President Paul Kagame says Africa’s path to prosperity will be defined by the quality of schools and secondary school that focus on the right skills, as a vital link to prepare young people to succeed in the workplace.
The Head of State made the remarks on Thursday while speaking at the launch of a new report by MasterCard Foundation on Secondary Education in Africa, which calls for the need to rethink secondary level education on the continent if young people must be equipped with the right skills to help them succeed in the 21st Century.
Speaking during the virtual launch of the report, in reference to the data and findings of the Secondary Education in Africa report, President Kagame underscored the need for cross-sectoral partnerships to achieve the report’s proposed recommendations.
“Secondary school is the critical link that prepares young people to succeed in the workplace. This report sets out some key principles we need to take on board to adapt our secondary education systems for the future,”
“The report emphasizes the importance of constant innovation, driven by data and the spirit of experimentation. This is where collaboration is essential between government, the private sector, and civil society,” he said.
The Head of State said that the report sets out some key principles which African countries need to take on board to come up with secondary education systems that focus on digital literacy, Science and Technology.
He said that this must be done because the world of work is going to continue to change in unpredictable ways which will require education systems to empower young people with the necessary skills which characterizes the 21st century, as well as aspects such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication.
President Kagame emphasised the need to cultivate the right skills while at the same time focusing on other areas such as extracurricular activities and school sports, which are much too often neglected.
“There is a need to ensure that our curricula are matched by updated assessment and exam methods. We have to not only teach the right things but also test for the right things the African context demands,” President Kagame said, calling for flexibility in developing curricula to match the needs of the continent.
Revise qualification frameworks
President Kagame also called for the revision of qualifications frameworks, so that young people who are forced by hardships to leave school can more easily resume their studies.
“Evidence in the report shows that the same flexibility needs to be applied to technical and vocational education as well. Students should be able to move back and forth between TVET and other forms of education with less difficult,”
He said this would go a long way towards correcting a negative perception of difficulties faced by many families on the African continent, in regard to affording quality education for children.
“This report emphasizes the importance of constant Innovation driven by data and spirit of experimentation,” President Kagame said, emphasizing STEM.
He said that the efforts to ensure quality education should involve the government, the private sector and Civil Society, taking time to thank the MasterCard foundation ‘for the very productive partnership’ with Rwanda in boosting education, technology and the youth employment.
“We look forward to continuing this collaboration for many years to come,” President Kagame said.
The findings by the report dubbed “Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work” indicates that changes in the nature of work are placing a premium on skills that help young people be adaptable, resilient, and creative problem solvers.
The report further highlights that secondary education that provides relevant skills to young workers will help improve productivity, particularly in the informal sector, and will play an important role in driving long-term economic growth and reducing poverty in Africa.
“Digitization, automation, and technological advancements are already changing the nature of work in Africa. Young people must enter the workforce from secondary education equipped with the right skills,” the MasterCard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy, said in her opening remarks.
“So, strategic investments into secondary education can be a big part of ensuring young people and their countries emerge from the other side of COVID-19 stronger and more inclusive,” she added.
More Teachers needed
Across the continent, the youth population is growing and is expected to reach 456 million by 2050. This growth, along with improvements in the number of young people enrolling in, and completing, primary education is increasing the demand for secondary education.
Enrollment is expected to double by 2030, representing an additional 46 million students at the secondary level over the next 10 years. This in turn requires an expansion in the education workforce.
Over the next 10 years, an additional 10.8 million teachers will be needed. Ensuring high-quality teachers are in classrooms is one of the most strategic investments a country can make to enable all students to develop the skills they will need for work and as citizens of a global world.
In her keynote address during the Virtual Summit, which was attended by policymakers, educators, and young people, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf emphasized the importance of investing in relevant, high-quality, universal secondary education as a lever for advancing inclusion.
“There is no greater driver of inclusion than a quality education. And there is nothing that can more quickly devastate hopes for the future than to have it taken away,” she said.
President Sirleaf also reflected on her experiences leading Liberia through the Ebola crisis of 2014, suggesting that prioritizing investments in education would be critical to enabling Africa’s recovery from COVID-19.
“After Ebola devastated Liberia, forcing us to close our schools for many months, we realized that we needed to place learning at the centre of the recovery process,” she said.
“As we recover from this current crisis, it is my strong belief that collaborative partnership is key to re-imagining a secondary education system that is fit for our future,” she added.
The Secondary Education in Africa report was released on the MasterCard Foundation’s website with an accompanying report entitled “Youth Perspectives on Secondary Education in Africa” that features the views and voices of a diverse range of young people.
Among them, is Joseph Opoku, who believes that “many young Africans consider secondary school to be a critical juncture in determining the road ahead,” and that “young people want a secondary education that adequately prepares them for employment and/or entrepreneurship.”
Drawing on a wide range of research conducted by scholars in Africa and globally, the Secondary Education in Africa report offers examples of the positive change and sustained progress that has been made.
It examines factors that facilitate reform and innovation throughout the education system across a range of areas such as curriculum, teacher training, flexible approaches, equitable access, and innovations in financing. The report supports policymakers, educators, philanthropists, and young people themselves to re-envision secondary education for the future and to consider actionable recommendations for getting there.
You can access the report here https://mastercardfdn.org/research/secondary-education-in-africa/