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EPDC Spotlight on Mali

EPDC Spotlight on Mali

Each week, the EPDC Data Points blog will highlight a different country and the resources we offer, such as data, country profiles, research or other tools that users have available to them through the website. This is the sixth post in the series, and Kemi Oyewole provides an overview of education in the country and the data resources we have that are available through our website.

Mali is a landlocked West African country with a population of about 16.5 million. Its official language is French and its population is 95 percent Muslim. Educating the 47.6 percent of the Malian population under the age of 14 poses a tremendous challenge as the country navigates through a conflict which began in 2012 and continues to the present. This conflict is a product of insurgency which began among the Tuareg in northern Mali, gained backing from Islamist extremists, and at one point reached into government strongholds in southwestern Mali. This armed conflict has left at least 800,000 school age children without access to education. Nonetheless, it remains clear that in Mali, as elsewhere in the world, “education for girls and boys [is] a fundamental right.”

Students in Mali begin basic education at age seven. Primary education has a duration of six years, lower secondary school consists of grades seven through nine, and upper secondary school includes grades ten through twelve. Basic education through grade nine is, in principle, free and compulsory.

Learning Outcomes

After the completion of primary school, Malian students sit for the Certificat de Fin d’Études du Premier Cycle de l’Enseignement Fondamental. The conclusion of secondary school is marked by students sitting for the Diplôme d’Études Fondamentales. Finally, completion of upper secondary school is marked by sitting for the Baccalauréat.

Figure 1: Beekungo Reading Assessment in the Local Language

Beekungo means “we are in it together” and is the Malian version of ASER, a citizen-led learning assessment. Beekungo assesses basic reading and arithmetic tasks, usually at the grade two level, using a household-based sample. Beekungo was first conducted in Mali in 2012 among 23,149 children in a regional sample. Across Malian regions, the percentage of grade two students proficient in reading ranges from 27.1 percent to 78.1 percent (Figure 1). This regional difference of over 50 percentage points to the urgency with which educational quality should increase across the nation, especially in the northernmost conflict stricken areas. The Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) website hosts Beekungo data, descriptions of the learning outcomes benchmark indicators, and Beekungo supplementary indicators.

Education Data: A Snapshot

The primary school gross enrollment rate in Mali was 82.9 percent for females and 93.8 percent for males in 2012.[ii] EPDC uses a progress-based methodology, based on past trends among low income countries, to set expectations for the future. EPDC Projections for Mali predict that by 2021, the primary school gross enrollment rate in Mali will be 100 percent for females and 106 percent for males. The EPDC Projections were developed using progress-based methodology based on trends across low-income countries and the particular country of interest. Thus the unexpected disruption that the Malian conflict has caused makes it imperative that renewed effort is employed in order to reach universal primary enrollment by 2021 as projected. The methodology used to project these education indicators is discussed in this EPDC technical paper.

Students at a Public School in Taliko, Bamako, Mali (photography by Marco Dormino, United Nations)

Education in Crisis Situations

The USAID education strategy highlights the importance of “increased equitable access to education in crisis and conflict environments. The need for this focus on education in crisis and conflict environments is illustrated by the current state of northern Mali. During the advent of the conflict in 2012, 80 percent of education staff fled northern Mali and most schools in the region were looted or torched. During the same period of time, Mali was suffering from a severe drought which led to widespread food insecurity. Exacerbating the effects of these crises, a mere four percent of the $9.7 million needed for education in Mali was put forward by donors in 2012. However, by 2013 the World Bank had granted a three year, $41.7 million loan to Mali to implement the Education For All Emergency Project, intended to increase educational access for students in targeted areas. This devotion of resources shows that international organizations are recognizing how vital education is, especially in times of conflict.

The benefits of education in crisis situations are manifold. Including the conflict in Mali, there are 40 million school-aged children out of school children living in countries marred by armed conflict (Figure 2). During these times of conflict, education can serve as a tool for communities “to break cycles of violence and give them a sense of security and hope in the future.” Education can also offer vulnerable individuals, especially girls, life-sustaining physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection. When children are in safe learning environments, they are less likely to face sexual exploitation, recruitment into a fighting group, or exposure to other risks. Additionally, education can teach students survival skills and coping mechanisms. Thus continued energy must be put forth in order to overcome the sizeable challenge of educating children in turbulent northern Mali.

Figure 2: Percentage of Children Out of School in some Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries[i]

EPDC Resources

Among other sources, unique EPDC data collections for Mali include data from the Ministry of Education (2003, 2007-2011), USAID Demographic and Health Survey (1996, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006), Beekungo learning assessment (2013) and other indicators derived from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The EPDC website offers users the opportunity to create graphs, charts, and other visualizations of data with an easy-to-use tool.

[i] The list of fragile and conflict-affected countries in 2012 came from the World Bank.

[ii] Gross enrollment rates are calculated as: total enrollment in a specific level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education in a given school-year. Often higher than 100 percent because of repetition and overage students.


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