AN OVERVIEW OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN TANZANIA: History, Reforms, and Research-Based Recommendations for Improvement.

This small handbook covers the history of the education system in Tanzania, the major policy reforms that have taken place since the country’s independence, and at the end, the handbook offers research-based recommendations that the country can pursue to change its education system to meet the needs of all children. As you may know, there have been numerous discussions regarding the successes and failures of the education system in Tanzania.  People from all walks of life have contributed to this discussion. There are three central questions driving these discussions. The questions are:

  • Does the education system in Tanzania meets its goals of educating our youngsters?
  • Does the language of instruction affect student learning?
  • What research based recommendation can the system employ to meet the learning needs of all children?

Many of the discussions have centered on lack of resources in the schools, language of instruction, lack of well-trained teachers especially in science and mathematics, and the general lack of motivation in the teaching and learning environment as major causes of the high failure rates within the education system. At the moment, it is clear that the questions I posed previously are too difficult to answer merely on speculations and mental judgement. Authorities at the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, the government of Tanzania, and readers of this guide need to understand four things before attempting to fully answer these questions:

  • The history of the education system in Tanzania.
  • Policy reforms that brought us where we are now.
  • What does the data say about the current teaching and learning in Tanzania? Are our kids learning?
  • Research-Based recommendations to help the system meet the needs of all children.

To begin, I will highlight briefly the learning and teaching assessment data from Twaweza Tanzania. In the year 2011 and 2012, Twaweza conducted a cross-sectional study in covering over 38 districts.  The findings from this study and many others like it offer some partial answers to the questions I raised. The findings paint a gleam picture regarding the current status of the Tanzanian education system. The data indicates that at the primary school level, majority of our children are not learning. According to the same data, most primary school graduates are unable to read and write properly. In addition, many have major deficiencies in basic mathematics skills.

Furthermore, at the end of the ordinary secondary level, the study reveals that too many students graduate without acquiring necessary practical and problem-solving skills needed to be successful in life and for post-secondary education.  Students are showing a little better learning outcomes in urban areas and poor learning outcomes in rural areas. The same problem exists in our secondary schools as well. The data also point to a huge gap between rural and urban primary school academic outcomes.


In summary, this handbook will cover the history of the Tanzanian education system. In addition, to help readers fully understand reforms changes in Tanzania. A detailed timeline of the major policy reforms since the country’s independence will be discussed. And, finally, research based recommendations on how to improve outcomes across the system will be provided.


Available upon request.


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