ANTANANARIVO, June 16, 2017–Thursday, 9.30 a.m. The CM1 Class at the Ambohidratrimo Public Primary School has a French lesson. Ten-year-old Johnica Raharinirina is paying close attention. “This is my weakest subject. I have trouble with grammar and, sometimes, even understanding texts,” he complains. And yet, he ranks first in his class in every subject. The teacher, Haingo Lalaina Rasoazananoro, laments: “All my pupils have a problem with French. It’s not a language that they use at home; at school, we do not have enough textbooks and those that we have are very old. I have to borrow them from the classroom next door for my pupils, and two, sometimes even three, have to share one book.”
The shortage of textbooks is one of the findings of the first service delivery indicators (SDI) survey conducted by the World Bank in 2016: only one out of ten pupils has a French or mathematics textbook to use in class.
The survey also identified a number of failings and weaknesses on the part of the teaching staff, in particular a high rate of absenteeism, coupled with weak academic backgrounds and poor teaching skills. Four out of ten primary school teachers are absent on any given day. And on a normal day they generally teach only three of the five assigned hours. Another finding: the presence or absence of the school principal is a critical influence on teacher attendance. Absenteeism tends to decline when the principal is always present and expects as much from the teaching staff. Which is what Marie Colette Randriantsoa, Principal of the Ambohidratrimo Public Primary School, does.
“We have 16 teachers, three of whom have been recruited by the pupils’ parents (FRAM teachers). All of them are present in their classrooms and each week they teach the 27 and a half hours of required classroom time. Of course, there are absences when a teacher falls ill or has a family emergency, but this doesn’t happen more than two days per month. When a school is running smoothly and is producing good results, it is first and foremost because the teaching staff is present and is dedicated,” emphasizes Marie Colette Randriantsoa.
The SDI survey also highlights the inadequate skills of teachers in Madagascar. Only 0.1 percent scored higher than 80 percent in the French and Mathematics assessment tests. And there is good reason for this: most of the teachers have not had the academic or teacher training that would equip them to teach. Very few teachers have obtained their baccalauréat. Bakoly Nirina Rabeherisoa, another CM1 teacher at the Ambohidratrimo Public Primary School, wants to sit the examinations this year for the Certificat d’aptitude pédagogique à l’enseignement dans les écoles primaires (CAP/EP) (Primary School Teacher Certification).
“I have the baccalauréat and I know that my teaching skills are deficient in spite of my efforts to learn. That is why I need to take the CAP/EP exam to deepen and improve my professional skills. I have been teaching for some ten years, three in a private school and seven in this public school. For several years now I have been assigned to teach more and more critical classes and I want to be up to the task.”
Aware of the deficient skills of Madagascar’s teachers and the problem of absenteeism, the Ministry of National Education reinstated the CAP/EP competitive examination, which had been discontinued in 1997. The Ministry, with the support of its partners, in particular the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education through the PAUET project, is increasing training opportunities for teachers.
“The Ministry is also finalizing an education sector plan for 2018-2022. Teacher training and strengthening local supervision of teachers are the major priorities,” stressed Rolland Justet Rabeson, Secretary General of the Ministry of National Education.
Apart from the weaknesses identified in the management of the teaching staff and the shortcomings in the learning environment, the survey also demonstrated that pupils in Madagascar are diligent and obtain results surpassing the average of pupils in other countries where SDI surveys have been carried out.