Boost Tertiary Education To Support Economic Recovery

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World Bank

REVITALISING Zimbabwe’s higher and tertiary education will ensure the production of highly qualified graduates and a skilled workforce.

Higher education Zimbabwe needs to rapidly transform to address the deficit in the production of qualified specialists and technicians especially in the natural and applied sciences, engineering and technology, the medical and health sciences, and agriculture, according to the Zimbabwe Higher and Tertiary Education Sector Analysis Report.

The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development (MHTIESTD), with support from the World Bank, embarked on an assessment of the country’s post-secondary education, with a focus on identifying how the government of Zimbabwe can reform tertiary education to produce skilled manpower that would contribute to national development goals.

The report notes that tertiary education is a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction as it plays a critical role in training a qualified and adaptable labor force, generating new knowledge through basic and applied research; and accessing existing international technologies, and adapting them for local use.

“At first glance, Zimbabwe’s human-capital endowment appears adequate relative to the demands of its economy, but a deeper analysis reveals critical gaps in workforce skills,” said Yoko Nagashima, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and report contributor.

“There is a skills mismatch that is due in part to an incomplete curriculum and there is need to implement extensive reforms to the sector’s policy, administrative, and institutional frameworks to support skills development and improve human capital outcomes.”

Additional report findings include:

  • Gains in educational attainment over the last 20 years have been concentrated among the urban population, with little improvement observed among the rural workforce. Gender parity in educational attainment has steadily improved over the past decade, but a significant gender gap persists at the tertiary level (12% for men and 9% for women).
  • From a governance viewpoint, Zimbabwe’s tertiary education sector needs to address several organisational and institutional weaknesses. First, the lack of clear articulation between “higher education” and “tertiary education.” Second, the country lacks a comprehensive higher education information-management system, which constrains performance monitoring and weakens the foundation for evidence-based policymaking. Third, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education’s funding model relies on a tax imposed on each university based on their enrollment, creating a strong disincentive to report enrollment figures accurately.
  • Boosting own-source revenue mobilization among tertiary education institutions could effectively complement the government’s limited resources. To promote the efficient use of public resources, the government could introduce performance-based budget mechanisms designed to align the financial incentives of institutions with national policy goals, such an output-based funding formula, performance contracts, and/or a competitive fund.

To revitalise the sector the report recommends a comprehensive approach in a range of policy options in the following areas:

  • defining a vision for the future;
  • expanding access and increasing equity;
  • improving the quality and relevance of tertiary education programs;
  • building research capacity and accelerating technology transfer;
  • putting in place appropriate institutional governance and management arrangements; and
  • developing a sustainable financing strategy. These efforts would serve to complement the Government’s commitment to education.