Tananian Government should Focus on Improving Quality of Education Before Further Expansions

July 13th, 2014
by Michael

Human rights groups have been campaigning in Tanzania for the abolishment of using the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) as a filter to determine which students will attend secondary school. These groups argue that abolishing PSLE would allow all students to attend secondary school and, as a result, help reduce child labor. While having universal secondary education is a laudable goal, TETEA is concerned that a rapid increase in enrollment at the secondary level would have a detrimental impact on the quality of education provided.

The primary reason for TETEA’s concern is that many children finishing primary school are not prepared to continue their education. Based on several years of research conducted by Uwezo, an educational rights organization, student literacy rates at the primary level are abysmal. Uwezo found that almost 15% of Tanzanian pupils in Standard 7 (the final year of primary school) were unable to read a paragraph at the Standard 2 level in Swahili, which is the language of instruction in primary school as well as the country’s lingua franca. Over 30% of pupils finishing primary school were unable to read a paragraph in English, the language of instruction in secondary schools, at the Standard 2 level. TETEA believes that children who have neither mastered the language of instruction of primary school nor demonstrated satisfactory understanding of the language of instruction used in secondary school should not be allowed to progress.

Eliminating the PLSE would only limit the ability of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) to determine who has the necessary skills to succeed in secondary school; it would do nothing to ensure that students are learning. Placing students in an academic program for which they are unprepared is not providing educational access. Instead, it may add more strain to an already poorly funded educational system. This hurts those students who are academically prepared for secondary school, as fewer resources (time spent on teaching, books, classroom space) will be allocated to help them continue to succeed. It will also negatively impact those students who are not prepared, as these students will continue to fall further behind and may develop a lower sense of self-efficacy/self-image. While student achievement/learning would not increase, there would likely be a decrease in secondary school national exam pass rates. A similar educational policy change was implemented in 2009, when the MoEVT eliminated the requirement for students to pass the Form 2 examinations before continuing on to Form 3. While more students were retained through Form IV, the number of Division 0′s (those who were unable to score more than 20% in at least two subjects) rose to more than 50% of students. This, in turn, led the government to reconsider its decision, requiring students to pass Form 2 examinations before progressing to Form 3.

Focusing on eliminating the PLSE draws attention away from another issue related to student attendance: the ability of students to afford schooling. While they would like to go to school, many students face financial burdens that lead them to drop out and seek employment. Not only are there lost wages associated with school attendance, but there are also a number of additional costs (such as school fees and uniform costs). In order to reduce the financial disincentives for attending school, governments often eliminate school fees. The Tanzanian government eliminated primary school fees in the 2000s in attempts to attain universal primary education. Though it promised to compensate those schools for the lost tuition through capitation grants, it has not kept that promise. According to Uwezo, primary schools receive approximately one fifth of the capitation grants that they are entitled to. If the MoEVT were to make secondary education universal, there might be pressures to reduce or eliminate school fees. Given the government’s difficulty in supporting schools at the primary level, TETEA is concerned that any attempts to abolish school fees at the secondary level would leave many more schools under-resourced.

Given the problems associated with rapidly increasing the number of secondary school students (a lack of teachers, books, classroom space, etc), TETEA feels that if the MoEVT does attempt to increase the number of students in secondary school it should do so gradually and ensure that additional resources are allocated to support the increase. Also, the MoEVT should work to allocate more resources at the primary level to ensure that students are better prepared for secondary school. Universal secondary education is a worthy goal to strive for, but it should not be rushed. While an increase in secondary school attendance could reduce the incidence of negative societal outcomes (such as child labor or teen pregnancy), it could also reduce educational quality. Rather than expanding enrollment at secondary schools, TETEA believes efforts should focus on improving the quality of education at primary schools. Achieving universal literacy at the primary level, in both Swahili and English, should be the current aim of government efforts. Only then, and as greater numbers of students are finishing primary school with adequate preparation, should the government begin increasing enrollment at the secondary level.



