CHAPTER TWO: Major Education Reform

Chapter two covers the major policy changes that took place in the education system in Tanzania since the country’s Independence. I don’t claim the list to be complete or exhaustive, however, it is a good start to understanding the changes that took place within the education system because of internal and external political realities of the times. Thus, in this chapter you will be exposed to the self-reliance reform, universal primary education reform (UPE), the political and economic turmoil of the 1980s, the cost sharing policy reforms of the 1990s,  the basic education master plan (BEMP), and the activist movement of the 2000s and the 2015 education policy.

Figure 1: Major educational policy reforms in Tanzania


After its independence from Great Britain, Tanzania had only 2 engineers and 12 doctors. Adult literacy rate was hovering around 17%.  Faced with this reality, the country decided to take radical changes to reform its education sector through policy changes. In 1967 the country adopted the self-reliance education policy.

Education for Self-Reliance

Soon after independence Tanzania education system focused on training a workforce to build a new nation. The post-colonial era education system was purposely made non-racial and Kiswahili was promoted to be the nations’ language and also the language of instruction for primary schools. The first president of Tanzania, president Julius Kambarage Nyerere introduced a new reform of education in 1967 called the Education for Self-Reliance (ERS). The major goal of the ERS education reform was to develop students’ learning enquiry, critical thinking skills and self-confidence. In addition, ESR was introduced because Nyerere wanted Tanzanians to develop their own nation independent of foreign aids and donations.

Nyerere’s experience as a secondary school teacher and as an economist later in life made him aware of the power of education in a country’s development. He also realized the power of education in the thought process development of each individual being. Because of his experience in education, Nyerere wanted the education system to be universal, non-racial, objective driven, and very descriptive.  In short, Nyerere rooted for an education system that was capable of developing the social and economic develop of each individual citizen for the betterment of the entire country.

 Universal Primary Education

President Nyerere’s key object of his development strategy as reflected in the Arusha Declaration was to ensure basic social services were distributed equitably in the country. As part of Arusha Declaration, education was key to achieving this key goal of the country’s development strategy. Thus, Universal Primary Education (UPE) of 1974 become not just a slogan, but, a movement in its own right. The goal for UPE was to make primary education accessible to all Tanzanian children. UPE implementation saw the largest scale increase in the number of primary schools and teachers ever recorded. In the beginning of the 1980s Tanzania had achieved its goal of having a primary school in each village and the total enrolment of primary age children rose to 100%. However, the high increase in enrolment and teacher hires cumulatively increased the running cost through the roofs and quality of education started to suffer.

The Highs and the Lows of the 1980s.

 In the early and mid-1980s Tanzania suffered heavily from a decline in trade, economic growth, and a stagnant tax revenue base. At the same time, donor countries who supported the earlier expansion of schools in the whole country by providing capital costs started to withdraw their support. Thus, the entire running cost for all the schools fell on the government’s shoulders. The government had a very small tax base at the time. In addition, the population growth at the time was around 3%. These problems, together, added significant tension to the government coffers which resulted in significant decline in most social services including education. Books, school supplies, and even paying teacher’s salaries was increasingly becoming harder for the government. The costs were insurmountable. As a result, educational outcomes deteriorated as well. In the early 1990s, enrolment in primary schools declined from 100% of the early 1980s to 82% in the year 1992. At the same time illiteracy rate increased from 10% in 1982 to 16% in 1992.

The Cost Sharing Policy

The decline in resources to run the schools and the pressure from international financial institutions forced the government to gradually introduce a cost sharing model to run its schools efficiently and effectively.  Unfortunately, the number and amount of contributions increased progressively from the lows in the 1980s to the highs in the mid-1990s. Because of the increase in cost, a decline in quality, and perhaps, a declining return of investment in education resulted to significant decline in school enrolment.

The Basic Education Master Plan (BEMP).

As the country continued to face challenges in its education sector more policy changes had to take place to mitigate the problems. In 1997, Tanzania developed the Basic Education Master Plan policy (BEMP) to ensure growth and equitable access to high quality formal education and adult literacy through facility expansion, efficiency gains, and quality improvement. In implementing this policy, less developed districts and regions were given priority and preference in opening up new secondary schools and/or by receiving government assistance to do just that .


To be continued…….


Available upon request


20 thoughts on “CHAPTER TWO: Major Education Reform

      Took place since independency, mean from 1961 up to date, and these reforms was including
      educational for self-reliance, UPE, COST sharing as well as Free educational for primary school since2001 up now and for secondary school.


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