UNESCO Education For All (EFA) Country Profile

Despite an average EFA development index (16th out of 28 African countries) and many positive signs, education coverage in Malawi remains low. Malawi still stands far from the EFA goal of universal primary education because of the high primary dropout and repetition rates. Primary education must be given greater budget priority for the system to expand: the last out-of-school children must be enrolled, the dropout and repetition rates reduced, and the allocation of teaching staff in schools improved. A better quality, more equitable and efficient secondary education should be developed, and data production capacities strengthened, to ensure better planning, monitoring, and performance.

Since 2002, enrolment ratios have increased at the postprimary levels, although only to reach the low levels of 21% for lower and 16% for upper secondary. Primary enrolment is stable at 118%. However, primary completion is still only 63%, so Malawi still stands far from the EFA goal of universal primary education. This mainly results from the poor retention rate within the primary cycle, which is mainly due to fragile school demand, particularly among the poorest. The retention rate in secondary education is much better. Higher education enrolment is one of the smallest in the world, putting Malawi at a disadvantage compared to its regional neighbours for postprimary education.

The internal efficiency of the Malawi education system is weak, in particular due to high repetition rates (primary repetition currently stands at 20%) - this has a negative impact on educational outcomes and costs. Teacher salaries are well above average, at 6.3 times GDP per capita, and 11.5% of children opt for non-governmental schools.

Despite having achieved gender equity (103 girls complete primary for every 100 boys), considerable disparities in access prevail, and increase with each level; living standards are the greatest factor of discrimination. Also, the imbalance in resource distribution is extreme: the 10% most privileged students consume a mammoth 73% of education resources (the SSA average is 41%).

The budget priority for education is still low when compared to other African countries, and the priority given to the primary level within the budget is low (36% below the FTI benchmark of 50%), and decreasing. As a result, the public recurrent unit cost for primary is very low and the unit costs for secondary and higher education are very high. Consequently, schooling conditions are comparatively poor in primary education. Higher education is highly subsidised by public resources and is delivered at an extremely high unit cost when compared to other countries. Redirecting some funds from higher to primary education could help to better support the development of the primary education sector.

Source: UNESCO EFA country profile