Despite economic and social challenges, the government of Tanzania is working effectively with its international partners to assure universal access to basic education and expand higher education, whilst keeping an eye on achieving quality results.

Education is one of the key priority areas for development under Tanzania's Big Results Now (BRN) initiative, alongside other key sectors such as energy, agriculture, water, transport, health, and improving the business environment. Tanzania's education sector received a major boost after the World Bank approved a loan worth $122 million (TZN195.2 billion) in July 2014. The funds, to be dispersed over the coming four years, aim mainly to improve the quality of education in the country's primary and secondary schools. The BRN approach involves the establishment of delivery laboratories in selected priority areas, with each generating results frameworks. The approach hinges on prioritization, monitoring, and accountability in terms of performance. The BRN in Education program includes financial rewards for school performance, early grade student assessments, targeted support for weaker students, recognition incentives for teachers, and an assurance that funds reach schools in a timely manner. It is yielding results, and Tanzania has been widely complimented for work in essential education and training.


The government has identified access, equity, and quality, as the three primary areas of focus. According to the most recent official government figures, the number of registered primary schools increased from 15,673 in 2008 to 16,001 in 2011. However, the total number of pupils decreased by 1% from 8.41 million (4.26 million boys and 4.15 million girls in 2008) to 8.36 million (4.16 million boys and 4.20 million girls) in 2011. Both the gross and net enrollment ratios slightly decreased from 112.3% and 97.2% in 2008 to 102.7% and 94% in 2011 respectively. The government, along with international partners, has targeted expanding primary school enrollment as a key policy target. Despite minor setbacks, Tanzania seems well on track to achieve its millennium development goal of universal primary education. Access is almost universal, and the primary completion rate is close to 90%. This fee-free primary education policy has had a positive impact by boosting both access to schools and pupil retention. Moreover, Tanzania's pre-primary gross enrollment ratio is close to 37%, compared with just 20% on average for comparable African countries.

The enrollment in lower secondary schools increased from 1.16 million (644,017 boys and 520,233 girls) in 2008 to 1.71 million, out of which there were 936,003 boys and 775,106 girls in 2011. This is an increase of 546,859 pupils (47%). Similarly, the transition rate from primary to secondary education increased from 51.6% in 2008 to 52.2% in 2011. According to the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MOEVT), this improvement is a result of the increased number of secondary schools established by local communities as well as in the private sector. Enrollment at higher levels of secondary education increased from 58,153 (23,046 girls) in 2008 to 78,438 (27,448 girls) in 2011, which is an increase of 4,402 (19%). In addition, the total overall enrollment in secondary schools increased from 1.22 million (543,279 girls) in 2008 to 1.79 million (802,554 girls) in 2011, which is an increase of 259,275 (48% girls). The increase of female enrolment in all levels of secondary education is a clear sign that government efforts—in coalition with its international partners—toward achieving a fair gender balance in education are proving effective.

At the level of higher education, the MOEVT expanded access to higher education in universities, colleges, and non-university institutions. Enrollment increased from 95,525 (31,012 females and 64,513 males) in 2008/09 to 147,881 (51,840 females and 96,041 males) in 2010/11 (35.4%) for degree programs. The percentage of female students in both government and non-government higher learning institutions increased from 33.3% in 2008/09 to 35.8% in 2010/11, which is an increase of 2.5%. According to a comprehensive educational review in 2011 by UNESCO, enrollment has increased on all levels of schooling, and particularly in higher education, allowing Tanzania to rapidly catch up with the levels of comparable developing countries. This trend is likely to continue as a direct consequence of the expected development of secondary education and a sharper focus on university training. According to Prof. Rwekaza S. Mukandala, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam; “Our aim is to provide the best possible environment for teaching, learning research and public services, and our track record success is well known in East Africa, Africa, and the rest of the world." As Tanzania strives to reach its development goals as outlined in its Vision 2025 program, the focus on producing high quality university graduates is moving into the spotlight in government policy.


The selection of the education sector by the government as one of its key priority areas under the new BRN initiative is yielding results. The program—which totals about $416 million—is being supported with the Tanzanian government's own financing and from funding provided by the governments of UK, Sweden, and the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group's fund for the poorest developing countries. Yet, while access to education has improved over the past decade, some assessments raise concerns that the quality of education has suffered. Moreover, while Tanzania has been close to reaching its universal primary education targets according to official statistics, there are a number of challenges still to be met. While enrollment has improved, reaching near universal education in primary schools, critics argue that the main problem in the education sector currently is uneven outcomes at the primary and secondary levels. Service delivery is weak at times with slow growth in the number of qualified teachers and insufficient supply of textbooks and other inputs. The quality of secondary education has been affected at times by weak performance in teaching quality at the primary level. According to local reports compiled by World Bank researchers between 2011 and 2013, and based on work where Tanzanian households were asked directly in community surveys, it was reported that in some districts nearly 17% of seven to 13 year-olds were not attending school and 30% of the seven or eight year-olds in rural areas were not attending school; this was reported to be as much as 45% for those in the poorest 20% of communities. Seen from the perspective of Tanzania's human development goals, the researchers note that 45% of those of the seven or eight year-olds not attending school in the rural areas are among the poorest people, and approximately one-third (400,000) of the 1.2 million seven-year-olds are out of school, with rural boys less likely to go to school than girls. There is clearly room for more work.