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Monday, 15 October 2007

Weeding out mushrooms....

A key problem problem with Zambia's current educational set up is that the current excess demand in higher education has led to the mushrooming of poor and unregulated alternatives to the two universities (CBU and UNZA). Kate probably put it best, responding to the mwabanomics blog:

We are now at an unfortunate stage in our national chronicle where some of the brightest students are failing to secure a university or college seat. These students end up enrolling in unaccredited academies (so many have mushroomed, especially around Lusaka) and the end result is palpable. It’s a conundrum because on the one hand, it seems almost fraudulent that these schools cash in--in exchange for an education that they know will almost certainly not result in employment or any legitimate credentialing for that matter. But then on the other hand, what is the viable alternative?

A previous blog Directing the invisible hand echoed those thoughts and suggested the solution lay in Government intervention - directing the visible hand and not necessarily in private provision.

Private provision is already taking place. It is responding to the excess demand, but the problem is that this private provision is operating in an unregulated educational market. If regulatory standards where high (and uncorrupted) then we would have a better chance of deliver an educational infrastructure that supports a growing economy. Instead what we have are cheap and low quality colleges which are not doing much to get the poorest members of our society to achieve the best returns from educational investment. This is the classic case in which the invisible hands needs some effective direction. A good start would be a clearly defined framework safe from corruption in which Government regulates some of these institutions better to ensure there’s a minimum level of good education being provided.

I am happy to report that Government appears to be leaning towards the same position. The Daily Mail [URL may disappear!] reported this positive development this weekend.

GOVERNMENT will establish a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to address compliance and quality assurance in the education sector. Minister of Education, Geofrey Lungwangwa, said this during the official opening of the Knowledge Cube Zambia in Lusaka on Tuesday.

Prof Lungwangwa said the vision of Government was anchored on education to promote wealth creation and employment generation to transform the country into a middle-income nation by 2030. He said Government was proud and supported initiatives that provided holistic education to Zambians. “Government will continue to support efforts to ensure that knowledge is imparted to students so that they are able to deliver,’’ Prof Lungwangwa said.

He was optimistic that Government would attain the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) in education. Prof Lungwangwa also said Government will embrace the Public Private Partnership to ensure social and economic issues affecting the people in education were resolved. He said through partnerships, Zambia would ensure the Vision 2030 was realised. Prof Lungwangwa said Government strives to create a conducive environment for partnerships in higher education provision. He said his ministry would continue to support progressive non-state institutions that provide education services.

However, Prof Lungwangwa said Government was concerned about the need to maintain standards in education. He said Government would not allow the flouting of regulations in the establishment of private institutions. “It is important that they all adhere to regulations so that quality is not compromised,” Prof Lungwangwa said.


  1. We are now at an unfortunate stage in our national chronicle where some of the brightest students are failing to secure a university or college seat. These students end up enrolling in unaccredited academies (so many have mushroomed, especially around Lusaka) and the end result is palpable.

    It is now time for the neoliberals to admit that the failure to deliver a quality education to all or most college age children can no longer be brushed of as 'market inefficiencies', but are a fundamental problem with the philosophy that 'the market will take care of it'.

    If you believe that every mind is precious and that every child deserves the chance at a good education, then there must a universal right to education and a minimum school leaving age.

    It also means that the government must spend much more of it's budget actually educating children.

    And that means both a change in attitude, and a restructuring of the government itself.

  2. The URL at the Daily Mail is now here:

  3. MrK,

    Except universal education could come at the price of low standards.

    To most poor Governments there's literally a trade-off between better education and more widely available education.

  4. If the result is as better educated population, then so be it. Why would only a small section of society be educated?

    This is support for universal education from the usually rightwing Voice Of America website:

    Study Says Universal Education is Attainable and Affordable By Barbara Schoetzau
    New York
    17 January 2007

    The privately funded study, undertaken by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, presents evidence that the goal of universal education can be achieved with relatively small contributions from wealthy nations.

  5. Isn't the point that the "small number" actually benefits the rest as well?

  6. Cho,

    How are we going to know where the next genius is going to come from, if we don't educate every single child? Besides, we owe it to every newborn to give them an equal chance to succeed.

    And most importantly, it can be done. When economic expansion gets on it's way, Zambia is going to have a huge demand for car mechanics, engineers, professional farmers, and all kinds of skilled people.

    Universal education is a major investment in the future of the country, and the future economy.

    Speaking of which, what do you think on the government's recent emphasis on the domestic economy? I hope that it is genuine and will be sustained. The government could easily create economic and business task forces, the way it created a task force on corruption. They could find out the major economic constraints on the economy, and advice the government on policy directly.

    Levy Seeks To Reduce Red Tape In Business

    ... as he recounts economy boost

  7. MrK,

    On education - in the ideal world education should be a right, but I think given the resource constraints we should be focusing on the quality of education. We need to get the quality right and then focus on universal education.

    By quality, as always, I mean education that creates job for people. Teaching people to create wealth not looking for a job. The advantage of that approach is that it is less susceptible to the brain drain problem and actually contributes direct to national wealth. I hope Prof Lungwangwa is considering this important area. If not someone needs to tell him.

    On businesses - there does appear some rhetoric towards empowerment. But real empowerment needs to come with land reform and giving Zambians a level playing field.

    On a separate, but related issue -it is interesting though that Government is inconsistent across the piece. Here are couple of examples:

    1. To own a mine - nationality is irrelevant.
    2. To own a fam - same thing.
    3. To own TV / Radio licence - you need a Zambian majority holder - I think something like 70% [need to check]
    4. The new proposed ICT Bill suggests that only Zambians can hold telecommunications licences. Very strange! Not good for competition at all.

    Just how do they decide these thresholds?

  8. 4. The new proposed ICT Bill suggests that only Zambians can hold telecommunications licences. Very strange! Not good for competition at all.

    Could that have something to do with the ruling party's/state monopoly on the airwaves? :)

  9. perhaps not so strange!

    it does seem though that there has to be clear criteria for choosing thresholds whether foreign intervention should be limited...

    "security" has been suggested but....that does not really satisfy restrictions in broadcasting....

    and if security was the driver....why not then look at mining or other areas?

    it seems very arbitrary..and designed to perpetual incumbency...


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