Education Lead at the Mastercard Foundation, Kimberly Kerr, has described as good news the current wave of curricula reforms which are being implemented, particularly at the secondary school level.
Citing a recently released report by the Foundation, ‘Secondary Education in Africa: The future of work’, she stated that these reforms – which will have positive implications for the continent’s socio-economic fortunes – are being realised in at least 27 countries, with Ghana being one of them.
“The report recommends seven sets of skills that young people need to gain through secondary education to be prepared for the future of work. The first is foundational skills, and these are the most critical. These are the skills that form the foundation of higher level learning and content at the secondary education level, and they are also the skills that are required for life-long learning.
“Second is 21st century skills: these are skills like collaboration, critical thinking, teamwork and communication – and we know that these skills are in demand today. The third is digital skills, often also included in 21st century skills. Technology is permeating every aspect of society, and young people without digital skills are at risk of further exclusion in an increasingly digital divide. Fourth is STEM skills; these are skills that countries prioritse to support and drive science and innovation and technology, as part of their visions of economic transformation.
“Next is technical and vocational training skills; these are the skills that will be required in a much more diverse and complex labour market. And finally, skills for work; these skills include work-readiness skills, so that young people know how to find a job. They understand what career paths are open to them and they understand the workplace rights and obligations, but this set of skills also include entrepreneurial skills – because we know that young people will increasingly have to be entrepreneurial themselves; or if they join small enterprises, entrepreneurial skills will be necessary to help the businesses grow.
“The good news is that curricular reforms are becoming widespread across the continent. The report identifies 27 countries that have introduced some form of competency-based curriculum. A concerted effort is still required, though, to train teachers in the new competency-based curriculum to ensure that learning materials are of high quality and freely available to all. Finally, it is essential to ensure that assessment systems are in line with the new curriculum,” she said at the ‘Secondary Education in Africa: The preparing youth for the future of work’ virtual summit hosted by the Foundation.
The report, which drew on a wide range of research conducted by scholars in Africa and globally, suggests that across the continent the youth population is the fastest-growing demographic and is expected to reach 456 million by 2050.
This growth, along with improvements in the number of young people enrolling in and completing primary education, is increasing the demand for secondary education. Enrolment is expected to double by 2030, representing an additional 46 million students at the secondary level over the next 10 years. This in turn requires an expansion in the education workforce, highlighting the scale of the task ahead.
On his part, Minister for Education Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, while giving insight into the Ghanaian context, further sought to dispel the popular misconception that persons who graduate from secondary schools follow a linear path to the tertiary level. He suggested that it was the rationale behind government’s adoption of the Free SHS programme, and highlighted some of the measures taken to achieve this.
“There was a huge wastage of human capital, and we couldn’t account for some of our young people; they were missing in our economic and social development. In the past three years, we have been able to bring onboard and retain 400,000 more students than the previous three years; to be able to go through secondary education, to contribute to a better world of work.
“There’s a need to inculcate skills into the students, to either prepare them for the world of work or for the world of university education; taking cognisance of the fact that some who go to the world of work straight from secondary school are able to come back [to the tertiary path]. We want to make sure that class attainment is favourable enough for students who would like to work for some time and come back to university.”
The virtual event, which was hosted in Kigali the capital city of Rwanda, brought together President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; Mastercard Foundation CEO, Reeta Roy; Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education of Rwanda, Gaspard Twagirayezu; and many other distinguished participants.