The Tanzanian government has expressed its willingness to expand access to and improve the quality of pre-school education. Since 2014 attendance at kindergarten has been compulsory for all children and it is free of charge in public schools. According to the “Tanzania Development Vision 2025”, a well-educated population is a prerequisite for Tanzania’s becoming a middle-income country. (In 2020, Tanzania in fact formally reached the status of “lower-middle-income country”.)
In accordance with the plans and goals of the Tanzanian government, the Arthur Waser Foundation is committed to making a contribution to improving early childhood education (ECE). AWF supports and connects organizations with a long-term willingness to provide high-quality ECE services. These services should convey value-based knowledge, they should encourage children to think freely and learn independently, and they should benefit all sections of the population. In Tanzania, Montessori pedagogy is widespread and well established because a total of more than 5000 Montessori educators have been trained at local training centers since the 1970s and the pedagogy has been adapted to local circumstances. For these reasons, the Arthur Waser Foundation supports the national association of Montessori teachers (Montessori Community of Tanzania) as well as organizations running Montessori training centers, kindergartens and primary schools in Tanzania.
National pre-school education strategy of the Tanzanian government
The government of Tanzania attaches great importance to early childhood education, as the introduction of the compulsory kindergarten year makes clear. As early as 1995, an “Education and Training Policy” was adopted, which made it a requirement for every primary school to have a kindergarten class. At that time, however, no public funds were made available and no regulations for teaching were drawn up. As a result, many schools started establishing kindergarten classes taught by non-specialized educators, who were financed by small contributions from parents. Since the adoption of a new Education and Training Policy in 2014, the kindergarten year has been compulsory and free of charge in public schools. Access to pre-school education has been continuously expanded since then. According to UNICEF’s Tanzania Reports, 34% of all 5-year-old children in Tanzania attended kindergarten in 2016 and 45% in 2017.
According to the Tanzanian government, the quality of educational services in Tanzania shall be improved at all levels, as is described in both the “Tanzania Development Vision 2025” and the “Five-Year Development Plan 2021/22-2025/26”. The “Education and Training Policy” of 2014 states that children’s attendance at pre-school promotes the development of children, their learning behavior and their readiness for primary school. In 2015, a curriculum was drawn up that focuses on reading, writing and arithmetic. However, the quality of pre-school education is currently still inadequate because only half of all the pre-primary teachers have completed specialized training. The number of children per teacher with specialized training stands at 130:1 at the pre-school level. In public kindergartens the ratio is 169:1, in private kindergartens 24:1. Currently, only 6% of the budget for education goes to pre-school education. Kindergarten teachers trained at Montessori training centers cannot currently be employed as teachers at public pre-schools.
Challenges in Technical Education
Tanzania’s five-year development plan also describes a significant skills gap in technical education. One of the most important findings of recent studies is a significant shortage of qualified teachers for technical education, both at the disciplinary and pedagogical levels. This is largely due to the lack of adequate training facilities for trainers. Another key finding is the still limited access to quality technical education that meets the needs of the economy. This ultimately leads to a situation where young people, even with degrees, often have difficulty finding employment and the shortage of skilled workers is accentuated.
The gaps need to be closed and access to technical education facilitated in order to achieve a strong, diversified, resilient, and competitive economy. Against this background, efforts are being made to qualitatively transform the education system, with a focus on fostering creativity and problem solving.