While access to and enrollment in primary education is nearing universal levels, there are still countries where children do not go to a formal school, and are instead enrolled in an informal, often religious institution. In cases where it is not feasible to move children out of these institutions, one option could be working with the school to add or strengthen basic math and language classes. This evaluation, of a program in Senegal that seeks to do just that for children in Koranic schools, will provide evidence of the feasibility of such programs and the impact on student skills.
Research area: Education
Researchers: Raja Bentaouet Kattan, World Bank; Jean Paul Pétraud, IMPAQ; Leigh Linden, University of Texas; Mouhamadou Moustapha Lo, World Bank
Despite decades of government attempts to increase the outreach of education in Senegal, the literacy rate is slow to improve. The average net enrollment ratio in formal primary schools is 71 percent and, according to an INEADE report (L’Institut national d’étude et d’action pour le développement de l’éducation (INEADE). (2014). Rapport Du Posttest 2013–2014. Dakar, Senegal.), reading skills among elementary school students are low. For example, only 46 percent of second grade boys and girls show minimum reading fluency in French, computed as reading more than 45 words per minute. Overall, in 10 of Senegal’s 56 school districts, less than 25 percent of students could meet this reading level. Because French literacy is often a job requirement in firms working in Senegal, students without the right skills may find it hard to be employed.
The problem is exacerbated by the prevalence of informal schools where children mainly memorize the Koran. Such schools, called Daaras, have a deep historical and social significance and they are rooted in spread of Islam to Senegal in the 11th century. Koranic schools are seen by some families and as legitimate alternative to formal state schools.
The Ministry of Education, with support from the Japan Social Development Fund, USAID, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, developed the “Modern Daara” basic French and math education curriculum for Koranic schools. The SIEF funded evaluation will help the government and donors judge the effectiveness of the pilot and decide whether or not to continues the program and expand to more schools.