Lee-Roy Chetty
Lee-Roy Chetty

Education the key pillar in Madagascar’s development agenda

Sub-Saharan African countries are increasingly recognising the contribution of post-basic education to economic growth and social development. However, policy makers in many developing world nations struggle to balance expansion and upgrading of post-basic education reform against competing development priorities.

They must consider how — and sometimes whether — to fund post-basic education in the face of demographic growth, limited public resources, and political and social imperatives.

A perfect case study for this approach has been the African island nation of Madagascar and the county’s poverty reduction and growth strategy — titled the Madagascar Action Plan (Map).

The current government of Madagascar has made the transformation of its education system one of the key pillars of its development agenda.

This is in stark contrast to the parasitical legacy of French colonial rule up until 1960 as well as a litany of kleptocratic government regimes, which pillaged the country’s rich agricultural and natural mineral resources and which recently saw former President Marc Ravalomanana removed from office in 2008.

An important decision was the reform of basic education, covering primary and junior secondary education, including extension of the basic education cycle to 10 years.

The government’s policy titled Education for All Plan provides the policy framework and operational strategies for basic education, covering changes to curricula and learning materials, teaching methods and student assessment.

However, basic education reform alone cannot fuel Madagascar’s growth.

Madagascar’s work force needs a higher average skill level and different types of skills to compete with other countries in the global market.

Today, Madagascar’s post-basic education system is not up to the challenge; plagued by decades of neglect and low investment, it performs poorly, in terms of the number and quality of its graduates.

The government of Madagascar recognises that significant reform of post-basic education is required to face up to the challenges, but also that trade-offs and prioritisation will be necessary.

The island nation has also recovered from the political turmoil, which engulfed the country over the last five years.

As a mature and shining example to other African leaders the incumbent Madagascan president, Andry Rajoelina, has also stated that he would not run in the country’s May elections, in order to give the nation a fresh start after his appointment to the presidency in 2009. This visionary and selfless leadership has unfortunately been the exception rather than the rule in terms of African leadership over the past five decades on the continent.

The challenge for the government of Madagascar is to develop a strategy for creating a post-basic education and training system that is more flexible and responsive to labour market needs and which can support and shape the growth agenda as well as identifying reform priorities, medium-term policy goals and strategies for increasing access, quality and relevance.

The transformation of education is one of the eight pillars of Map, the country’s new development strategy.

Consistent with this focus, the government announced a major re-structuring of school education and has completed a plan for basic education reform, covering seven years of primary and three years of junior secondary education.

The government is also now starting to prepare a strategy for post-basic education.

The main purpose of this strategy is to provide improvement for the development of post-basic education reforms. Specifically identifying and prioritising two key areas of focus.

These include the need for change in the structure, content and delivery of Madagascar’s post-basic education and training system; and the key reforms in financing, governance and sub-sector management required to support changes to the structure, content and delivery of the post-basic system.

Madagascar’s challenges however, still remain enormous.

Education indicators at the post-basic level rank it among the lowest performing countries in the world. The gross enrolment ratio in senior secondary education is just 10%, and in tertiary education less than 3%.

Public resources are limited, especially at the post-primary level. The tax: GDP ratio is approximately 11%, one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition the government budget is highly dependent on donor funding. Within the education sector both domestic allocations and donor funding are heavily biased towards primary education in order to ensure universal primary completion, which is currently less than 60%.

The Map outlines an ambitious development strategy, focusing on promoting investment in high growth sectors and regional development.

If successful, it will change the demand for skills in fundamental ways and place Madagascar in a more competitive position to continue to develop its country’s economy and improve development and increase the standard of living for the majority of its citizens.

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