandemic.
Recommendation 3: Collect data on and for inclusion with attention and respect, avoiding labelling that stigmatises
As highlighted in the GEM report, data are critical to support inclusion in education as they can highlight gaps in education opportunities and identify those at risk of being left behind. They can also help governments develop evidence-based policies and monitor their implementation.
Covid-19 should hopefully push governments to revisit their approach to data collection and monitoring, as vulnerability and inclusion are being redefined, and interventions need further tailoring. Beyond collecting data on the standard categories for inclusion and using these to inform the Government’s approach to education for all, Côte d’Ivoire will now need to collect data that give them a better understanding of the exclusion landscape. For instance, they will need to understand:
- Who are the ‘new’ marginalised?
- What characteristics define them?
- What are the barriers to their inclusion?
For policies to be truly inclusive going forward, they will need to reflect the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerability and exclusion.
Lessons also need to be drawn on pedagogy processes that work in and outside of the classroom and adapt those to meet the needs of the new marginalised. Unless these students are specifically targeted, there is a risk of an entire generation continuing to fall behind, as the most fortunate ones continue to move forward.
We live in uncertain days, where vulnerability is being redefined daily and governments are being challenged to think about inclusion creatively but also in a more structured manner to include the new Covid-19 excluded groups. The recommendations made in the GEM report chart a useful path towards inclusion, to which the Government of Côte d’Ivoire will need to apply a Covid-19 lens, thus truly ensuring that no student if left behind.
- World Bank. May 2020. The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/33696/148198.pdf?sequence=4&isAllowed=y
- MENETFP. June 2017. Rapport final – Atelier de revue et d’Harmonisation de l’approche classe passerelles. https://dpfc-ci.net/wp-content/uploads/dpfc_fichiers/2017-2018/modules/Atelier_Classes_passerelles_Rapport_final-1.pdf
- The Global Economy. Ivory Coast : Education spending, percent of GDP. https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Ivory-Coast/Education_spending/
- Based on the exchange rate on Oanda on 09/09/2020.
- Francis Akindes, Séverin Kouame, Walter Kra, Parfait N’Goran and Gningniminni Daouda Yeo. September 2020. Enquête initiale sur les frais d’écolage du premier cycle du secondaire privé en Côte d’Ivoire.
- Abidjan.net. Juillet 2019. Côte d’Ivoire : 1,6 million d’enfants de 6 à 16 ans en dehors du système scolaire (UNICEF). https://news.abidjan.net/h/659793.html
Sabine Nguini is a Senior Programme Manager for West Africa at Education Partnerships Group (EPG).