Midterm report: Tanzania’s educational revolution needs investment | Global development | guardian.co.uk

Enrolment at primary schools nationwide has leapt from 59% in 2000 to 95.4% today, putting the impoverished country well on course to achieve the second millennium development goal (MDG) of primary school education for all by 2015…

The progress has come with a lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Enrolment has grown so fast in Tanzania that the school system is creaking with overcrowded classrooms, shortages of books, teachers and toilets, and reports of corporal punishment being used to keep order. In short, it seems that quality has been sacrificed for quantity.

via Midterm report: Tanzania’s educational revolution needs investment | Global development | guardian.co.uk.

The story sounds familiar.  The suggestion that Tanzanian educational revolution needs investment stops short of saying something about where such investment will come from.  How does a country independently finance both access and quality in its education systems?

What role does foreign aid has in all of this? The blog says:

With significant donor support from Britain and others, the government has allocated more than 2tn shillings (£856,000) for education in 2010-11, about double its spending on health. 

Then it goes on to say that all of this falls short.  That, “most schools still lack electricity or water – nine in 10 children cannot wash their hands after using the toilet. Education activists warn that Tanzania, where half the population is below 18, still has a long way to go to achieve the MDG in spirit.” 

Foreign aid may have provided some initial impetus and semblance of success in meeting the education related MDGs.  But it may also have complicated the issue of financing and sustainability of mass education.  Educational justice for all children in a particular country has a price.

In response to a comment to an earlier post, one commentator had noted that, when faced with choices about the schooling of their children, parents do ‘constrained optimisation.’  Well, like individuals, the aggregate behaviour of political economies of the aid-giving countries must also be one of a similar ‘constrained optimisation,’ though on a macro level.  As such, then, it is highly unlikely that the education of children in poorer countries will be sustained by foreign aid.  Everyone knows that, donors as well as campaigners in the developing countries! Like the foreign aid givers, the countries on the receiving end also most likely do ‘constrained optimization,’ which has historically  meant less resources for education.  So the question is, who will pay for quality?  The development blog on guardian notes that investment is needed but throws little light on where it would come from.  Thoughts?

About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

3 Responses to “Midterm report: Tanzania’s educational revolution needs investment | Global development | guardian.co.uk”

  1. Quality vs Quantity has always been a big question but how to relate it with the basic right of education. Can we add the phrase “Quality education for all” in the statement of basic right of education? If yes, then what would be the cost? What processes do we need etc.
    Naeem, Islamabad

  2. It’s not just a question of having resources to improve the quality of education though. Managing the resources efficiently and effectively is an important factor in determining the extent to which education indicators in a country improve. If the money is coming from donors, they need to make sure there is a system in place to absorb it. Otherwise the trade off between quality and quantity will continue to have serious consequences, and any apparent progress towards achieving MDGs will be short lived.


  1. Teaching Candidates Aplenty, but the Jobs Are Few – NYTimes.com | Just questions! - 16/07/2011

    […] question.  Can someone tell us how ‘constrained optimisation’ [also alluded to in an earlier post] on the part of potentially aspiring teachers might work in favour of enrolments in longer and […]

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