Chapter 5. Investing in the workforce through quality education and appropriate skills

There has been substantial investment in human capital in Côte d’Ivoire, allowing the country to meet its immediate economic needs, but today the quality of that human capital is increasingly an obstacle to economic transformation. The government is trying hard to expand access to education, an initiative that has produced rapid results, but three areas need political attention; upgrading education through better initial and on-the-job teacher training; adapting technical and vocational education to the labour market through greater employer involvement in devising and teaching programmes; and giving certificates to workers for their skills rather than for what courses they have taken.


Côte d’Ivoire has a major and rapidly deepening human capital deficit. The education system has not adapted to the changing needs of the labour market as the urban economy grows and prospects change. Proof is visible in the many jobless people who have higher education qualifications, showing how their studies do not fit the requirements of the private sector. Average productivity, meanwhile, remains low while many take extra training courses (World Bank, 2009). The reach of the education system is also small, and fewer Ivorians have basic reading, writing and maths skills than their counterparts in comparable countries, something which increases regional and socio-economic inequality and tensions. The problem is even greater for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector, which have more trouble finding qualified workers or giving employees in-house training. All this slows economic diversification and growth. The country’s young and fast-growing population exerts increasing pressure on this system. With annual population growth of around 2%, 3.5 million Ivorians will be of early primary school age (between five and nine) by 2020, up from 2.3 million in 2000 and 1.5 million in 1985.

Past investment in education continues to yield results but the effect is steadily shrinking. If steps are taken now to build a working educational system, Ivorian skills can accelerate progress towards emerging nation status instead of delaying it. The country still has a robust education system that has worked since independence and until the recent crisis, meaning that big formal sector firms have found the skilled workers they need at reasonable cost and skill shortages are not a big constraint on investment. But the benefits are still limited, as only a quarter of manufacturing workers have technical training. Faster economic growth and modernisation will need greater skills and better education. New wage increases could make the country less attractive to investors. The fast-growing youthful population and the poor education of adult workers, along with new skills needed to boost diversification and develop the economy, render necessary substantial infrastructure and human capital investment.

Better primary and junior secondary education is a priority in meeting manpower needs today and in the future. Figure 5.1 shows what is needed for education to help progress towards emerging nation status. An increase in the number of students educated by teachers with good theoretical and practical training, whose skills are regularly upgraded, should improve educational quality significantly, quickly and sustainably. Territorial inequality obstructs educational access and results, so all Ivorians must benefit from this policy wherever they live. This programme immediately to improve educational quality can be followed by investment ensuring a coherent quality education infrastructure, such as seeing that minimal classroom and school building standards are complied with nationwide.

Figure 5.1. The education system helps emergence by training tomorrow’s workforce

Note: This figure refers to the recommendations and action plan presented at the end of this report. “ER 1” stands for the main expected result and bracketed numbers to action plan recommendations.

Source: Authors.

Côte d’Ivoire must also strengthen its technical and vocational training. While the education and technical instruction ministry (MENET) tries to produce more skilled teachers, the labour, social affairs and vocational education ministry should try to upgrade technical and vocational education by encouraging students to acquire skills the economy (including the big informal sector) needs and give them the means to do it. These two initiatives will probably be the most immediately successful in reducing the human capital deficit mentioned here and in Phase II of the MDCR. Financial constraints and present capacity mean less urgent needs – such as modernising school curricula with new teaching methods, upgrading and expanding material infrastructure and developing senior secondary school and university education – can receive more investment over the next few years.

Educational quality and access must be improved to upgrade basic training

Access to schools and their resources has increased greatly in recent years and should continue to expand with the implementation of the Education for All programme. Recurrent spending in pre-school, primary and secondary education grew about 23% a year between 2011 and 2013 and spending per primary pupil rose from an average XOF 63 000 (CFA francs) to XOF 80 000, an average annual 12.7% rise. This was an overall spending increase of 2.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 and 3.5% in 2013. Although it accounts for only 7% of all education spending, investment rose sharply from XOF 5.78 billion in 2011 to XOF 18.55 billion in 2013 because of repairs to classrooms and construction of new ones. As spending per pupil rose, the number of children in school increased sharply too, with gross primary and junior secondary school enrolment up 10% in just four years. These strong trends should continue in coming years as Education for All is implemented. Pupil numbers will also continue to soar, because of sustained high fertility levels and better health performance indicators. The number of children between five and 14 should increase by about 1.4 million between 2015 and 2020-25, to reach 7.35 million.

