The Tanzanian education system is modeled after England’s and is separated into primary and secondary school. Primary school consists of seven grade levels, called standards, and secondary consists school of six grades, called forms. At the end of Standard 7 and Form IV (the equivalent of 10th grade in the US), students take national exams, and if they do not pass, they can no longer continue studying in government schools. While these tests are meant to weed out students who are not meant for the academic life style, many more students are failing than should be.
– 2012: 43.8% (Only 38% of all passing students were girls)
– Originally only 34.5% of students passed the Form IV test in 2012, but the government was forced to review the tests with a new standard after public outcr
– 2011: 53.6:
– 2010: 50.4%
Each year, 50 percent or more of Form IV students fail the national test and are denied admittance into government schools. Some families can afford to send their children to expensive private schools, but they are the exception.
Passing these tests does not mean receiving an “A” or a “C” as we think of it in America. Depending on what they are studying in school, students take 7 to 9 tests. In order to pass, students must score higher than 40 percent in at least one subject or higher than 20 percent in at least two subjects. That is it. With this in perspective, it is even more devastating to evaluate the number of students failing. One of the subjects tested is Swahili, but 50 percent of Form IV students cannot score even a 40 percent on a test of their national language. Also, keep in mind that these students who fail out in Form IV are luckier than the students who fail the national Standard 7 test and are denied admittance to high school.
Additionally, passing does not necessarily mean students can continue studying in high school. Students who pass the test but are on the lower end of scores can gain admittance to technical schools, but they do not continue their academic studies in high school. Furthermore, some students who score well enough to continue studying in high school are unable to do so because there is not enough room in schools or they cannot afford to pay school fees.
So how did Kayanga Secondary, the local public school, fare in the 2012 Form IV tests?
Sixty of 144 students, or 41.7 percent, passed the test. 34 percent of students scored well enough to continue studying at technical schools, but only 11 students, or 7.7%, scored high enough to continue on and finish high school.
Now compare these numbers to the results of Karagwe Secondary, the district’s private secondary school that has more resources available thanks to the large fees parents pay.
All 74 of Karagwe Secondary students passed the national Form IV test. Not a single one failed, and 63.6 percent scored high enough to continue finishing high school. the remaining 36.4 percent will continue studying at technical schools.
This vast difference between public and private school performance is reflected across Tanzania. The highest performing public school in the nation for the 2012 Form IV test was 537th in the nation out of all schools public and private. That means 536 private schools performed better than the best public school. This shows that Tanzania’s children are intelligent and ready to learn, if only they have the resources available to them.
We hope that the work of The Ota Initiative will help provide these resources and improve student’s performances in school. Additionally, while we plan to charge a small fee from able families in order to encourage community ownership of this program, students from families without the ability to pay will be offered scholarships.