What Middle School Model Is Appropriate for Africa in the Coming Years, F Robert, JM Bernard

Tags: primary education, secondary education, middle school, universal primary education, literature, language training, African countries, concentricity, educational level, primary school, massive growth, development, system, mathematics, economic growth, Conclusion Middle school, economic solutions, institutional innovation, transferability, developing countries, technical environments, preparatory education, Robert Jean-Marc Bernard, Jean-Marc Bernard, unprecedented growth, secondary level, pedagogical approach, mathematics instruction, middle school model
Content: What middle school Model is Appropriate for Africa in the Coming Years? Franзois Robert and Jean-Marc Bernard The following is a summary of a book published by De Boeck (Belgium) : Nouveaux enjeux pour l'йcole moyenne en Afrique. 2003
Franзois Robert Jean-Marc Bernard What middle school model is appropriate for Africa in the coming years? primary education and its development have a propensity to occupy center stage in debates and research covering universal education objectives. However, another school-related event is shaping up right before our eyes, the unprecedented growth of middle school. Middle school is the neutral expression we have chosen to designate post-primary education for the 12 to 16 years age group, regardless of organizational structures. The growth of this category involving massive flows of a third, and in some cases the majority of this age group, is a phenomenon that is less than a decade old, with important consequences for the future. Offering new cohorts the possibility of a 9 to 10 year education fits well with the universal education action framework defined in Jomtien (1990) and Dakar (2000). Therefore, expansionary policies for middle school find a favorable audience among financiers and within large international institutions, even though universal primary education remains the priority. Thinking critically about the expansion of middle school and accompanying policies remains insufficient. We will attempt to enrich the debate by stating facts and examining constraints that weigh heavily on this segment of educational endeavor. A/ Flow mechanisms between the primary and secondary school The issue of the changing middle school pedagogical profile should not be left to theoretical speculation, as it is currently being debated in the majority of African countries due to quantitative changes in flows. Sub-Saharan African countries have achieved tangible progress in primary education, even though much remains to be done. This progress, with the goal of providing universal primary education, is made possible by local implementation of national programs which are aided by initiatives for heavily indebted countries and by Fast Track. These improvements have a mechanical consequence on admission flows into the first level of Secondary education, which we will designate as middle school. The following example illustrates the mechanical consequence of primary education growth on middle school. Let's take a country with an adequate access rate (80%) and a very high drop-out rate, where barely 30% of pupils finish this level, meaning that out of 100 primary education children, only 35 complete this level. The transition rate from primary to middle school is 65%, meaning that out of the 35 pupils that reached the last year of primary education, only 23 enter
middle school. Since the situation for primary school is critical, the country adopts an educational policy aimed at increasing the retention rate at the primary school level to 60%, which is still quite weak. As the graph shows, such an increase will lead to a strong growth in the number of pupils in junior high (collиge) (+74%)! This massive growth in numbers for middle school is a direct mechanical consequence of an improvement in the functioning of primary education. The decision-maker must consider this dynamic flow, as margins of maneuverability for educational levels other than the primary school remain very limited. Can we consider limiting transition to middle school? We must note that decreasing the transition rates does not mean a decrease in the number of pupils, but rather a limit in their growth, which will remain high. In this example, if the country wishes to maintain constant the number of pupils in middle school, it would need to decrease the transition rate from 65% to 38%, a decision no politician can accept. Although most education policies are about achieving universal primary education, current strategic plans are taking note of the massive flow growth that is happening in middle school, and are providing coping measures. Such is the case for Mauritania and Senegal, countries with ten year plans that anticipate a growth in junior high admissions of 60% and 100% respectively. Togo is experiencing a similar trend, where in the last decade, junior high and primary school numbers were multiplied by 2.3 and 1.5 respectively, and also in Niger, a country with low enrollment rates, but with multipliers in the order of 7.8 and 4.4 respectively over the last ten years. Resources are being deployed or scheduled in order to deal with this new phenomenon of lengthening schooling. From a policy-standpoint, the deployment of such resources goes beyond improving education as it is also an opportunity to slow down the growth of unemployment and partially halt rural migration by offering solutions, even temporary ones, to families that can no longer employ