MENET has detailed plans (see below) to boost teaching quality to supplement and underpin Education for All and existing action plans, taking into account the country’s funding and implementation constraints.

Hiring enough teachers to cope with rapidly growing pupil numbers is urgent, especially where the population increase is fastest. Planned teacher deployment seems to be most effective in areas where the government can assign teachers to various schools. If it cannot, financial incentives might help, but they must be large enough. In the mid-2000s, Cambodia offered a USD 12.50 monthly bonus to rural teachers and USD 15 to those in those areas seen as remote, but the plan failed because the money was inadequate. A more successful plan in Malawi for remote areas paid a higher 25% bonus (Benveniste, Marshall and Araujo, 2008; Steiner-Khamsi and Kunje, 2011).

One of the challenges of Education for All is the share of increased enrolment between state and private schools and the ability of the two systems to bolster each other. About 40% of Ivorian children are in private schools, mainly in the best-off urban areas, where enrolment was already higher than the rest of the country before Education for All. The programme should trigger greater enrolment where state schools are most popular. The limited resources and teaching capacity of state schools will probably be overwhelmed, especially in locations where the system needs more investment.

The aim of universal enrolment to improve education in a fair manner is undermined by use of unqualified teachers, according to various studies. Proper teacher-training is essential, with entry exams and routine performance assessments. Box 5.1 shows the example of Malawi. Planning for long-term needs and ensuring stop-gap solutions do not become permanent are also important.

Box 5.1. Training teachers: The example of Malawi

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Malawi sought to increase teacher numbers by opening four teacher-training colleges in the countryside, based on latest teaching-training ideas, including theory and material content, and students could put into practice what they learned. The 30-month course was constantly assessed, in particular what people thought of these teacher-graduates compared with those who had certificates from national colleges. The scheme produced more teachers willing to work in rural areas and discovered good practices later adopted by other training colleges.

Source: Unesco (2014).

Initial and on-the-job teacher-training must be improved (Recommendations 1 and 2)

Initial training and solid assessment systems can make up for teacher weaknesses in subjects and teaching methods. Sessions of initial training led by an experienced teacher can greatly improve teacher performance, enabling a gradual increase in the responsibility assigned to student teachers in the classroom and giving them feedback to increase their skills. A training programme linking theory and practice must put student teachers in situations likely to be met in the classroom. The effectiveness of these sessions depends on the quality of supervision and follow-up the student teacher gets. A meta-analysis noted these requirements for high quality on-the-job teacher-training. (Reid and Kleinhenz, 2015):

  1. Update and develop an initial teacher-training course. In a growing number of emerging countries, this has become the most important training for teaching reading and maths. But the course is mainly about knowing the material and very little about teaching methods, which are essential for successful teaching.

  2. Reform initial training courses, which must encourage teachers to be original in their teaching, not just following the book, and to observe and practice other teaching methods.

  3. Maximise the practical part of initial training so courses are long and concentrated enough, deal early on with the curriculum, link to other training aspects and allow each student teacher to take part.

Initial teacher-training must serve the immediate need for extra teachers, while improving the skills of these teachers over time. Two approaches were tested in Guyana and Malawi (Box 5.2) – giving better access to training courses but shortening them, and mainly using on-the-job training. Box 5.3 shows training teachers in ICT in Ghana.

Box 5.2. Adapting training to boost teacher numbers

The Improving Teacher Education programme in Guyana introduced a new four-year (instead of seven-year) education diploma and a new two-year obligatory diploma which can be followed by an optional further two more years of study.

Malawi found a radical solution to teacher shortages. Instead of classic higher education or university training, the government favoured a short (three-month) intensive stint at a training college, followed by 20 months of alternate supervised and distance-learning courses, and then a month-long review with a final exam (Kunje, 2002).

Malawi’s Integrated In-Service Teacher Education Programme quickly increased the number of qualified teachers but studies showed major problems of training quality and probable teacher performance. It also ran into many implementation obstacles, including failure to find a good balance between knowing the material and teaching methods, and major failings in helping candidates throughout their course. The distance-learning unit was hampered by poor infrastructure and so contact and feedback were limited, despite some senior teachers and educational advisors providing very good training and follow-up for the student teachers. Manuals produced for the training were widely used and proved useful to other teachers.

