Rising recognition in Côte d’Ivoire of the role of education in attaining broader economic development goals

 

As one of the fastest-growing African economies, with an annual GDP growth rate forecast at between 7% and 7.5% in 2019, according to the World Bank, Côte d’Ivoire today faces the challenge of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth. Key to addressing this will be the development of a solid education system that is capable of meeting the demands of private sector employers, thereby helping the country become an emerging market economy by 2020. To this end, the authorities have named education a national priority. Despite a challenging demographic boom, the country is working to develop a quality education system accessible to all.

Structure & Oversight

The education system in Côte d’Ivoire consists of public and private institutions, as well as community schools organised by rural communities. Inherited from the period of French colonial rule, the Ivorian education system is divided into preschool education (three years); primary education (five years), upon completion of which students are given a certificate of elementary primary education (certificat d’études primaires elémentaires, CEPE); secondary education, divided into middle school (four years), after which students receive a lower secondary education certificate (brevet d’études du premier eycle, BEPC), and high school (three years), after which students take the examen national du baccalauréat, or baccalaureate, that allows access to higher education. Public institutions dominate the preschool and primary school levels, while the majority of secondary, higher education and vocational institutes are private.

Preschool, primary and secondary education, and technical and vocational training are overseen by the Ministry of National Education, Technical and Vocational Training, while higher education is overseen by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. While a regulatory framework is in place, increasing demand has emphasised the need for more resources behind making sure the framework is enforced. “As the Ivorian middle class grows and demand for higher education increases, the importance of stronger regulation becomes crucial,” Aka Kouamé, general manager of Abidjan University Institute, told OBG. “The legal framework pertaining to the education sector is modern and transparent, but the enforcement of those regulations requires more resources in order to heighten the frequency and quality of inspections.”

Intellectual property enforcement would also help further develop the sector, René Yedieti, CEO of Librairie de France Groupe, told OBG. “Intellectual property laws need to be enforced in the education sector. Around 30% of all school books sold in Côte d’Ivoire are counterfeit copies. In the short term, this diminishes the financial capacity of publishers, removing any fiscal incentive to remain open. In the medium and long terms, this could eventually lead to the disappearance of domestic publishing altogether, greatly affecting the education system.”

Education Policy

The authorities have prioritised education, recognising its ability to improve livelihoods and promote economic development. In 2015 Côte d’Ivoire implemented a policy of compulsory school for children aged six to 16. Education is also a cornerstone of Côte d’Ivoire’s National Development Plan 2016-20, which outlines five pillars to support the African nation in its goals of becoming an emerging market country with a strong industrial base and improved standards of living. However, successful implementation of the plan’s second pillar, which focuses on accelerating the development of human capital and social welfare, depends greatly on the government successfully improving and reforming the education system.

Education Budget

The prioritisation of education in government is reflected in the national budget, which increased by 7.5% each year between 2010 and 2016, and accounted for almost 6% of Ivorian GDP in 2017. The rise in public education expenditures in 2017 is mainly a consequence of an increase in subsidies to private schools and scholarships, the World Bank noted in a 2018 report, highlighting government efforts to increase access to learning opportunities. However, personnel wages, subsidies to private schools and administrative costs together account for 90% of public expenditures on education, leading the World Bank to recommend reducing overhead costs and concentrating the budget on school equipment and material.

In 2018 education’s share in the budget grew even further, accounting for around CFA1.2trn (€1.8bn), or 18% of the total CFA6.7trn (€10.1bn) state budget. This percentage held steady in 2019, with schools receiving CFA1.3trn (€2bn) out of the total CFA7.3trn (€11bn) in public spending for the year.

While the growing education budget is a step in the right direction, educational institutions are still in need of additional funding. “Fiscal incentives dedicated to the sector could lead to general improvements in infrastructure and the overall quality of education,” Fousseny Koné, president and general manager of the Atlantique International Business School, told OBG. “The current taxation system constrains investment as schools are treated like profit-driven private companies. In order for the offer to grow both in quantity and quality, educational providers need a wider financial range of motion which can be achieved by a lighter fiscal imposition.”