Are Our Children Learning? (UWEZO):

Capitation Grants in Primary Schools: A Decade Since Their Launch, Is Their Money Reaching Schools? (UWEZO):

Let’s Tackle Primary School Leaving Examination (Daily News):

Rising Illiteracy Should Be Taken Seriously (IPP Media)

Tanzania Rolling Out Form IV Pre-tests

May 6th, 2014
by Michael

Tanzania Daily News recently wrote an article, Tanzania: Provisional Form Four Tests in Pipeline, describing the government’s plan to roll out provisional tests designed to help students and teachers assess which topics they should spend more time on before the real national examinations.  The program could be beneficial, though I wonder how detailed the feedback will be.  Form IV students have been doing mock examinations at the regional level for years, though they only receive scores by subject.  Perhaps the schools will receive detailed reports breaking down performance on each question like they’ve started releasing for the national examinations (example for Civics 2013)?

DEO and Headmasters Demoted in Mbinga

March 8th, 2014
by Michael

Last month Daily News and Habari Leo reported that the District Education Officer and six headmasters were demoted in Mbinga for misusing funds.  Secondary schools receive money from the government (based on the number of students enrolled) and stipulations on how the money is to be spent.  Apparently a lot of money that was intended to purchase books for the schools was diverted to other purposes.
I agree with Marycelina Masha that the punishment doled out to them was fairly light.  I believe that the former headmasters have only lost a position of respect and not received any economic punishment.  (While teaching in Tanzania I was told that salaries at government schools depended only on education and the number of years taught, and that administrators like headmasters did not receive any more money than if they were regular teachers.)  Still, this is better than the more commonly used disciplinary measure of transfering someone to a smaller and/or more rural school.
While the Daily News article states that embezzlement in the education sector is a problem across the country, this case is particularly relevant to TETEA since it occurred in the geographic area where we are focused.  In fact, three of the demoted headmasters teach at schools that are very close to the library we help operate.  The closest, Maguu Secondary, is only a few hundred meters from the library.  Mkuwani Secondary is a bit farther away, though we receive more visits from its students.  Langiro Secondary is less than six miles from the library and its students occasionally go to the library after attending mass at the nearby church or visiting the market on the weekend.  Hopefully the change of leadership will result in these schools being better equipped, but in the meantime I’m glad that the library is nearby to provide access to textbooks for any interested students.

Form Two Results Released

February 1st, 2014
by Michael

A summary of the 2013 Form 2 examination results was reported by Mwananchi, The Citizen, and Majira. Of the students who took the examination only 62% passed. This is a slight decrease from the previous year when 64% passed.

The papers also reported that students will continue with school regardless of results. Last year the government had announced a return to using Form 2 examinations as a gate, allowing only those who averaged at least 30% to continue on to Form 3. Now the government is stating that students who averaged at least 20% should continue to Form 3 as well, though in a remedial section that will review Form 2 material as well. Also, it appears that the government is going to allow students to repeat Form 2 multiple times, instead of having them end their education career after failing twice as was done in the past.

While it is understandable that the government doesn’t want to abandon its students, I wonder how many of the students who are being allowed to continue in remedial classes will successfully pass their Form 4 examinations. Not only do they have more information to learn over the next two years because of the need to cover the material from the earlier forms, but I suspect they will also be taught less than their peers in the regular sections. Many periods pass without a teacher entering the classroom in Tanzania, and I believe that a remedial section would be much more likely to be skipped than regular sections. Strong leadership is needed from the government to ensure that the students aren’t just given opportunity to take the Form 4 examination in two years, but are also given the education that will help them pass the tests.

TETEA Embarks on a New Education Service: TextTETEA

November 10th, 2013
by Keegan

Click here for news story: TextTETEA News Article

Government Announces Digital Library

October 8th, 2013
by Charles

Last month, the DailyNews reported that the Prime Minister of Tanzania has announced government plans to create a digital library which would contain all student textbooks and other paper-based materials (for the article, see:  It is unclear when these materials will be publically available or even if work has begun on the project, though it will probably be several years before such a program would be fully operationally.


