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  • 04.06.2024

Launch of the process for the review of the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-25

This article originally appeared on the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA)'s website on 23 May 2024, authored by Sophia Ashipala, Head for Education at the African Union Commission, and Quentin Wodon, Director of UNESCO IICBA.

On May 8, 2024, the African Union formally launched the process for the Review of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-25 at a consultation held in person in Lusaka, Zambia, as well as online on the occasion of the annual conference of the Africa Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authorities. Over 400 people attended the conference in person, with at least 1,000 watching online. A total of 22 countries were represented in-person, including at the Ministerial level for Ghana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Morocco, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Zambia’s Vice President opened the conference.

Education remains a top priority for Africa, serving as the bedrock for the aspirations of the African Union’s continental development blueprint, Agenda 2063. The African Union’s vision for education is laid out in CESA 16-25 which expands on global targets enshrined in the UN Strategic Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). Other instruments such as the declaration of the UN Transforming Education summit are also critical to the continental education transformation agenda. The AU Commission is committed to supporting AU member states in strengthening their national education systems and management processes, as well as achieving national priorities geared towards building capacities to realize continental aspirations and global targets stipulated in the SDGs.

CESA 16-25 was driven by a desire to “reorient Africa’s education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture African core values and promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental levels.” The African Union has declared 2024 as the Year of Education with the theme “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.” In this context it is important to take stock of progress and achievements towards the CESA’s strategic objectives and plan for a future education strategy.

Aims of the CESA

Review As we near the end of the time frame for CESA 16-25, major challenges remain for education systems in Africa. These challenges were exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic. In this context, the CESA Review will have the following objectives: (1) Assess progress against the 12 strategic objectives of CESA 16-25, including what has and hasn’t worked well in implementation and the reasons why – this includes assessing successes, challenges, gaps, and opportunities in line with the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and impact of CESA 16-25; (2) Evaluate the effectiveness of the CESA clusters as a partnerships-based implementation mechanism and how the cluster mechanism can be further strengthened to enhance education outcomes in line with the continental and national objectives; and (3) Providing recommendations for a new CESA post-2025, including in terms of objectives, implementation opportunities, and recommendations for Member States.

The following questions will therefore guide the CESA Review: (1) To what extent have we achieved the Strategic Objectives of CESA 16-25? What have been key successes, challenges, and gaps as well as opportunities? To what extent have Member States used CESA 16-25 for their own national education strategies?; (2) To what extent have the Clusters been effective as a partnerships-based implementation mechanism and how can the cluster mechanism be strengthened to enhance outcomes?; and (3) What recommendations can be drawn from CESA 16-25 for a future education strategy for Africa, including mechanisms to respond to potential crises affecting the continent?

Approach for the CESA Review

To answer these questions, the CESA Review will rely on analysis of both existing and new data. Existing data will include data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics to assess progress towards strategic objectives and provide an assessment of the CESA framework for monitoring and evaluation. New data will be collected among others through three surveys for (1) Ministries of Education; (2) members of the CESA clusters; and (3) broader education stakeholders. Review of the literature and interviews will also be conducted, among others to identify best practices, success stories, and innovative approaches to be shared across the continent. Process-wise, the CESA Review will engage with Regional Economic Communities (RECs), national governments, and other partners to develop recommendations for enhancing existing strategies and programs.

In terms of key responsibilities, the CESA Review will involve (among other stakeholders): (1) The African Union Commission, which will be responsible for coordinating the overall review process and implementing recommendations; (2) UNESCO, including UNESCO IICBA, which will provide expertise and support for data collection and analysis; (3) Other organizations including AfECN, which will provide support in their specific areas of expertise (organizations participating in the CESA clusters will also be consulted and provided opportunities to contribute); (4) National governments, RECs, and other agencies, which will participate in the review process, be consulted, and provide contextual perspectives.


The main anticipated deliverables will be a report (at about 50 pages) detailing the findings, analysis, and recommendations of the CESA review process. This will include documenting progress for all 12 strategic objectives and guidance on good practices and innovations in those areas. Another key deliverable will be a series of stakeholder consultations on the CESA review and next steps for drafting a future strategy. The review process is expected to take approximately 6 months, with the timeline to be finalized in consultation with the stakeholders, after which work will take place towards a new strategy.