Additional financing efforts are being made to fund improvements in schools. In December 2017 President Alassane Ouattara announced an investment of CFA133bn (€199.5m) in the construction and rehabilitation of education infrastructure through to 2020. The government also distributed school kits and textbooks, valued at CFA14bn (€21m), at the start of the 2018/19 academic year in order to promote inclusiveness and equal opportunities in education. According to the authorities, approximately 97% of public school students received kits.

Preschool & Primary Education

Facilities for young learners have undergone extensive growth in recent years. A 49% increase in preschool classrooms and a 43% rise in teaching personnel between the 2013/14 and 2017/18 academic years was accompanied by an increase in the number of preschool pupils, from 129,371 to 180,176 over the same period. Of the total 2834 preschool facilities operating in 2017/18, 73% were public, 26% were private, and 1% were classified as community schools.

As was the case with preschool, there was an increase in the number of primary classrooms and teaching staff of 27% and 25%, respectively, in the same four-year period beginning in 2013/14. There were 16,957 primary schools open in the 2017/18 academic year, of which 81% were public, 13% private and 6% community. Around two-thirds of primary-aged students are located in rural areas, and efforts to improve access to primary education for such communities have already paid off. Enrolment rates reached 91.1% in the 2017/18 school year, against 77% in 2013/14. Increasing numbers of students are graduating with a CEPE as well, with 83.6% receiving the certificate in 2018 against 67% in 2013.

Despite these achievements, work remains to be done regarding school infrastructure and access to electricity. The ratio of students to teachers remains high, at an average of 44 pupils per class. Additionally, the World Bank noted fewer than 50% of students have adequate reading and mathematical skills, citing room for improvement.

Secondary Education

There were 1778 secondary schools operating in the 2017/18 school year, enrolling some 1.9m pupils. Private schools dominate the segment, with nearly three-quarters, or 72%, of secondary schools private and the remaining 28% public. Between the 2013/14 and 2017/18 academic years, the number of classrooms grew by 49% from 22,339 to 33,363, while teaching staff increased 19% from 49,550 to 59,356. Both BEPC and baccalaureate success rates increased, with BEPC reaching 60.1% in 2018, up from 40.2% in 2014; and baccalaureate reaching 46.1%, up from 22.6% during the same period.

Even as the numbers of teachers and classrooms have increased, secondary education remains less accessible than preschool and primary education. Secondary education continues to be constrained by a shortage of teachers, high costs and the lack of facilities outside urban locations, adding further hurdles for pupils living in rural areas. During the 2017/18 school year, net enrolment in the first cycle of secondary school was 42.6%.

Higher Education

The higher education segment in Côte d’Ivoire is comprosed of public educational institutions, classified as either universities or institutions of higher education for professional or technical training, called grandes écoles; and private educational institutions, which are are classified as either private institutions, private grandes écoles or an international school. A bachelor’s-master’s-doctorate system, which brought the standards of the country’s higher education institutions in line with the standards of those in European countries, was implemented in both public and private universities in 2013 to help encourage greater competitiveness and international recognition.

“At present, the quality of education offered varies considerably from one university to another,” Kassieu Oulai, deputy general director ofSUP’ELITE Business School, told OBG. “Given that students, according to their means, generally make choices based not only on the school’s reputation, but also their chances of getting a job in their field upon graduation, schools should naturally be drawn to providing the highest quality of education possible.”

As with secondary education, challenges remain. “The quality of public education is acceptable but we can do better by improving infrastructure and hiring more teachers,” Youssouf Touré, the director of the language department at Agitel Formation, told OBG. “Infrastructure issues continue to pose a problem as the student-to-professor ratio remains high.”

In addition, public higher education institutions are significantly over capacity, and as such, the state depends increasingly on the private sector to absorb student overflow. There were nearly three times as many students enrolled in private schools (61,818) than public schools (20,454) in the 2017/18 academic year. “The state pays subsidies for all students it sends to private schools, as the state alone does not have the means, or building space, to accommodate these students,” Touré told OBG.

Decentralisation

In addition to providing subsidies and scholarships, Ivorian authorities launched a decentralisation strategy in 2014 to ease the shortage of universities. The programme will see the opening of a number of new universities.