Source: Reid and Kleinhenz (2015).

Geography and socio-economic background must not undermine teaching quality and a social protection system is set up (Recommendations 3 and 6)

Universal access to school is fundamental to raising basic teaching levels and success at school. Ivorian government school-meals schemes with development partners (such as the World Food Programme) must be extended to all the country’s schools and could become part of the national system, as long as it survives and its growth is backed by the external programme. For the poorest and most vulnerable households, abolishing school fees and providing school meals might not be enough to compensate for loss of a job and of the income a child not in school could bring the family. The risk of dropping out is especially great when the child does not make progress in the curriculum, which is more likely with those living in difficult households. So such households should not have to bear extra expense, such as school uniforms or books. Development partner programmes already provide such aid to some households. The government must work with its partners to incorporate such programmes into its activities and budget allocations and extend them nationwide. This long-term initiative must be gradual to give it time to adapt implementation capacity and budget leeway. It could eventually become a programme to hand out cash if families send their children to school, focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable households or those who have the fewest work possibilities.

Box 5.3. Training teachers to introduce ICT in the classroom: Teach Initiative in Ghana

The project Teach Initiative in Ghana (organised by DreamOval helped by the Ghana national teachers association) aimed to give teachers free basic ICT training to encourage Internet use and also to promote more use of ICT in teaching and training. The programme, working with groups of 50-100 teachers, mainly in poor areas, was conducted throughout 2010.

Groups were formed according to level of computer skills and each got basic ICT training. The course showed teachers how a computer worked and to see how their ICT skills might be used, especially to make their daily tasks easier. Then it taught them about programmes such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They learned basic document creation with Word and saw its use for preparing lessons. Excel training involved handling notes and classifications. These lessons were especially useful for handling the backlog of regular pupil assessments and relieving the stress of manual duplication of data. Participants also learned how to do PowerPoint presentations. Then they explored the Internet, learned how to use e-mail and instant messaging, and especially how to do online research and set up a digital mailbox account to keep track of message exchanges. Participants were also invited to sign up for a blog on WordPress and learned how to write it. Online collaborative tools were presented, including web applications such as Google Docs. Students were also intrigued about how several people could work on the same document at the same time.

Source: Authors.

Technical skills must be expanded to boost growth and economic diversification

The system of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) must adapt to the needs of employers and attract good students (Recommendations 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10)

Setting up a technical training system is complicated and requires many resources but is essential to growth and economic diversification. Lack of a qualified workforce is currently not mentioned much as a business obstacle but it will probably become bigger if the economy gets more complex and productivity and worker incomes rise. The substantial time lag between investing in educational systems and their visible effect on the economy makes it urgent to improve technical and vocational training. The education system must anticipate the skills needed and first train people for high-potential sectors defined by development strategy, such as agriculture, transport and construction. Investment in training for key growth sectors benefits the entire workforce, including in the informal sector, according to quantitative studies done in other countries (World Bank, 2006).

Major investment has been made in recent years in the material aspects of Côte d’Ivoire’s technical training system. Special efforts are needed to increase access to the system and also make TVET more attractive and link the subjects taught to the needs of the labour market. Since the political situation stabilised a few years ago, the government and its development partners have invested in rehabilitating TVET buildings and equipment throughout the country. Much extra funding needs to go to infrastructure and material capacity to give more people access to TVET, including adults left out of the education system. The authorities must also organise funding and management to maintain these facilities, because of the advantages of such spending, and to keep the trust of development partners and their willingness to continue underwriting the growth of this training.

Investment in materials must be companied by a reform of TVET and MENET is drafting a long-term action plan. The TVET system uses quite a high proportion of content and general education inherited from the past instead of making it a priority to develop particular skills needed by employers in both formal and informal sectors (Box 5.4). The MENET draft reforms seem to tackle this problem with ways to increase vocational content in curricula. Teaching over-specific vocational skills can lead to too narrow training, but the Ivorian system is far from this point. The MENET proposals list these sectors as especially important and likely to be most cost-effective:

  • Incorporate TVET better in the school system. Strengthening links between schools and technical training so pupils have easier access to it while keeping their option to return to the classic school system should encourage more youngsters to choose vocational training and prepare themselves better for the labour market. It could also boost performance and keep pupils in the education system by encouraging those who want to get jobs immediately to sign up for improved TVET rather than dropping out of the system. Well-defined links would be established at the end of primary and early and senior secondary education. Graduation from each stage would offer the choice of a classic curriculum or getting a higher qualification in TVET. But the plan lacks the funding and teachers for implementation and only applies on a small scale so far.