As computers, tablets, and smart phones become more widespread, a digital library could become very useful. Students would be able to access their course materials without having to pay for them. Also, having access to a complete library would allow students to view materials that otherwise would have been unavailable due to the scarcity of textbooks at many schools and the phasing out of old textbooks.


While the project has many potential benefits, there are several issues that should be addressed. First, large segments of the population do not have access to the resources necessary for the effective use of a digital library. Many schools do not have access to the technological aids (computers, smart phones, internet connections) required to access a digital repository; some of these schools do not even have electricity. Such schools tend to serve students who are poorer and who are more likely to be located in rural areas; these students tend not to have access to the requisite technological aids, either.  If nothing is done to improve access to such aids, a digital library might increase the educational divide between the wealthy and the poor.


TETEA maintains that technology can be beneficial and that a resource such as a digital library would beneficial; this belief led us to develop our own resource library at, where Tanzanian students and teachers can obtain study guides and past national examinations. That said, it is important that one remains cognizant of the potential pitfalls of such initiatives and work to mitigate any negative consequences.  TETEA, for example, operates a rural library which contains all of the materials available through the online resource library, providing access to students who are unable to use the internet.

Reading for Pleasure Improves Classroom Performance

October 8th, 2013
by Michael

The Center for Longitudinal Studies recently posted an article describing an Institute of Education study that found that children who regularly read for pleasure perform better in the classroom. We’re hoping that holds true for the children visiting the MACOBICA Library in Maguu. While roughly half of the visits are from secondary school students who come to the library occasionally in search of material to study, there are several young primary school students who regularly visit to read childrens’ books. In August Herieth (Grade 3), Allan, (Grade 2), and Samuel (Grade 2) visited the library 24, 22, and 18 times respectively. By partnering with MACOBICA to start and operate the library these children now have access to a far wider of selection of books to read than would have been available otherwise, and thus can develop the love of reading that will assist them as they continue their education.

Here is a link to the article.

Plight of Poor Rural Girls Evidenced in Tanzanian Education Report

August 18th, 2013
by Greg

Prepared by the Government of Tanzania with support from UNESCO and the World Bank, Tanzania’s most recent Education Sector Analysis (2011) provides a wealth of analytical information meant to “nourish the dialogue between the government and education sector stakeholders, including development partners.”  In light of our goal of founding and operating a successful secondary school in Tanzania, this document provides a justification for our decision to target female students from rural locations who but for assistance would lack the financial resources to pursue further education.

Across Tanzania, access to secondary level education continues to be problematic, despite recent gains.  In 2009, half of children had access to O-Level secondary school and 23 percent were able to reach the last grade of the cycle, up from just eight percent in 2003. These recent gains are largely attributable to government policy of having a government secondary school in each ward.  A-Level secondary school access is still notably low, at just five percent.

Disparities in educational access, retention, and outcomes exist across area of residence (urban/rural), gender, and income.  Schooling inequalities are particularly unfair to children from rural areas with a gap in the probability of access of 23 percentage points for O-Level entry.  Gender gaps are significant with 95 girls enrolled for every 100 boys in O-Level, dropping to 83 girls for every 100 boys in A-Level, and only 65 women for every 100 men in higher education.  Despite these notable inequalities, the single most discriminatory factor in schooling patterns is families’ level of income.  These effects are seen as early as primary school despite Tanzania’s fee-free policy where there are 95 students from the poorest quintile enrolled for every 100 students from the wealthiest.  Thereafter a precipitous decline leads to 30 of the poorest students for every 100 of the wealthiest students at O-Level, 6 of the poorest students for every 100 wealthy students at A-Level, and 0 of the poorest students for every 100 of the wealthiest at the university level.