In September 2018 Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly signed an agreement with construction company Envol Immobilier Senegal to see construction on the University of San Pédro begin the following month. The CFA95bn (€142.5m) facility will be able to enrol 20,000 new students upon completion in August 2020. A additional facility in the eastern city of Bondoukou along the border with Ghana is also set for completion in 2020. The CFA184bn (€276m) University of Bondoukou will be able to accommodate 3000 students when it comes on-line in September of that year.

In the longer term, the decentralisation programme calls for the construction of universities in Adiaké, Abengourou, Dabou, Daoukro and Odienné after 2020. These efforts will also provide further educational opportunities to students living outside the main cities of Abidjan and Yamoussoukro. “We’re noticing a greater trend of regionalisation away from main urban areas in the higher education segment,” Souleymane Soumahoro, director of studies at the Ecole de Commerce et de Gestion (ECG), told OBG.

Youth Buldge

The demographics of the country also pose challenges with respect to the education system. About 42% of the population is under the age of 15, with 50% under the age of 20.

Taking into account an annual population growth rate of around 2.5%, the country’s youth bulge is straining the capacity of the national education system to absorb additional numbers of students, even with the fast-paced growth in schools and teachers experienced over recent years.

“The construction of primary and secondary schools and facilities simply cannot keep up with the high population growth,” Soumahoro told OBG.

Training & Labour Market

Adding to this, there is a mismatch between the training students receive at school and the needs of labour market. “We developed training programmes which produce trained students who are not being hired by companies,” Soumahoro told OBG.

“The curricula inherited from the French education system continues to contribute to the skills gap, as training programmes were not developed with key sectors, such as agriculture or tourism, in mind. There are no schools catering to tourist guides, for example,” he explained. “Tourism and agriculture are underserved in the education system, even though they are expanding sectors capable of absorbing university-trained graduates.”

In a bid to address the skills gap, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research signed a framework agreement with the French Chamber of Commerce and Energy in Paris in July 2017 to develop training programmes to match labour market needs by reorganising training according to labour demands. When it opens, the University of San Pédro will follow suit, offering tourism, agriculture, agro-industry and fisheries degrees.

The equipment needed for specialised training can be expensive, however, and may pose a barrier for potential students. “The lack of training in technical areas is tied with the difficulty to raise capital for the equipment required for this type of training,” Laman Koné, managing director of private higher education institution HEC Abidjan, told OBG.

Vocational Training

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is mainly taught in two- or three-year programmes. In 2017/18 there were 747 TVET establishments, of which 62 were public, 685 were privately run, and 13 were facilities dedicated to education intervention in rural areas. As such, private schools account for approximately 90% of all TVET institutions across the country.

The number of enrolled students remains low. In 2015/16 TVET students accounted for 6.1% of all students in secondary education. “Vocational training is in need of reform and restructuring,” Caroline Okei, director of studies at the Ecole Internationale de Formation Professionnelle, told OBG. “It remains relatively unknown by Ivorians.” To address this, the government is working with the private sector to reform TVET to boost the employment rate of young apprentices from 14% to 50% by 2020. The government is also working with international partners to train TVET teachers. In March 2017, for example, the French Development Agency signed on to help develop sector-specific training centres in Yopougon, Daoukro, Yamoussoukro, Man and Botro.

E-Learning

ICT could play a role in expanding access to education as internet penetration grows, especially in rural areas. The Virtual University of Côte d’Ivoire (Université Virtuelle de Côte d’Ivoire, UVCI) was launched in 2015 to offer remote courses. In June 2018 the UVCI signed an agreement with France Université Numérique and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie to establish a massive online course, with unlimited participation and open access. Other e-learning platforms are emerging, such as qLearn, aimed at entrepreneurs; and Eduqas, which specialises in educational support.

Outlook

The implementation of compulsory schooling as well as increased federal spending on education testifies to the will of Côte d’Ivoire to improve its education system. Many challenges remain, however, as educational institutions struggle to absorb a rapidly growing youth population and equip them with the skills needed on the labour market. There remains a crucial lack of training programmes adapted to the needs of the labour market in addition to a more qualitative education system, which can be achieved through fruitful private-public collaboration. “Partnerships between education institutions and companies are essential in order to ensure higher professional opportunities for graduates,” Adama Koné, general manager of ECG, told OBG. “The national economy is growing rapidly, meaning more job openings will become available in both the public and private sectors.”

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2019

Health & Education chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2019

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