Education is the bedrock of social development, a subject that has always been of concern to society. This concern is shared at both the family and community level and on a much wider scale, as can be seen from the holding of major conferences such as those in Jomtien and Dakar, to name but two.
At a time when the international community is striving to achieve universal access to education, there is a high rate of educational loss (repeating the year, expulsions, drop outs) in many countries (particularly in developing countries). There is also a fall in pupils’ performance at school and/or a mismatch between the content of school curricula and the needs of the labour market. This raises another issue: the quality of education. With the Dakar Framework of Action, the world has made a firm commitment to universal access to quality education. These commitments have made it possible to make great strides in this direction.
For example, in Niger, the gross rate of access to primary school increased from 55 per cent in 2000 to 99.7 per cent in 2011. However, the completion rate was still only 51.2 per cent in 2011. Hence, this mass coverage of education did not have a positive impact on the quality of education in Niger, quite the opposite. The fall in standards is so great that all those involved believe it is imperative to improve the quality of education.
Evaluation of pupil performance
To turn this situation round, Niger carried out an evaluation of pupils’ educational achievements in 2005. The evaluation aimed to help identify the causes of weak pupil performance with a view to finding solutions. Another evaluation was carried out in 2007. The results of both evaluations are shown in the table below.
Results of the pupil evaluations carried out by the National Education Ministry of Niger
Below minimum level
Below minimum level
Definition of the evaluation
To understand our subject, it is necessary to explain what an evaluation entails.
Evaluationis a process that consists of gathering a set of relevant, valid and trustworthy data and examining the extent to which this set of criteria matches the objectives to be evaluated with a view to taking a decision. It is used for guidance, adjustment and certification.
Guidance or diagnostic evaluation is carried out at the beginning and helps to decide
- Guidance for the pupil
- The objectives to be achieved with him/her
- His/her chances of success
- His/her acceptance into an establishment
The adjustment (formative) evaluation takes place during or at the end of a module.
Before beginning a lesson, teachers must check the pupils’ level of preparation. In other words, the teacher must assess if the pupils’ existing knowledge will enable them to make progress in the programme, to move on to a new lesson.
If this is not the case, then the teacher will take remedial action or resume the previous lesson. During the presentation of the lesson, to move from one stage to the next, the teacher will gradually check that the pupils have mastered the intermediate objectives. The last stage of the lesson is often dedicated to exercises aimed at checking that pupils have mastered the objectives of the lesson.
Adjustment is a very important function of evaluation. It is done to improve an existing action. The efficiency of the pupils’ working methods is analysed, as well as the key supports and areas of difficulty in the lessons. The aim of this is to: inform pupils and teachers of pupils’ progress towards achieving their goals; revealing (possibly) where and how a pupil is finding learning difficult; proposing strategies to a pupil, or allowing him/her to discover strategies, that will enable them to move forward; and to enable the teachers to fine-tune their teaching to adapt it to the needs of the class.
Formative evaluation can also be used to improve ongoing action. The adjustment evaluation is retrospective when it leads to taking a decision to continue, to consolidate, or to correct. It is interactive when it serves to guide an activity that is underway or a subsequent activity. It is proactive when it leads to the improvement of certain aspects of the training under way.
The certification evaluation is done at the end of the learning programme and is aimed at informing pupils and teachers about how well they have achieved the final objectives of the programme. It assesses what has been achieved and takes decisions such as:
- Deciding if a pupil has succeeded
- Deciding how well they have mastered a skill
- Deciding whether they can move up to the next year
- Certifying socially and institutionally that the pupil has “successfully” completed a course
Negative results from pupil evaluation
To return to the case of Niger, the results of the 2007 pupil evaluation show a general decline in the performance of primary school pupils (as can be seen from the table above). The already weak results of 2005 fell sharply by 2007. Hence, we can say, with certainty, that the results of the 2005 evaluation of school performance did not help improve the pupils’ level of achievement. This, despite an increase in the length of the initial training course for teachers from one to two years in teacher training school and further training for teachers through educational development centres. It is also clear, from the table shown, that the 2007 evaluation confirms the results from 2005. Worse still, it is possible to say that the quality of education deteriorated further, as confirmed by the evaluation carried out in 2011. It shows that the performance of pupils in the basic 1 cycle (primary) fall well below the desired standards, at every level and in every discipline.
Among the solutions foreseen, the State of Niger opted for curriculum reform. This innovation requires decisions, notably about the renewal of pedagogical resources, a new pedagogical approach and, consequently, changes to the behaviour of the teacher.
For the success of this reform, aimed at improving the quality of education, it is necessary to clearly identify the needs of the teacher who, after all, is in charge of putting the reforms into practice with their pupils. The question is whether it is enough to resolve the difficulties of the pupils in order to guarantee the quality of their education, in the light of experience.
Evaluation of the work of the teacher
The evaluation must therefore take into account the whole process of assessing the work of the teacher and measuring the impact of their work on their pupils.
The evaluation is not sufficient, because it does not enable us to identify all the needs of the teacher. It only reaches a small number of teachers and the solutions offered to the teacher are often only theoretical and partial. There are no mechanisms for following up the recommendations of this evaluation.
The SNEN plans to train many more education advisors and inspectors, and to reduce the education advisor/teacher ratio and the inspector/teacher ratio so that all teachers receive at least one classroom visit and one inspection per year. The reports of the classroom visits and the inspections have to be analysed by a technical team whose members must include representatives of the teaching unions. This team should then submit proposed solutions to the National Education Ministry, which is done at several levels.
It should be stressed that the very first evaluation of the teacher is the one that sanctions the end of their official training. There are also a series of evaluations of teaching practice in the classroom at different levels such as pedagogical supervision, inspection, on-the-job exams and competitions, to enable the teacher to keep up to the standards of their profession. If these measures are respected, it can be assumed that all teachers are doing their work correctly and that all pupils are performing to standard. However, the number of inspectors and advisors is not sufficient to ensure that all teachers receive at least one classroom visit per year. In other words, teachers in Niger are rarely monitored by education advisors and inspectors during their career.
It should be added that, in 2007, a diagnostic evaluation of trainee teachers, at the beginning of their training in teacher-training colleges, helped to identify the needs of future teachers. This study underlined the need to improve teachers’ skills in order to improve the quality of education.
The SNEN wishes to improve teachers’ skills through training that focuses on their shortcomings. This training should, above all, be practical and provide the teachers with training that will enable them to become self-sufficient. Teachers should be capable of producing themselves the educational materials that they do not have, and should be given the means to perfect their work through access to supplementary information via information and communication technology.
Furthermore, we can say that much remains to be done before quality education becomes a reality in Niger.