These statistics lay bare the educational plight facing the most disadvantaged students standing at the confluence of these three factors: poor rural girls.  While 92.5 percent of poor rural girls have access to primary school, only 50% finish.  7% are reckoned to have O-Level access and only 1% complete O-Level, with 0% having A-Level access.

The report concludes that conditions demand affirmative action to enhance girls’ participation in school to ensure gender parity at post-primary levels.  Suggestions for improving girls participation in the education system include  “awareness raising campaigns to sensitize parents on the value of educating girls beyond primary, and on the negative impact of early marriage and pregnancy on schooling and female health, greater numbers of female teachers and the provision of community-based hostels to avoid girls the long journeys to and from school, addressing security concerns, and scholarships and cash transfers targeting bright girls, reducing direct and opportunity costs.”

TETEA is uniquely positioned to act on these inequalities by implementing policies at its secondary school that make education a reality for the most disenfranchised of Tanzanians.  With school goals that make explicit our dedication to providing access to education to girls without financial ability, we will strive to subsidize their education with a financial model in which a majority of students pay full tuition while those without financial ability are awarded scholarships based on merit and demonstrated need with assistance from outside donations.  Building on the strengths of a student scholarship program that has identified and funded more than 40 students in need of assistance, we are dedicated to continuing to refine our methods for targeting the most needy of poor rural girls to insure our work is for their benefit.

Tanzanian Education Sector Analysis 2011, Executive Summary:

2012 Form Four Results are out

February 18th, 2013
by Brian

The results are out! They don’t look so great overall. Unfortunately, this year, NECTA has decided to list them only by examination number.

As an alternative to the NECTA site, try our Maktaba site:

Results on TETEA Maktaba Site

The official links from NECTA

Tanzania Pupils Score Well in Recent Reports

February 19th, 2012
by Michael

Towards the end of 2011 the Southern and Eastern Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality released a number of reports comparing the results of tests and surveys performed several years ago.

Tanzania’s primary students have performed well in the study comparing 14 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. Two tests were given to pupils, one in reading (in the language of instruction) and the other in mathematics. In both tests Tanzania ranked third, behind the Seychelles and Mauritius in reading and Kenya and Mauritius in mathematics. This performance is especially good when one considers the fact that the Seychelles and Mauritius are island nations with much smaller populations and better economies.

While I didn’t expect Tanzania to fare so well compared to other nations, some of the other findings of the report made the results even more surprising. For instance, the study found that Tanzanian pupils had the worst access to textbooks. The mean number of days a pupil is absent per month (2.1) was also amongst the highest of the nations in the study. The reading scores of Tanzanian teachers were also slightly below average. GDP per capita was towards the bottom.  Only 29% of Tanzanian classes had 40 pupils or fewer, while the mean across all nations in the study was 48%. Pupil to teacher ratio has risen from 47 (in 2000) to 56 (in 2007). It seems that the Tanzanian pupils have been managing to perform better with less resources than pupils from other nations.

Part of the reason noted for Tanzania’s performance in reading is that the language of instruction is Swahili, which is at least used, if not the primary language, in most of the pupils’ households. Most of the other countries in the survey teach their pupils in English, despite the fact that the language is infrequently spoken outside of the classroom setting. The study’s results seemed to show a correlation between average reading scores and the percentage of students speaking the language of instruction at home. Being taught in a more familiar language probably helps the mathematics scores as well, as it would be easier for the pupils to understand the concepts if they know the language better.

While the pupils in Tanzania performed well due to the use of Swahili in primary schools, when the students enter secondary school they struggle with the transition to English as the medium of instruction. The difficulty associated with switching languages is the reason why some people are pushing for using a single language for instruction throughout all levels of education, though there are advocates of using only Swahili (who say that it will foster better performance as shown in this study) as well as proponents of a switch to English in primary schools (by advocates who stress that English is necessary due to its prevalence in international business).