analysisBy Annia Gaye
The Basic and Secondary Education Policy 2004-2015 review and revision is underway at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi with the theme "Rethinking Education for Accelerated Growth and Employment. This four day policy review and revision workshop organised by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education started on Tuesday 27 December will end on Friday 30 December.
The policy review is aimed at changing needs and circumstances guided by perspectives and experiences derived from the national and international contexts.
Delivering her opening remarks, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Fatou Lamin Faye underscored the importance of the review and revision of the Basic and Secondary Education Policy 2004-2015 which would focus on key thematic areas such as Access and Equity, Quality of Teaching and Learning and also sector management.
Madam Faye said the draft which is to be reviewed is to ensure that the precepts are linked to the country's recently launched Program for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), the Vision 2020 blueprint as well as relevant internationally acceptable principles and practices which will render the document realistic, apt and amendable.
She said "the inextricable linkage between education and accelerated growth and employment can be traced to the significant net impact of education on human development behaviours in terms of fertility, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS knowledge and poverty."
The Basic and Secondary Education Minister noted the different levels of education, adding that basic education accounts for 63%, with lower basic 38% and upper basic 25% of the total impact of human development.
"Hence the provision of basic education of good quality is extremely fundamental in facilitating accelerated growth and employment", she said.
Madam Faye highlighted the comprehensive education country status study in 2010 and the research findings which her ministry embarked on to inform practices.
On access, she said the sector has witnessed an increase in enrolments at all education levels since 2005. At the Early Childhood Development (ECD) level, the Basic and Secondary Education Minister said there was an average annual growth rate of 9% between 2006 and 2009 and that enrolment at the lower basic increased from 181,835 in 2000/2001 to 227,668 in 2009/2010 registering an average annual growth rate of only 2%, while the upper basic increased from 4,493 to 75,613 during the same period with an annual average growth rate of 3%.
She further noted that enrollment at senior secondary doubled from 15,554 to 36,141 with an average annual growth rate of 3% between 2000/2001 and 2009/2010 due mainly to the expansion of Madrassas which, she said, showed an encouraging average annual growth rate of 13% between 2005/2006 and 2009/2010.
Madam Faye said the gross enrolment ration increased at the ECD level from 26% in 2006 to 36% in 2009, noting this was due mainly to the policy of attaching ECD centres to existing lower basic schools in deprived communities. She further highlighted that at lower and upper basic level also secondary level, gross enrolment ration remained stagnant between 2004 and 2009 as enrolments increased at the same pace as the school age population.
She said the Gambia remains among the most advanced sub-saharan African countries in terms of enrolment and completion indicators at all levels with a primary completion rate of 75%. She added that despite all this, there are still many children who remain out of school and are hard to reach and are usually from the most disadvantaged groups and areas.
In the area of equity, Madam Faye said the sector observed that most of the discriminating factors in students enrolment is the wealth of households which, she said, has shown an enormous gap between the most and least advantaged groups in terms of their chances of access to different education levels. "Overall, regional disparities are fairly accentuated in enrolment in the Gambia," she said.
Minister Faye admitted that quality education remains a challenge with low levels of learning achievements at all levels.
She said her ministry recognises the need to consolidate the gains registered but the inherent weakness in both policy and practice must addressed to the core of Education For All with its ramifications and the Mllennium Development Goals which should be achieved.
She then challenged the workshop to generate conclusions whose ultimate objective will reduce poverty, enhance quality living and nurture a learning society. She said education is a collective endeavour which requires concerted effort not only in finalizing the policy revision but also its implementation, so that the education system will generally continue to evolve with the Gambian people as members of the world community and that this will also revolve around the environment with focus on global trends.
Mr. Badara Joof, World Bank Liaison officer in The Gambia, said an education policy that does not speak in the world of dot.com will not be relevant in the 21st century. He said education is the key to development and that quality and equity education is very important for the policy in order to earn quality education.