Historic Disparities Still Exist in Education – Nepru

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Educational outcomes do not necessarily negatively influence people’s future earnings in the Namibian job market. This is one of the findings of a research study by the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (Nepru) that was disclosed yesterday. The six-month survey among Namibian household s and individuals was conducted from May to September 2004 by Tekaligne Godana and John Ashipala for Nepru of which Swapo’s Ben Amathila is the board chairperson. “Based on the findings in this study, Nepru argues that improving and equitably distributing school resources may not be adequate to achieve an equitable outcome of education in terms of earning capacity. Therefore, measures which improve household equity and or additional measures that compensate for household inequity which include school feeding programmes, provision of educational materials, improved dwellings, medical care, water and sanitation, are necessary to attain equity in the education outcome,” says a press release from the organization with regard to the findings. The survey indicates that attendance of pre-primary education has a strong impact on individual future earnings. “This lends support to current education policy discussion in Namibia regarding the expansion of pre-primary education in a pro-poor manner. The study also recommends that a much deeper analysis on education quality at school level than the mere recording of school resources and the relative effectiveness of different inputs, is needed to better understand their impact on learning and ultimately on future earning potential,” said the statement, which calls for the design of government policy to reduce labour market distortions which militate against the acquisition of better education and skills. In a document titled, The Impact of Education Quality on Rates of Return on Education, Nepru claims that Namibia has since 1990 expanded education opportunities for the vast majority of the population and has since almost achieved universal primary education levels at almost 95% enrolment rate. “Costs on education account for more than 25% of total government expenditure. There is also a growing demand for secondary education with a current 60% enrolment rate as well as tertiary education with roughly 2% of the population with some sort of tertiary education There is concern among policymakers that quality improvement has lagged behind the vast expansion in access to education. Furthermore, quality is not distributed evenly over all schools,” the document said of the investigation into whether quality of schooling as proxied by better school resources does matter in determining future earnings of people measured by the rates of return to education. According to one of the researchers, John Ashipala, who led the discussion, historic disparities in education still persists years after Independence. “The enormous progress made in access is not equally matched by improved quality though significant progress has been made in increasing the number of qualified teachers. The study aimed to investigate the impact of the disparity in education quality as measured by school resources on the life time earnings of people. In the study, school quality is proxied by the provision of teachers as measured by pupil-teacher ratio and the qualities of teachers measured by the percentage of qualified teachers in schools,” John Ashipala said. He contented that teaching facilities, management and commitment of teachers have a profound impact on the quality of education. “School resources are necessary, but not sufficient to significantly affect education quality because other factors at school level such as management, teacher effort and competency, teacher and student motivation as well as the teaching and learning process may have more impact,” he said. The researchers also discovered significant distortions and imperfections in the labour market, which to their mind may overshadow the impact of education quality on returns to education. “The returns to education are much higher for white and coloured than for black Namibians. Men have higher returns than women, living in urban areas raises the return compared to rural residents and unionised labour has higher returns than those who do not belong to a union. We have also found strong evidence that factors such as mother’s education, household assets and attendance of pre-primary education as well as cognitive ability of the individual have strong and positive impact on earnings,” Ashipala, who said that a need exists for policy design to reduce labour market distortions, which militate against the acquisition of better education and skills, stated.