Kathy Gibson reports from the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban – Education in most African countries is a shocking 70 years behind the world’s developed nations.

This is one of the findings from an Education Commission investigation into the state of education in low- to medium-income countries – which encompasses every country in Africa.

Jayaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania, says the commission also found that enrolment in these countries is much lower than the rest of the world, with only 20% of youngsters in sub-Saharan Africa having access to secondary education. A paltry 5% have access to university.

This results in an extremely high proportion of children who aren’t in formal education at all. In fact, 100-million children – well over half of the children not attending school in the world – are in Africa.

Low enrolment is compounded by a very low completion rate, Kikwete says., with only 67% of African children in school actually completing their education.

Even when they do enrol and complete their school education, African youngsters are handicapped with low rates of learning outcomes. Just half of the children who complete primary school are able to read and write, with about one-quarter of high school learners able to construct a sentence, Kikwete says.

The commission extrapolated the results of this investigation to 2030 to determine where the education systems of low- to middle-income countries would be then.

It determined that, out of 228-million children worldwide what were out of school, 160-million of these would be in the affected countries – so Africa’s situation will be getting worse, Kikwete point out.

A further 100-million children will leave primary school without the required learning outcomes, while secondary school leaners will be leaving without the skills necessary to get a job.

By 2050, automation will be pervasive, so about 70% of the available jobs will require high-level skills.

Africa’s young people face a bleak future if their education systems continue along the same path. What’s needed, says Kikwete, is an unprecedented intervention to allow low- to middle-income countries to overhaul their education systems and catch up to the rest of the world.

“The commission wants to secure for every child the right to a quality education. We are proposing to do everything in our power to overcome the challenges in this generation.”

A set of specific proposals have been put in place to help change the state of African education.

Financing supported by the international community should be made available for low- and middle-income countries to reform their education systems.

This financing will be offered for countries that commit to a number of reforms. These include improving performance, coming up with innovative education methods including technology and inclusivity to ensure no child is left behind

The conditions attached to the funding are important, Kikwete says, because there is ample evidence to show that money on its own is not the answer to education reform.

“We know that if money is spent effectively to achieve a strong education system much more can be achieved,” Kikwete says. “For instance, Tunisia and Vietnam spend the same amount of money but Tunisia’s performance is 64% compared to Vietnam’s 96%.”

The commission’s vision for the Learning Generation will require total spending on education to rise steadily from $1,2-trillion per year today to $3-trillion by 2030 across all low- and middle-income countries.

The countries would need to increase domestic public expenditures on education from an estimated $1-trillion in 2015 to $2,7-trillion by 2030, or from 4% to 5,8% of GDP, requiring an annual rate of growth in public education spending of 7%.

The international community — governments, financial institutions, investors, and philanthropists — would then increase international financing of education and improve its effectiveness. International financing would need to increase from today’s estimated $16-billion per year to $89-billion per year by 2030.

Bilateral donors are urged to allocate a higher share of their GDP to ODA and to increase the share which goes to education from 10% to 15%.

It is proposed that education investments are managed by a multilateral development back which could potentially mobilise $20-billion or more annually by 2030.