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High spend on Education absent in the Economy – Expert


Although the total public expenditure on the education sector has continued to attract a significant share, at least 22 percent of total government expenditure over the years, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Vision 2016, Dr Pelotshweu Moepeng is concerned that the money is not reflecting on the economy.


Dr Moepeng notes there is little evidence on the ground that funds spent on this high share of budget is spent on the local economy.  He says the high education share in total government expenditure should be justified by jobs creation.


“Initially most of the funds a large proportion of the expenditure, about 20 per cent was spent on local and external placing for tertiary education. However, even after more local tertiary institutions are available, as complemented by private universities, education spending is not observed as stimulating the local economy,” he states.  


According to a paper he authored to reflect on the Vision Pillar of An Educated and Informed Nation, Moepeng says in recent years, it has been found that home grown school feeding initiatives at primary school level are providing vital market to local farmers produce, especially in the first quarter of the year.


“It could be assumed that as the education sector remains the dominant government priority in terms of spending, this sector could generate direct jobs in the teaching sector, and indirect jobs in IT, furniture manufacturing and maintenance, transport sector, rentals, agriculture and others,” he writes.  


The Director of When it comes to teachers’ accommodation in rural areas, government prefers to build houses for its staff instead of promoting the private sector property market and rent much good accommodation available, in the villages.


Milestones – Enrolments and Literacy rate
The main objective of the paper was to outline the major success of the Vision 2016 long-term national plan objectives in the education sector and highlight priority issues that require the national debate to bring out the best ideas necessary to pitch the country to the next level and contribute to the efforts made to develop the next long-term plan.


At the time the Vision 2016 was initiated, access to basic education was a challenge in Botswana as was a problem of gender balance in different aspects of our education system, quality of education and exclusion of some sections of the population particularly in the settlements officially known as Remote Areas.


Moepeng notes that there is an increase in basic education enrolment and ensuring that every child in Botswana has access to basic education, and that the capacity of the education system is equipped to provide adequate and quality education.


“Currently the literacy rates among the youth is above 95 per cent and comparable to other countries in the middle income level. Botswana’s performance in youth literacy rates compares well to other middle income countries like South Africa, Malaysia and is way above Namibia.


Even though Botswana had the lowest youth literacy rates in the 1990s, her performance has improved from just below 85 per cent to the current more than 95 per cent. Overall, access to basic education from primary to junior secondary is guaranteed to most children in Botswana and this is major success of the Vision 2016. However, there remain pockets of children in Botswana who remain excluded from access to basic education, especially in the Ghanzi District.


Moepeng writes: “This situation has proved difficult to address despite many interventions that include boarding primary schools, parents’ involvement and persuasion, provision of both morning and evening meals to entice children, and out of school children programmes in schools. More work, especially in the social discipline studies need to be intensified to address this problem.” 

 
Gender Balance
According to Dr Moepeng’s paper, the gender balance in enrolments at in the basic education have generally been achieved across the country and by the year 2002, girls accounted for over half of gross enrolment in primary and secondary schools which was consistent with the demographic characteristics by gender (MFDP and UNDP, 2004; and CSO, 2001). Although prior to 1996, enrolments in Teacher Training Colleges was dominated by females, following the introduction of the Vision 2016, more and more males enrolled at teacher Training Colleges, which could have improved the gender balance in the trained teaching cadre.    


Automatic Progression and Quality of Education Outcomes
One of the major outcomes of high preference for education spending is increased transition rates from standard seven to secondary education. Moepeng says this has increased the overall number of years of schooling for many children in Botswana.


However, he notes that as many of these automatically transfer from primary to secondary education, irrespective of their performance in primary school education, it turns out that in recent years; there has been an increase in failure rate at secondary school level. Moepeng says the automatic transition from primary to secondary could be a major contributor increased failure rate in secondary education, as students who fail primary education are not immediately addressed by a selection process that includes improving the quality of students before they enter secondary education.


Education Content biased to Humanities and Social Sciences
“Our education system remains dominated by the social sciences in terms of enrolment at tertiary education. This could imply that the target is not yet diverted from producing officers for employment in the civil service -an objective that was meant to replace expatriate workers in the civil service with locals,” writes Dr Moepeng.


Moepeng says the civil service is nearly 100 per cent localised, and the objectives of economic diversification require an educated and skilled nation that is ready to compete in the global economy.


“We should therefore reflect and re-assess the global demand of goods and services, to be in a position to promote the education of those services that are readily in demand. In the humanities for instance, one could open wider job choice opportunities by learning one of the most used Chinese languages,” he says.


Performance measurement and lack of relevant data
Dr Moepeng indicates that available data on the education sector is not complete and sometimes limiting even when it is available to facilitate reasonable analysis for purpose of informed decision making.


“First, there is no historical data that is publicly available for use in monitoring and evaluation, which is comprehensive enough for researchers to measure the performance of the education sector effectively. For instance, there are issues of changes in syllabus and curricular that is possibly not accounted for in the data available, and some administrative decisions that can affect teaching and learning outcomes that might not be accommodated in the education data.”


He further notes that in some cases, the data is not decomposed in a manner that allows comparison of performance between rural and urban, private and public schools, education level of heads of schools and others variables necessary to enable adequate description of characters that influence performance.

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