Here are two essays I have written regarding educational policy and Angola. I would love to hear your feedback. As I study and learn about the issues facing various countries in southern Africa, I will share what I have learned here on the blog and it would be great if a dialogue could occcur. America is wonderful, but it is importatnt to look at what is going on outside of the country and recognize other peoples news, problems and successes as being important as well. Enjoy!
1) The Education System in Angola
Angola has established an ambitious education plan. The government of the Republic of Angola in 2002 created a National Action Plan of Education For All (NEPEFA). With this plan, Angola hopes to meet the Millennium Development Goals as established by the United Nations in ensuring basic primary education (grades K-4) to all by the year 2015. According to the Conference of the Ministers of Education of African Member States in 2002, Angola’s education policy is based on the principle that “knowledge is an essential means for the rise of the indexes of the human development and particularly the living conditions of the populations” (UNESCO- 2002). With the adoption of the NEPEFA, the government of Angola hopes to extend education and education related social services to the most vulnerable and underprivileged rural and urban populations in an attempt to reduce the level of absolute poverty in the country. Along with the reduction of poverty, it is hoped that there will be an increase in the national internal manpower, which will result in a stronger economy for Angola allowing it to compete on a global scale with other nations.
Currently, Angola is far from meeting their goal of primary education for all. There are many factors that contribute to this. It is important to take into consideration that Angola, as an independent nation is extremely young. Following Angola’s independence, the country faced years of civil war, which left the educational sector in a state of chaotic disarray. Between the years of 1992-1996, it is estimated that more than 1,500 classrooms were destroyed. There was an enormous civilian life toll that was taken as well, many of whom were teachers, professors and other educators. Angola must initially start from ground zero to re-establish and define their educational system and goals. The National Action Plan of Education For All is a first step.
The ministry of Education of the Republic of Angola has a long road to tread. They face the enormous challenge of increasing the number of children in primary schools from “an estimated 2.1 million in 2003 to 5 million by 2015 in order to achieve universal primary education while keeping up with the rapid growth of the school-age population. In 2001 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) showed that only 56% of the children of primary school age attend the first level of basic education (grades 1-4)”. (UNICEF study 2006). The government of Angola recognizes these key problems and is taking into consideration the fact that primary school enrollment has shown great disparities along gender and socio-economic groups. Currently it is estimated that at least one million primary school age children are not attending school, the majority of these being girls.
The government of Angola is working to meet their educational goals by 2015, however many factors are working against them. Training teachers is often expensive, therefore, the people that can afford to go to school to learn to become educators amount to a small segment of the population. There is a severe shortage of trained teachers. Those that are trained as teachers rarely can be convinced to teach in the most desperate rural areas and opt for major cities instead, therefore an entire demographic of the populations educational needs are being ignored. In addition, schools tend to lack sufficient sanitation, water may or may not be available to students and the quality may be questionable. Schools tend to be overcrowded and multi-age groups work together without any clear curriculum or guidance. Most schools lack, basic school materials and teaching and learning materials, which significantly affect the quality of education the students are receiving. The challenges that the Angolan government faces are many. Despite these challenges, there has been an increase in primary school enrollment as well as an increase in adults training to become teachers. The question at hand is will this be enough?
2) Education Policy in the United States and Angola: A Comparative Study
To my surprise, I have noted many similarities between the education system in Angola and the education system in the United States. There are of course many differences as well that account for the difference between “Developing Nation” and “Developed Nation” however the similarities demonstrate that wherever you are, there is always a segment of the population that receives a substandard education that barely prepares them to function as active and productive members of society. That being said, there is also a privileged segment of a given population that receives a quality education, which will prepare them to contribute to society and make the economic gains necessary for a comfortable existence.
Angola is a country that has just emerged from years of civil war and conflict. In that way, the Republic of Angola is fairly new and is still establishing its education system. The government of Angola believes in education for all, and is in the process of establishing an education system that educates all: girls, boys, teen-agers and young adults, but this takes time. Currently, little more than half of the children in Angola receive a primary education. Many schools require that a fee be paid and that eliminates the very poor and majority of the population from gaining access to education. There is also a shortage of qualified teachers as a result of the expense of teacher training. The government of Angola has begun to implement programs to affordably train teachers and this is helping increase the number of trained teachers, however despite these efforts qualified educators are in demand. Furthermore, to exacerbate this problem, teachers who are qualified prefer overwhelmingly to work in urban and populated areas, this has created a huge gap and inconsistencies in education.
In the United States, a country that has been independent of colonial rule for over two hundred years, education is free and is mandatory for every individual from the age of five through at least sixteen. In every state, in every city, in every remote rural town, you will find free public schools designed to educate students from Kindergarten to the 12th grade. This is a great advantage and has helped establish and maintain the United States of America as a developed and affluent country. Upon further examination however, there are many gaps and inconsistencies in the American educational system. As in Angola, there is a shortage of qualified teachers. The teacher shortage is not as extreme in the United States, however it is a problem that the government is addressing. Of the certified teachers in the United States, the majority prefer to teach in affluent private schools, affluent suburban public schools or affluent urban public schools. Low-income urban and low income rural areas in the United States are suffering from a lack of qualified teachers, a lack of educational funds, a lack of teaching and learning materials and supplies and a lack of governmental support. In response to these problems, organizations such as Teach For American and Teaching Fellows have made the attempt to recruit young pre-professionals right out of college, to train them to become teachers free of charge. Such individuals attain free masters degrees in exchange for at least two years of service in low performing underprivileged urban and rural areas. Overall, these programs have proved to be successful, but they are still young and the achievement rate as determined by test scores and drop-out rates of students in rural and urban impoverished areas is still quite low in comparison to the national average.
Both Angola and the United States of America, have a long road ahead of them in terms of improving their educational policies. Angola of course, considering it’s history and current circumstance has a much greater struggle ahead of it, in order to establish it’s goal of providing basic primary education to all by 2015. Angola however, considering where they are in their development is in a similar place most currently developed countries were in at the onset of their independence or as in the case of Europe during the dark ages. With time, we will get a better sense of where Angola needs to make improvements in their education, because currently they are still establishing a system. Unfortunately as is the case in America, social class, gender and economic status, directly affect the quality of education that an individual will receive and this education directly affects the economic future of an individual.