Quality of education in Burkina Faso: limited policy impact due to poor understanding of problems on the ground




Despite the quality management of the Burkinabe education system and its numerous educational strategy documents: The Orientation Law, the Basic Education Sector Development Plan, the Education Sector Plan, the Integrated Strategy for the Strengthening of Pedagogical Management, the Integrated Strategy for the Continuous Training of Teachers and Pedagogical Managers, or its Quality Reference Framework for Basic Education...  Burkina Faso is still not quite "top of the class".  Defining strategies isn't enough to guarantee success. 

The team responsible for diagnosing the quality of education carried out by the Ministry of Education with the support of the IIEP-UNESCO Dakar found that the Burkinabe system has strategies and objectives for improving the quality of education. However, without detailed knowledge of the specific challenges of each of its districts and the corresponding allocation of resources, these strategies are not reflected in the practices of the actors, and offer few results.

Good ideas, but difficult to implement

This is due to the strategies developed emanating from the central level and are little known to the actors who are supposed to apply them. Little known, but also little supported: faced with requests for which they do not necessarily understand the stakes or the scope in relation to their own context, actors at the decentralized level have difficulty accepting the project. The consequence is that the strategies developed struggle to find their target and their impact on the quality of learning is minimal. 

Also, as these strategies are not always in phase with the reality of all the territories of the system. In order to propose actions that work, the central level must be able to rely on a detailed knowledge of the difficulties encountered by the players. This knowledge should be built up through collecting and analyzing information at each level of the system. And here again, there is a major stumbling block: despite the number of tools developed to collect and analyze information, the results are not always forthcoming. Whether for lack of training, adherence, or relevance, the various tools are not used correctly and do not provide reliable and consistent data. Without this data, it is difficult to develop strategies or set objectives in line with the target and allocate the appropriate resources.

Resources that do not always match the needs

The scarcity of financial resources is a fact, accentuated by the transfer of competencies from the State to local authorities. And, if financial resources are lacking, the diagnosis also highlights that human resources are also limited. In a system that tends to move towards greater decentralization and which entrusts a great deal of responsibility to the actors closest to the ground, their support for these new responsibilities (particularly administrative and financial) is not always equal to the challenges. Thus, some actors testify:

"These structures compete in an atmosphere of leadership conflicts where their managers are unfamiliar with their functioning and lack training for their mission".

With little training and support, actors at the deconcentrated level seem to have difficulty entirely playing their role. Often burdened by a heavy administrative workload, they have difficulty keeping up with the pace and thus slow down actions to improve quality.

However, innovative and exemplary initiatives exist

Despite the difficulties, innovation exists and some are developing solutions to meet the needs of their audiences. Whether in terms of pedagogical innovations or in terms of management, the diagnosis reveals the existence of practices that it could be interesting for the system to document and capitalize on, in order to draw lessons from them on a system-wide basis. 

The Ministry of Education has the capacity to initiate and define large-scale actions; it also has the capacity to make tools available to achieve its objective of improving the quality of education. It can also rely on local authorities for its implementation.

The challenge now is to create a virtuous dynamic that allows each level of intervention to feed on its feedback in order to fuel well-targeted actions, whose impact will be welcomed by all.