By Alkali Amana
In 2019, the World Economic Forum assessed 140 countries, including 38 African countries, to rank the best education systems globally based on skill development taking into consideration the general level of skills of the workforce and the quantity and quality of education in each country, and Seychelles, a small country with about 95,000 people, emerged as the country with the best education system in Africa with 69.3 points. And, commendably, it was the only African country to feature in the top 50 education system globally, at 43rd position ahead of Ukraine, Hungary, Russia and UAE.
It holds a global ranking of 28th position on Critical thinking in teaching and 34th on Skillset of graduates. Relevant factors which formed a key part of the assessment include developing digital literacy, interpersonal skills, and the ability to think critically and creatively; and in meeting up with standards, Seychelles announced to the world the power of education in Africa and how much the continent can compete on a global stage through a key and further development of its education system.
From inception, Seychelles took a radical approach towards the development of their education system with various thoughtful innovations and inclusions which, today, has led them to be recognized as the first and only African country to that has fully achieved the ‘education for all goal, set by United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is necessary to view some of these methods and how to implement them to achieve maximum results which will help other Africa nations boost their education system.
- Implementing a System of Free Education
In Seychelles, education is compulsory for children through primary school and secondary school up to the age of 16, using a system where students must pay for uniforms but not books or tuition, and parents are allowed to choose where to take their children, either to State or private schools.
Taking it a step further, compulsory education for all citizens is a basic requirement in the country as it is ingrained in the constitution (1993) in Article 33 that the State recognizes the right of every citizen to education which shall be free, at least for a minimum period of 10 years. This is a practical idea and approach which other African countries such as Niger, Mali, etc. with poor education systems can learn from, and just like Seychelles, empower their various Ministries of Education through their constitutions to develop a framework that will provide and enable a free education system and an adequate implementation of such plan.
- Establishing an Adult Literacy Program for Individuals Without Proper Education
The government of Seychelles from its decision in the 1980s to improve its education system, began focusing heavily on adult education through adult literacy which at the time experienced a 60 percent increase rate, later surging to an 85 percent adult literacy rate in 1991. An intentional approach towards improving adult literacy in Africa is crucial, either through adopting the Seychelles model of compulsory education or devising a new means to tackle the challenge.
A 2014 report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics showed that more than 1 in 3 adults in Africa cannot read, and this calls for an awakening beyond normalcy. Specific easy learning methods are ways by which the problem of adult literacy can be solved in Africa, especially through the use of technology and digital means. For instance, learning has become easy with smartphones, and in that vein, a national learning application can be developed by respective national governments to facilitate e-learning with a guarantee of certification at the end.
- Quality Educational Reforms
Over the years, Seychelles has committed its budget to educational development with an emphasis on educational equity for all reflecting evidence of its dedication to the improvement of the lives of its citizens. To ensure the success of its education system, the government stresses accountability, productivity, and technology mastery as necessary elements to prepare its population for global standard operations in the contemporary world. These are angles that other African governments can learn to build on.
Quality educational reforms include the adoption of new technology and the implementation of policies targeted towards achieving specific goals. In 2014, UNESCO recognized Seychelles as the only country in Africa to fully achieve the ‘Education for All’ (EFA) goals which was set at the World Education Forum in Dakar (2000) for attainment in 2015. Aligning with the 6 EFA goals, Seychelles’ approach included:
- Improving early childhood care and education.
- Ensuring that all children have access to free compulsory primary education.
- Meeting the learning needs of young people and adults.
- Achieving 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy
- Achieving gender equality in education; and
- Improving all aspects of the quality of education, particularly in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
To improve the level of education in their respective terrains, African governments must commit a heavy outlay of their budgets and capital expenditure on education. It is no accident that statistics from UNESCO reveal that in 2016 the government of Seychelles spent 11.72% of total expenditure on education. It must be understood that in fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations through the Sustainable Development Goals, education and development go hand in hand as necessary indices to be highly structured, funded and enabled to the best they can be at any given time. Seychelles has set the tone, and it is time for African countries to imbibe the culture of boosting education in their environments.