their adolescents in traditional agricultural or pastoral activities. Health and food coverage for vulnerable populations can also benefit from building new schools. B/ The fate of the second secondary cycle (High School): Access selectivity maintained. Dealing with these flow pressures should remain limited to middle school, with the exception of the second level of secondary education, the equivalent of high school (lycйe). Policies on this subject do not anticipate a growth in long-term education, and in some cases, predict a considerable decrease in flows planned for high school. Mauritania's PNDSE (Programme national de dйveloppement du systиme йducatif: National Educational System Development Program), which is the most explicit on this subject, shows the following: 60% increase in junior high cohort admissions (from 18,000 to 30,000), and a 40% decrease of high school cohort admissions (from 8,000 to 5,000). Similarly, Senegal's strategic plan calls for lowering the transition rates from general middle school education to the Secondary Level (high-school) from 55% to 35% by 2008. Cost constraints dictate maintaining the status quo or even increasing secondary level admissions selectivity measures. Use of public funds for middle school development is not a priority in the framework of plans aimed at providing universal primary education, but is linked to it. Middle school is made up of youth still within the mandatory education age group, where such age group is defined, and for whom better alternatives to schooling are not available. This reasoning cannot hold true for high school, where admission before sixteen, almost young adulthood age, is not permitted. Every high school expense takes away from EFA resources, already insufficient in most cases. There is a significant economic issue in addition to the central question of resource allocation between levels. developing countries' economies are characterized by a dual economy with a generally small-sized modern sector and an informal sector. Even with extremely optimistic growth projections, the modern sector will not be able to absorb the number of graduates from the second secondary level (high school) and from universities as a result of massive growth in numbers. One only needs to look at the problem of unemployed graduates in several African capitals in order to be convinced. Increasing the numbers of second secondary level students and therefore of universities is not an answer to the economic needs of African countries. Furthermore, we know that internal and external efficiency from long-term secondary education are very low. Cameroon has a baccalaurйat passing rate of 20%, as repeaters classes and dropouts keeps internal efficiency very low. More selective second secondary level admission procedures would significantly reduce costs by curtailing selectivity by failure, thereby improving internal efficiency. Results are worse regarding external efficiency and the effects of secondary education on economic growth. According to Mingat and Suchaut (2000), nobody
has ever been able to show a direct positive relationship between secondary education and economic growth, whereas this relationship exists with primary education's « do it all investment ». Most analysts conclude that the current secondary education supply is sufficient and that it would be unwise to increase it in light of the weak industrial sector employment levels in developing African countries.
C/ A middle school with many constraints.
The flow issue leads us to conclude that middle school is the educational level with the greatest number of constraints. The future of African systems under development is confronted with the following contradictions: impossibility of limiting admission flows, need to contain or decrease downstream transition to long-term studies, and control of costs that are diverting resources away from primary universal education.
We quickly notice that middle school is becoming for the modal class of kids attending it, the final destination. It is not that things must be so, but rather that they are becoming so, as we are facing a brutal, stubborn, and long-term phenomenon. This phenomenon has several consequences, including a need for a policy that allows pupils to drop out of school at the end of (or least preferably during) middle school, not because of failure, but rather because it is the norm for the majority of kids. Education norms, endeavors, and degrees should therefore be developed around the statistical norm.
Cost constraints and equity in admission
The growth in middle school flows is the consequence or the by-product of admission improvement policies and primary education retention rates, which are, and will remain priorities until 2015, the strategic conclusion of the current EFA programs. Resource allocation priorities for this level prescribe a control, or even a decrease in unit costs for middle school education, as they cannot be much greater than unit costs for primary education, without resulting in an imbalance in priorities. Consequently, high-cost organizational methods, particularly those leading to relative under-employment1 of specialized and costly instructors must be questioned regardless of their missions.
Need to establish an education ­ growth relationship for this
scholastic level.
