The Human Cost of Foundational Learning Failure is Devastating -Minister Sackey tells Education Partners

The Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Mr Conrad Sackey has emphasized the need for partners to invest on foundational learning in Africa, noting that children who do not learn to read and write are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty, and become involved in crime.

He made this statement while delivering a statement at the Lusaka conference organized by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa ) ADEA) during a High-Level Policy Dialogue Forum on Foundational Learning convened from the 31st October to 1st November 2023, Lusaka, Zambia.  

“The economic cost of foundational learning failure is also staggering. A recent study by the World Bank estimated that the annual cost of foundational learning failure in sub-Saharan Africa is $129 billion. This is more than the GDP of many of our countries. Now I know that we are all aware of these facts and that we are all trying to work to address them, yet they are still very real,’ he said.

According to the minister, this is a crisis that is holding back the continent’s development, adding that without foundational learning, children will not be able to reach their full potential and they will not be able to get good jobs, start their own businesses, or contribute to the development of our societies.

He said foundational learning is the building block for all future learning for children, noting that it is the critical skills that children need to be successful in school and in life.

“These skills include literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional skills. Today, however, too many children in Africa are not reaching their foundational learning potential. A recent study found that only 15% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not able to read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school.

The theme of the Lusaka Conference is ‘Crafting a New Africa by Rethinking Foundational Learning’.

As part of its mandate and strategic focus, the ADEA is a leading policy dialogue platform about FL, promoting knowledge-sharing at the local, national, and regional levels on the continent within four focus areas: promoting national ownership of FL goals; transitioning from crisis discussions to concrete actions that improve FL outcomes; sharing lessons learned about teacher recruitment, deployment, and retention; and discussing successful approaches to improve instructional quality and consistency (structure Discussing successful approaches to improve instructional quality and consistency (structured pedagogy, teacher proficiency and learning assessment).

The expected outcome of the conference is that, partners agree on how to adopt strategies and consolidate activities for delivering quality FL in the future; provide clarity about effective approaches to strengthen in – and pre-service teacher education, support teacher well-being and improve the professional status of teachers; and the recognition of the immediate and long-term steps to recruit and retain an optimal supply of FL teachers.

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