More than 40 per cent of students finishing Form Four in Kenya don’t meet the minimum basic literacy level of reading and writing, a World Bank Flagship report has revealed.
The illiteracy problem among the Form Four leavers, according to the WB’s World Development Report 2019, is attributed to the poor quality education.
The 151-page report groups Kenya, Ghana and Bolivia among countries whose high school leavers aged between 19 and 20 years score below the basic literacy level.
“This is a problem. Given the future of work, functional literacy is a survival skill. The economic and social cost of adult illiteracy to developing countries is estimated at more than US$5 billion (Sh500 billion) a year,” reads the report. The findings come at a time when 664,587 students sit their KCSE exam from Monday.
Heavy investment in building schools – which is politically driven at the expense of ensuring there is quality education and competent teachers – is one of the factors causing students in the three countries to score below the literacy margin.
“Governments favor spending more on the politically visible aspects of human capital such as constructing schools and hospitals. Campaigning politicians often promise new schools or hospitals but rarely do they discuss actual learning levels or stunting rates,” reads the report. More than 2.1 billion people globally aged between 15 and 64 have low reading and writing skills despite working and 61 per cent of them are in Sub-saharan Africa, the report states.
A 2014 World Bank report on levels of literacy in Kenya showed that over 7.8 million ( 38.5 per cent) youth and adults in Kenya lack the minimum literacy levels required to participate in national development.
The 2019 World Bank Flagship report notes that adults who receive poor quality education find it difficult to get jobs just like school dropouts without formal certification and training.
It pokes holes in the poor curriculum of the education system which does not equip learners with relevant skills to meet the job market thus driving majority into informal employment.
“In Kenya, informal employment is a staggering 77.9 per cent of total employment – one of the highest rates on the African continent. Almost six million businesses in Kenya’s informal sector are unlicensed,” reads the report.
It adds that productivity is low in the sector, particularly in emerging economies and that informal workers are on an average of only 15 per cent as productive as their counterparts in formal employment.