Unlike primary education, where the symmetry is clear, we note the absence of a clear relationship between secondary education, growth, and economic development. Middle school has a stake in proving such symmetry. First, there are calls for restrictions in expenditures on education by showing that other methods
1 Condition of weekly sub-services noted in small-scale school due to adjustment problems between class schedules and instructor specialties, a common problem in rural areas for schools with less than 400 pupils.
of public resource allocations, such as healthcare and investment in capital equipment, yield better results. As returns on investment of public funds are crucial in the context of limited resources, over-indebtedness, and poverty, the relative place of education in the framework of a PRSF (poverty reduction Strategic Framework) is not automatically predetermined. Second, there is an obviously link between the use of educational gains for development and the demand for education, which is never constant. We have examples of countries in which recent gross enrollment rates (GER) have seen periods of decrease in spite of the growth in infrastructure. Middle school's ability to improve economic conditions of communities without any delay is a precondition for the success of EFA plans, which would otherwise have little chance to succeed in an environment of general apathy for educational needs. D/ Consequences on the contents and organization of the middle school What we have just described speaks of the difficulties that educators know all too well. Considering them inevitable, as they are linked to fundamental demographic movements, we will try to prove that searching for pedagogical solutions is necessary and will not be in vain. It is tempting to let the identified problem autoregulate instead of resolving it. Decision-makers will decide little and will maintain current models. What is the risk? We can imagine the following situation taking place around 2010, in a fictitious sub-Saharan African country: dropping out without degrees for at last half of the adolescent cohorts still in school, secondary resources greater or equal to those dedicated to primary education, internal efficiency of junior high school at 30%, high school admission flows that are not controlled, free-falling high school internal efficiency, and a general feeling of "lowering of standards". Spontaneous fixes have in fact the same "natural" causes: failure, class repetition, and dropping out. It would therefore be preferable to give pedagogical research the mission of developing an outline for an African middle school model able to evolve and deal with the described flows. 1. New characteristics for this level, the inverse copy of the inherited high school model Francophone sub-Saharan African countries currently use a middle school educational model inherited directly (and with minimal change) from the colonial one. This school was designed within the framework of secondary education. Those it welcomed were to be prepared for long-term education leading to highschool, the baccalaurйat, and higher education. Teaching was designed around the central idea of preparatory education: Its role was to equip the young pupil with a base that would give him/her access to general knowledge, scientifically designed, and elaborated upon later in depth and in theory. This preparatory approach was characterized by the organization of curricula around scientific subjects developed in university knowledge centers (mathematics, physics, and literature), and producing specialized instructors and long-term studies in order to acquire theoretical know-how. These instructors were not subject to contextualization
pressures of training or rapid transferability. Because of that, current language training stresses syntax and literature at the expense of communication, and mathematics instruction does not bother with technical or operational concerns. This pedagogical approach, much-maligned, is not an anomaly but rather a response to its original mission. Preparatory education forces an organizational linearity of programs, leading to a curriculum that needs to be followed until the end, or risk being completely useless. We know that this typically secondary educational model for junior high school poses many problems in France, as it deals poorly with different age structures. France's debate has not been resolved because revisions to current structures are perceived as a step backward. African flow specificities should set an alarm regarding the lack of adaptability of this model. The African situation calls for the inverse copy of the French junior-high school model. The concept of preparatory classes for long-term studies is today excluded because of the flows we are seeing and the need to contain admissions at the second level. The first priority, which will establish a positive