By Donald G. Burns
[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 6 (March 1967), pp. 11-12].
(Dr. D. G. Burns visited the Sudan in 1966 as a member of the World Bank Commission. The following article contributed by him is the substance of a talk given to the African Studies G-roup on 15th November 1966)
The provision of new schools and equipment is essential to the improvement and expansion of education in most developing countries, and, since 1964, the World Bank has contributed increasingly to the financing of developments of this kind, by arranging loans – often free of interest and repayable over a period of fifty years. In general, Bank loans are agreed only for projects which can be seen to contribute directly to an increase in the economic potential of the borrower country, and have been restricted in the field of education to proposals which relate to the expansion of secondary education, the training of teachers or vocational training.
The proposal of the Sudan Government to expand secondary education by the provision of buildings and equipment for sixty more academic streams is an example of the kind of project which can be considered by the Bank, provided, of course, that it fulfils the general criterion of contributing to an increase in the country’s economic potential. In 1966, 31% of the children of primary school age were attending elementary schools, and of these, about one in six (about 5.1% of the complete ago-group) is expected to obtain a place in an intermediate school, and one in twelve (about 2.6% of the age-group) a place in a secondary school. Elementary, intermediate and secondary school courses are all of four years’ duration, and an increase in the number of secondary schools from, say, 1968 will accordingly result in an increase in the number of school-leavers in 1972. It is of crucial importance, then, to determine whether all the pupils who now obtain places in secondary schools are able to find suitable employment when they leave school, and whether the anticipated growth of the economy seems likely to justify a substantial expansion of the secondary school output after 1972.
No manpower survey of present or probable future needs was available in Khartoum in 1966, but enquiry into the careers of candidates who had sat the Sudan School Certificate examination that year showed that of 4,100 candidates, 2,100 had passed the examination, and, of these, 1,900 had been offered places in institutions of higher or post-secondary education. With one exception, these institutions reported an ample supply of candidates, applications averaging two or three times the number of places available. It was known, however, that a substantial number of applicants had applied to several institutions, and only the university reported a shortage of candidates with qualifications in mathematics for the new Faculty of Science. In September, 1966, moreover, Government forbade the filling of any further posts in government service, so restricting opportunities for appointment to the Civil Service for school-leavers for some time to come. Further increases in the number of school-leavers will occur in 1967 and 1968 as a result of the decision taken in 1963 to upgrade a number of intermediate schools to secondary status, and it has been estimated that the output of all secondary schools for the years 1966-68 will be as follows:
The proposed expansion of secondary schools by sixty streams will increase output in 1972 by a further 2,400 pupils.
Despite the general desirability of improving education standards, it is difficult to argue from such evidence (which is admittedly incomplete since no manpower survey was available) that there is any need for the number of secondary school graduates to be increased beyond present numbers to meet the existing needs of the economy. There are good reasons, however, for an increase in the provision of secondary education at least sufficient to keep pace with increases in the population (for otherwise the proportion of pupils obtaining places will decrease during the years after 1972) and any expansion of the economy! and this suggests the need for a phased expansion of at least 3% from 1972 onwards. Such a programme, which may seem modest by some standards, could be planned to make not only a necessary contribution to the. economy, but an inspiration to the educational system’as a whole. . To achieve this purpose, however, the new schools will need to respond much more closely to the needs of the economy than do many of the existing academic streams, and provide courses where pupils will be able to specialise in, for example, the sciences or commercial subjects, or (in ‘girls’ schools) in home economics. Further, one of the conditions for the success of the new schools would seem to be that the teachers shall have received an adequate and up-to-date course of training. There is at present no regular programme for the training of secondary school teachers in the Sudan, and an important supplement to this expansion of secondary schools will be the institution of training courses (to be provided probably in the Higher Teacher Training Institute of Omdurman) for all the teachers who will be needed in the new schools.
Both the expansion of secondary schools and a programme for the training of teachers to serve, in them, form part of the programme which the Government of the Sudan has drawn up for the expansion and improvement of education at the post-intermediate level.