  • 29.05.2024

High-Level Dialogue on TES Global Initiatives: Session on Teachers and launch of the Teacher Task Force advocacy campaign


On 17 June, the SDG4 High-Level Steering Committee will convene its Leaders’ meeting to conduct the first Transforming Education Summit (TES) Stocktake exercise. This event aims to take stock of country progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and showcase transformative actions undertaken by Member States. It will set the stage for two global milestone events: the Summit of the Future on 22-23 September in New York and the Global Education Meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil, on 31 October - 1 November, following the G20 Education Ministers Meeting.

A key focus of the 17 June meeting will be the High-Level Dialogue parallel session on the teaching profession. This dedicated session will focus on the Recommendations of the UNSG High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession. It will give the floor to policy-makers to share their national perspectives on the implementation of these recommendations, highlighting the opportunities for action they have been able to seize, the challenges they have encountered or are considering, and the areas where they believe regional or international cooperation is critical. Finally, the session will be an opportunity to engage countries in working on national roadmaps for implementing the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession.

The session will also provide an opportunity for the Teacher Task Force to launch its 2024 advocacy campaign, issuing a call to action to implement the High-Level Panel's recommendations to tackle the global teacher shortage.

This June event will set the stage for accelerated actions towards SDG 4, highlighting the importance and urgency of transforming education as we approach the 2030 deadline.

Visit the official event webpage for updates.

  • 10.12.2020

TIMSS 2019 shows support for teachers’ professional development is needed more than ever during COVID-19

Read the UNESCO/IEA report on TIMSS 2019 in English, French and Spanish


The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) shows that teachers’ qualifications continued to vary substantially between 64 high- and middle-income countries in 2019. In addition, many countries did not ensure that all teachers participated in substantial quantities of in-service training. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has thrown these deficits into sharp relief, emphasizing the crucial role of teachers’ professional development.

Teachers’ qualifications and training feature in a new report by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), in collaboration with UNESCO, which examines TIMSS 2019 data that shed light on countries’ progress towards achieving the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”). The report includes two key teacher indicators: the proportion of teachers with the minimum required qualifications, by education level (Global Indicator 4.c.1); and the percentage of teachers who received in-service training in the last 12 months by type of training (Thematic Indicator 4.c.7).


Teachers’ initial qualifications vary according to level of education

Although there is no international agreement yet of how to define a teacher that is qualified, teachers at all levels require high standards of initial formal education, including subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills to teach. Moreover, it is generally accepted that those teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at higher levels and grades of education require increasingly expert knowledge and skills (UIS, 2006). Collecting data on the highest level of formal education completed by mathematics and science teachers, data from participating countries show Grade 8 mathematics teachers had higher qualifications on average, with 95% of students being taught by a teacher who had at least a bachelor’s or equivalent degree, compared with 85% of their Grade 4 peers. Some countries demonstrated very large gaps between grades. For example, Italy had the highest percentage of Grade 8 students whose teachers had a postgraduate level qualification (100%), but also the highest percentage of Grade 4 students whose mathematics teachers only had a secondary level qualification (59%). Other large gaps between Grade 8 and 4, such as the percentage of students taught by a mathematics teacher who had at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, were observed in the Russian Federation (99% and 75%) and South Africa (79% and 62%).


Countries can reinforce teacher qualifications to support teacher knowledge and skills

Reinforcing formal teaching qualifications by increasing standards or by facilitating current teachers to achieve minimum qualifications can enhance the quality of teaching and learning. As of 2013, Italy requires tertiary-level qualifications to teach primary level mathematics (IEA, 2016). In some middle-income countries, a sizeable share of Grade 4 students also continued to be taught by teachers who only had at most a secondary education qualification, including Albania (19%), Pakistan (36%) and Armenia (40%). In Morocco, high percentages of students were taught by teachers with just secondary level qualifications in Grade 4 (43%) and Grade 8 (34%). Means to facilitate teacher efforts to meet current minimum qualifications include incentive programmes such as financial aid and tuition waivers, flexible schedules and the availability of online education as in Pakistan (ADB, 2019).