relationship between education and growth, is to contextualize learning and allow its immediate transferability to the social and technical environments of kids. Developing a cost-savings economic model, by no longer hiring highly specialized instructors, is another priority. Finally, developing exit platforms for kids who decide to end their education is necessary if we wish to avoid considering such a move a loss. The roadmap is clear: what pedagogues need is a new model for middle school that is calibrated more or less in the opposite direction of the current middle school model. They need to invent a final educational level with a concentric curriculum, a strong dose of contextualized and transferable knowledge, and with associated costs similar to those of primary education. 2. Suggestions with respect to content and organization Hereafter are suggestions with respect to the pedagogical thinking needed to develop an African model without prejudging concrete and detailed steps that every national strategy must develop. · Contents : reinforcing basic knowledge and language training, contextualization and concentricity, new knowledge With respect to content, a first suggestion deals with the need to strengthen gains from the primary education. Having students with an appropriate command of skills at the exit of this educational level, given a fragile teaching environment, is an illusion that needs to be eliminated. It is often said that, on average, a minimum of five completed school years is necessary in order to shield a person from illiteracy. Looked at in detail, things become more complex: When broken down by gender and urban vs. rural environments, we obtain different results. In Togo (with a relatively good educational position compared to countries with
comparable wealth), only three fourths of rural area girls are no longer threatened by illiteracy after completion their primary education. Rural girls needed 9 years of continuous education in order to be sheltered from illiteracy. We are here in the presence of a serious social burden that goes beyond school dysfunction. Similarly, the ability to communicate in a second language, a selection criterion for many positions, is almost never solidly acquired at the primary level, regardless of programmatic ambitions. In all forms of bilingual education, strengthening communication skills in the second language ­ and not introduction to literature or scholarly approaches to the language ­ should be the priority for middle schools seeking to generalize. It can be affirmed that this is one of the ways by which middle school can become an instrument of restoring equity between kids. The contextualization of training opens a slightly more dangerous debate since it would seem that we were favoring « vegetable garden know-how » at the expense of mathematics and literature. This is not the case. Such an environment would evolve very little. What we are calling for is a middle-of-the-road approach yielding results. The developmental breakaway conditions that middle school fosters should be utilized to the benefit of the children. For example, mathematical exercises on proportionality can be associated with agriculture, mechanics, accounting, banking, and even political themes2. The linearity of programs can be diminished by abandoning preparatory education, opening the way for concentricity. In the case of mathematics, and within the framework of 9 years of education, arithmetic (four operations, proportionality, solving and illustration of problems) can offer a sufficient scheme for cognitive development. At the end of primary education, when basic operations are known, the complexity of problems grows: from one step calculations, we go to two, three, and four; and illustrations become complex with more elaborate data. Although it is not easy for a kid to quit in the 7th or 8th year, his/her most recent knowledge-based acquisitions strengthens previous knowledge and will not be considered useless. A more formal study of mathematics (use of quantifiers, generalizations by equations, enumeration) would allow the pupil to gain an advantage in terms of in-depth formal studies. However, quitting school after one or two years of junior high in which enumerations and finite equations were covered, but without consolidating arithmetic skills, would be considered a loss. Finally, certain courses which are not generally taught in middle school could be of great interest. Accounting is an example, as it contains qualities that strengthen mathematical competencies, favor abstract concepts, and introduce kids to a number of necessary calculations and to new and useful development instruments. 2 French advanced primary education pedagogy (between 1833 and 1946) was a master in the art of scholastic rapprochement to questions of development and technologies, and would certainly deserve to be reconsidered today.
