Interview: Koffi N’Guessan

How can curricula be adapted to better suit the requirements of the job market?

N’GUESSAN: Education in Africa has been devised without taking into consideration the needs of sectors with solid employment prospects. In this context, pedagogical reform becomes indispensable to efforts to adapt educational programmes to the needs of the labour market. Our current model replicates the Western system, where general learning takes precedence over specialised education and training. Today, around 90% of recent graduates go into general fields such as business, marketing or trade, while merely 10% go on to pursue more specialised courses. This trend needs to be reversed, with more students entering technical studies for which there is a higher demand, such as electricity, agriculture or new technologies.

If measures are not implemented soon, the stock of graduates without employment will continue to rise, leaving many out of the labour market. However, if managed correctly, the existence of these graduates offers an opportunity. The implementation of a requalification programme would allow them to be retrained to occupy new professions for which the country has real needs.

What can be done to ensure high educational standards across new institutions?

N’GUESSAN: In an effort to respond to the growing demand for tertiary education, recent years have seen the creation of numerous new private institutions. Abidjan alone has close to 300 educational establishments, including universities and private schools, yet no information regarding their quality is available. Today, the rating of schools is done via word of mouth, creating a challenge for those least informed. No matter the type of institution – whether private or public – it is necessary to put quality assurance systems in place and incentivise the use of international accreditations.

Instead of investing large sums – such as scholarships – to institutions without oversight, the state should seek to develop public-private partnerships to oversee educational programmes and assess the quality of professors. Public sector investment should entitle the state to some control over the education provided. Indeed, the state does not have the resources to build and operate new schools, but it can ensure that existing ones provide well-balanced, quality education.

How can financial mechanisms support educational inclusivity and boost enrolment rates?

N’GUESSAN: Despite the development of a middle class, prohibitive costs keep education out of reach for a large portion of the population. Innovative financial mechanisms are thus required to improve educational enrolment rates, especially among lower-income households. In this regard, involving private companies in the educational value chain through work-linked training has started to gain traction in recent years. Moreover, exploring the possibility of providing student loans with the help of the financial sector would allow students to pursue their studies, regardless of their social status.

What opportunities exist for education providers to partner with foreign institutions?

N’GUESSAN: Improving the quality of education cannot be achieved in isolation. A number of local operators, including ourselves, have been seeking partnerships with establishments abroad to ensure best practices. Local schools and universities should seek outside help to adapt their curricula to respond to the needs of an increasingly globalised economy. Pursuing partnerships and foreign accreditations will increase the confidence of private companies when seeking local human resources. Also, multinationals seeking to establish themselves in Côte d’Ivoire must continue to create proper channels of knowledge transfer. In return, the country must act as a facilitator by attracting investment and creating a conducive environment for foreign entities to partner and invest in the education sector.