Aid education scheme ‘fails to teach three Rs’

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A £1bn programme of UK aid for education in three east African countries has failed to teach basic reading, writing and maths skills to most of the children involved, an independent report says today.

The report warns that “inadequate” attention has been paid to the quality of education provided by the schemes in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, and urged the Department for International Development (DFID) to revise its strategy to focus on results, rather than numbers.

The 10-year programme – due to run from 2005-15 – has succeeded in boosting attendance at schools “substantially”, but the quality of education provided is “so low that a large majority is failing to achieve basic literacy and numeracy”, said the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.

ICAI gave the programme an “amber/red” rating, meaning “significant improvements should be made”.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell accepted there had not been enough emphasis on teaching quality, but said the Government had already taken action by introducing pilots of “payment for results” schemes in all three countries.

Mr Mitchell said the coalition Government set up ICAI in 2011 “to shine a light on development spending”, adding: “We will use their findings to further improve the way we deliver aid around the world.”

ICAI gave DFID a better rating for health and education programmes in the Indian state of Bihar, where it has made a “positive contribution” to improvements in learning and a reduction in infant mortality. It said the practice of giving about 15 per cent of the UK’s bilateral aid budget – £643m in 2010/11 – direct to recipient governments through so-called “budget support operations” had been “effective”.