Drawing, which does not require specialized teaching or costly set-ups, is another discipline which combined with scientific teaching, can partake in the development of symbolic thinking and introduce a number of Practical applications. · Organization : multidisciplinary and rural focus A big percentage of the new middle schools will be in rural areas. This is necessary in order to maintain access equity, best continuity levels with primary education, and a mission of consolidating gains. This works well with politician land use planning strategies aimed, through sector intervention, at halting excessive urbanization witnessed in most developing sub-Saharan countries. However, the predominance of rural schools will influence the organization. There is a critical point of about 400 pupils (Mingat and Suchaut, 2000) below which enrollment unit costs shoot up if the proposed model is that of secondary education and instructor specialization. The growth in middle schools will require reevaluating instructor specialization, at least in rural areas. Multidisciplinary teaching can be the result of a de facto situation, and should be complemented by services offered by instructors theoretically specialized in one field. It can also be the result of specific policies aimed at recruiting and training instructors. Multidisciplinary teaching offers a wide range of possible teaching arrangements: between a "teach-it-all" instructor and a specialized one, an infinite number of solutions are possible, many of which can coexist within a same national framework. The associated risk would be that schools and families view multidisciplinary teaching as an inadequate solution, or worse, a path to mediocrity. Multidisciplinary teaching exists under several efficient educational forms. For example, French middle school experienced its growth in the 1970s thanks to `middle school general education instructors', who were often exinstructors teaching at least two disciplines. Still, their progressive withdrawal did not mitigate the long-lasting identity crisis this system has experienced 3. Certification issues The thorny subject of certification is brought up when questions of pedagogical organization, content and approach interface flow management concerns. We want to highlight the specific case of tests and diplomas (degrees) that signal the end of middle school. As it is often the case, middle school certification attempts to serve two purposes: on the one hand validating the satisfactory completion of an educational level, and on the other hand controlling the access to the subsequent educational level. These purposes are not necessarily contradictory, but might be so for two reasons. First, controlling the admission flows to high school can be so drastic that many of those who survived middle school and acquired an acceptable level of knowledge will be denied further education. Second, the content of classes taught can tremendously differ from one level to the next, so that a satisfactory acquisition of knowledge in the first level does not guarantee success in the subsequent one.
In the case under review, the flows are certain, as we know that middle school in sub-Saharan African countries is, and should remain, a final educational level for the majority of students. However we wish that middle school would develop contextualized skills organized around concentric curricula, thereby distancing itself from the "downstream" logic of curriculum design that includes typical high school subjects. Consequently, certifications should not manage flows and at the same time positively sanction gains at this level. It would not be acceptable to grant diplomas to only one fourth or one third a class, nor will it be possible to admit two thirds of them into high school. We are faced with an African middle school challenge. It will be a pressing one because the `test', which cannot auto-regulate, dictates class practices and management of the entire system. It will be delicate to handle because the certification model that distinguishes between sanctioning of gains and management of flows does not yet exist. However, some useful examples exist. In the 1930s, France implemented an innovative system developed by Jean Zay3 : The mandatory enrollment age was lowered to 13 years for those holding a Certificate of Studies (certificat d'йtudes), and 14 years for others. Such a measure could be considered to sanction the end of middle school. In addition to management of flows, it can be an added opportunity for slower pupils by providing the right to an education and the issuance of degrees. The African practice of the competition-based examination (still common in the transition from primary to secondary education) has advantages. Nothing stops us from partially differentiating between regular tests and competitionbased examinations, or distinguishing between those that pass either one. This will allow specificities in high school admission competition-based examination. For example, the typical second language test would be focused on communication, whereas the supplementary, competition-based examination would require formal morphological, syntax, and literature education that would be the daily routine of secondary education. Another solution would be to offer an end of level-type test, not age-specific, which could be given the second, and/or the third/fourth year of middle school. This system would allow for a smooth transition towards the work life, and would contribute to easing the bottlenecks experienced at the end of that level. Additionally, if educational programs are designed concentrically with notions repeated every year at growing degrees of complexity, then the system would help separate gains substantiation from educational pursuits. A similar solution consists of giving, at the end of chosen education, tests during the last two years that would encourage pupils to get their diploma. The first exam would substantiate educational gains, and the second would determine access to the following educational level. A vast array of possibilities is conceivable if we 3 French Education Minister before the War.
introduce, fully or partially, a system of continuous controls either for both exams, or the first one only. Middle school will not develop without developing the system of certifications, and although finding a solution to the test problem will not solve all issues, the risks of not thinking about these local and contextualized questions would be too great. Conclusion Middle school in developing countries faces several challenges linked to demographic, economic, institutional innovation, and social and technical change issues. What we attempted to show is the complexity of solutions needed. These challenges can only be completely addressed if pedagogical, management (flows, organization, and efficiency), and economic solutions (resources and career opportunities) are found and implemented together. The massive growth of middle school is a real challenge that experts and decision-makers cannot ignore.

F Robert, JM Bernard

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