Many teachers lack in-service training opportunities

In-service continuing professional development can help teachers achieve higher level qualifications. It also builds their professionalism through the acquisition of new knowledge and skills about pedagogy, ICTs, assessment and other areas. Surveying whether teachers have received in-service training, related TIMSS data are expressed in terms of the percentage of students who are being taught by teachers who had received at least 35 hours of professional development during the two years before the assessment. On average, Grade 8 students (23%) were more than twice as likely as their Grade 4 peers (10%) to have been taught by a teacher who received at least the minimum 35 hours of professional development.

In Croatia, no Grade 4 teachers were reported to have met the threshold for in-service training. Meanwhile, training levels were also very low in countries that generally have a strong reputation for their education system, such as Japan (1% in Grade 4 and 6% in Grade 8) and Finland (2% and 6%). With the rapid shift to remote education at the onset of COVID-19 and the need for distance teaching skills, such a lack of training may not be sustainable. For example, prior to COVID-19, 71% of Grade 8 students across all countries were taught by teachers who indicated a need for future professional development on integrating technology into mathematics instruction. Institutionalized training, in contrast, appears common in Kazakhstan (30% in Grade 4 and 61% in Grade 8) and the Russian Federation (32% and 71%).


Lack of ICTs in schools

With teachers working remotely during school closures and children using available household ICT, the already large digital divide was underlined, especially in middle- and low-income countries where household Internet access is far from ubiquitous. The Teacher Task Force previously estimated that 43% of learners globally lacked household Internet (Teacher Task Force, 2020). TIMSS results demonstrate additional inequities in schools. In Grade 8, across all countries surveyed, there were 2.8 students per computer in urban and 4.1 students per computer in rural schools. Turkey had the highest disparity with a ratio of 3.4 in urban and 10.3 in rural schools, while Lebanon showed a reverse disparity of 8.4 in urban and 5.0 in rural schools.


Policy implications for teachers

Since the TIMSS 2019 data collection started in the first half of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, it provides a baseline against which to gauge how changes implemented during and after the pandemic may have affected education and teachers. The rapid transition to distance education has also taught us the need for fresher and more reliable data so policy-makers can make decisions on a real-time basis.

It is critical that governments respond by improving teacher quality. In the medium-term this includes enhancing standards for initial teacher education and continuous professional development to strengthen teacher resilience. In the short term, based on the finding of few in-service training opportunities for teachers, particularly in Grade 4, additional training or a more equitable distribution of resources based on critical needs is required. Digital and remote teaching skills, especially where hybrid learning models are used, are important to reduce students’ learning loss. This is true for high-income countries where in-service training is less common and for middle-income countries, to improve upon teachers’ lower initial qualifications.

Digital divides should also be minimized, ensuring that teachers and students have access to the Internet and a range of technologies, including radio and television, in both urban and rural settings.

Online learning allows for greater anonymity in communication between students and teachers, and among students, which can allow bullying. Better responses to combat cyber-bullying are needed, such as awareness and sensitization campaigns, training for teachers, and mechanisms for handling complaints. According to TIMSS 2019, this need exists for both grades, but perhaps especially for Grade 4 where it is reported more frequently.

COVID-19 could set education back by many years and erase much of the progress of the previous decade. Efforts to achieve SDG4, including Target 4.c, would benefit from richer and more comprehensive data to inform decision-making. Extending TIMSS data collection to additional countries would be a step towards meeting growing needs. Another step could include expanding the set of indicators to include a more comprehensive view of teachers’ context and needs based on all SDG 4.c indicators, including pupil-qualified teacher ratios, teacher salaries relative to similar professions, and teacher attrition.

TIMSS is a large-scale assessment of education achievement with the aim to gain an in-depth understanding of the effects of policies and practices within and across systems of education. Providing internationally comparative data on how students perform in mathematics and science at Grade 4 and Grade 8, the TIMSS 2019 surveys gather information about curriculum, instructional practices and school resources known to be associated with learning and students' achievement. TIMSS 2019 covers 72 educational systems, including 64 high- and middle-income countries and dependent territories, and 8 benchmarking jurisdictions.


Read the UNESCO/IEA report on TIMSS 2019 in English, French and Spanish


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