Weakest Part of Poorly-Performing Educational Systems: An Argument for Focus on “Teaching at the Right Level” and Improved Foundation-Year Performance

n roughly thirty-five to forty countries that are expanding education very quickly, experts have noticed that learning problems originating in the earliest grades are showing as a massive over-enrolment. In Grade 1, it is not unheard of for ratios of enrolment to population of appropriate age to be as high as 150 percent. This problem is not typical of upper-middle or high-income countries, where the issue has been resolved. Nor, does it seem to affect the very poorest countries where massive enrolment expansions have not yet taken place, and so “don’t even have the problem yet.” Instead, the typical countries showing over-enrolment tend to be those that have received a great deal of funding and attention from development agencies and have expanded enrolment quickly in the last decade or two. This piece looks at the evidence of the enrolment bulge starting in Grade 1. It shows there is a set of inter-related problems occuring, including the lack of "Teaching at the Right Level," that is leading to high enrolment figures, but low levels of learning. The Insight concludes by stating that given the inefficiency signified by the foundation-years over-enrolment, “Teaching at the Right Level” could be an investment that, if tied to proper accountability measures, could essentially pay for itself, and lead to improved foundations for learning in the later grades, and (meaningful) completion of primary school.