The Tanzanian education system is modeled after England’s and is separated into primary and secondary school. Primary school consists of seven grade levels, called standards, and secondary school consists of six grades, called forms. At the end of Standard 7 and Form IV (think 10th grade in the US), students take national exams, and if they do not pass, they can no longer continue studying in government secondary schools. While these tests are meant to weed out students who are not meant for the academic life style, many more students are failing than should be.
Form IV National Test Pass Rates
2012: 43.8% (Only 38% of all passing students were girls)
Originally only 34.5% of students passed the Form IV test in 2012, but the government was forced to review the tests with a new standard after public outcry.
Education in Tanzania
Looking at these results, it seems that in recent years the Tanzanian government has been taking strides to increase the student pass rate. This is true, but not in the way you may think. The government recently introduced another round of national tests in Form II that students must now pass to continue on to Form III. This national test existed before, but students were not required to pass to go continue studying in government schools. So while many more students percentage wise passed the Form IV test in 2014, many less students took the test - 240,314 in 2014 versus 352,342 in 2014..
It should also be noted that passing these tests does not mean receiving an “A” or a “C” as we think of it in America. Depending on what they are studying in school, students take 7 to 9 tests. In order to pass, students must score higher than 40 percent in at least one subject or higher than 20 percent in at least two subjects. That is it. With this in perspective, it is even more devastating to evaluate the number of students failing. One of the subjects tested is Swahili, but many Form IV students cannot score even a 40 percent on a test of their national language. Also, keep in mind that these students who fail out in Form IV are luckier than the students who fail the national Standard 7 test and are denied admittance to high school.
Additionally, passing does not necessarily mean students can continue studying in high school. Students who pass the test but are on the lower end of scores can gain admittance to technical schools, but they do not continue their academic studies in high school. Furthermore, some students who score well enough to continue studying in high school are unable to do so because there is not enough room in schools or they cannot afford to pay school fees.
The 2012 test results (released in 2013) were a major inspiration behind the establishing of The Ota Initiative. At Kayanga Secondary, the local public school near where Ota works, 60 of 144 students, or 41.7 percent, passed the Form IV test in 2012. Thirty-four percent of students scored well enough to continue studying at technical schools, but only 11 students, or 7.7%, scored high enough to continue on and finish high school.
Now compare these numbers to the results of Karagwe Secondary, the district’s private secondary school that has more resources available thanks to the large fees parents pay.
All 74 of Karagwe Secondary students passed the national Form IV test in 2012. Not a single one failed, and 63.6 percent scored high enough to continue finishing high school.The remaining 36.4 percent scored high enough to continue studying at technical schools.
This vast difference between public and private school performance is reflected across Tanzania. The highest performing public school in the nation for the 2012 Form IV test was 537th in the nation out of all schools public and private. That means 536 private schools performed better than the best public school. This shows that Tanzania’s children are intelligent and ready to learn, if only they have the resources available to them.
We hope that the work of The Ota Initiative will help provide these resources and improve student’s performances in school. Additionally, while we have a suggested program fee in order to encourage community ownership of this program, we allow families to contribute whatever they can to the program (and some contribute nothing at all) so that all children, no matter their economic background, can participate in our program.