Post-Basic Education and Poverty in Tanzania. Post-Basic Education and Training Working Paper Series - Nº1


This paper reviews the research evidence of returns to education in Tanzania, both financial and non-financial. It considers whether these returns translate into poverty reduction. It reviews recent attempts to reduce poverty through expanding access to education in the light of the long term outcomes of Tanzania's attempt to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the previous century.

The first part of this paper describes the Tanzanian context. An overview of the history of educational development in Tanzania is given. The current extent of poverty is explored by looking at statistical data and surveys of Tanzanians' experiences and opinions. The education and training system is then described. The political context of education and poverty reduction is considered in terms of the local policy environment and the influence of donors in the education and training sector. Given the current context, post-basic education has been taken to include secondary as well as tertiary education.

The next part of the paper reviews the research findings on the returns to education in Tanzania. Research indicates that there are many potential benefits to education, but that the poverty reducing effects of primary education have been limited. Each education sub-sector is then considered in more detail. At primary level, the low quality of education is a likely reason for the limited influence that it has had on poverty reduction. Secondary education has greater potential than primary to provide individuals with a pathway out of poverty. However, access to secondary education in Tanzania is very limited, especially for the rural poor. Low quality and quantity of secondary provision has had a negative impact on the quality in primary schools. Particular attention is given to three phases of expansion within the formal education system: the UPE drive of the late 70s and early 80s, the Primary Education Development Programme and the more recent Secondary Education Development Programme (SEDP). The balance between quantity and quality is considered in each case. A problem encountered in UPE, and anticipated in SEDP, is that the supply of teachers is limited by the quality and quantity of higher levels of education. The impact of higher education on poverty reduction is considered briefly. Links between education, training and work are explored.

The final section of the paper looks at the social, political and economic environment that school leavers have entered into. It explores how this environment can either inhibit or enable the realisation of the benefits of education. This environment has changed dramatically since the time when the first UPE pupils were graduating. During the 80s there were many barriers that prevented individuals from capitalising on their education. Since then, many of these barriers have been removed. In particular, the environment is now much more supportive of enterprise and small businesses. Some aspects of the environment, such as access to health services, have not changed as positively and barriers still exist that impede the relationship between education and poverty reduction.


Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK, 56 pp.

Post-Basic Education and Poverty in Tanzania. Post-Basic Education and Training Working Paper Series - Nº1

Published 1 January 2005