  • Ensure better co-ordination between employers and those who design and teach TVET courses. A co-ordination group would help ensure the proposed TVET reflects the needs of public and private employers. The main employers of qualified technicians will be represented – big private firms, small companies and informal enterprises, as well as government ministries that need special technical skills, such as the mining and energy ministry. The focus will be on sectors offering the biggest growth potential, such as agro-industry, agriculture, tourism, construction and general mechanical maintenance. The employers in the co-ordination group will have to ensure proposed training and skills are adapted to the needs of business. The programme assumes much greater supply of TVET to meet rising demand, and the government hopes to get funding from development partners. But funding is not yet adequate and the TVET system cannot respond quickly enough to changing demand, such as by proposing special agricultural training.

  • Anticipate future TVET needs. The government has set up skills observatories bringing together vocational sector representatives, including large and small employers and those who design and teach TVET, to complement the co-ordination groups and ensure TVET teaches skills employers are going to need. The observatories, which began operating in 2014, must also try to determine which skills are going to be most needed, to encourage pupils to do the necessary TVET.

  • Increase the use of apprenticeships with firms and give credit for work-experience. A dual system is inevitable in such apprenticeships. The challenge is to adapt the formal system so it gets the most out of informal training and maximises the impact of these investments on the whole economy. Côte d’Ivoire’s TVET system already includes apprenticeships but they are few and mainly in firms with the biggest workforces and non-typical resources and needs that enable them to offer full internship training, such as mining and big construction firms. Most Ivorians acquire technical and vocational skills on the job, in smaller, informal enterprises without the resources to set up specialist training programmes or enough influence to get such training recognised. For example, most road transport and specialised construction activity is in the informal sector but employers try to recognise experienced drivers or electricians. So the aim is to strengthen existing training and win solid and transparent recognition of it, while being aware of the cost and profitability constraints of small and informal businesses.

  • Make technical training a more attractive career choice. In Côte d’Ivoire TVET is regarded as what you do if you fail at school rather than a positive choice. MENET is inspired by steps taken in Canada, Austria and Germany to boost the status of technical skills and tries to change social attitudes, as will be necessary with the expanded vision of progress towards an emerging economy. Fairly high unemployment among university graduates is already changing them (though unemployment among technical training graduates can be even higher), but MENET plans to publicise the value of skills acquired through TVET, with special days devoted to particular vocational skills, including competitions or special Olympiads. But these events may do more to change elite attitudes than remove the constraints that put the rest of the population off TVET.

  • Certify TVET skills rather than the completion of a formal course, and thus recognise the skills acquired in the informal sector. Instead of excluding informal sector training, the government should introduce skills diplomas that will be better recognised (AfDB/OCDE/UNECA, 2010). This will help build an employment record to make it easier to get a job in the formal sector. Benin has introduced a professional skills certificate (a national diploma certifying that the holder has been a qualified worker through a reformed traditional apprenticeship) and a professional qualification certificate (attesting completion of an apprenticeship) recognising skills acquired through an informal apprenticeship. It has also set up consultation machinery involving the national artisans’ federation and the relevant government ministry to lead the process (AfDB, 2012).

Box 5.4. Four priorities to ensure the TVET system meets the economy’s need for skills

TVET systems that bring vital skills to an expanding labour market share various features:

  1. Supplying fairly common technical and vocational skills that will be most in demand by sectors driving economic transformation and actively responding to labour market requirements. Many skills needed by these sectors, such as management and accounting, are useful in several. Some sectors will need a workforce with special technical skills (Table 5.1). Mechanical and machine skills are required in assembly industries, much of agri-food, construction and packaging. Most sectors would also benefit from much more advanced skills, such as ICT. But diverting resources to develop highly-specialised skills could waste TVET financial and human resources and undermine the system, especially if these skills are not easily transferable and expected demand does not materialise. So the focus should be on general and job-ready skills training and ensuring strong communication and feedback between TVET and the workforce.

  2. Adapting TVET to employers’ needs by ensuring on-the-job training is a basic part of these programmes. Efficient TVET systems link teaching technical skills and the needs of the labour market, which allows general technical skills to be tuned to the more specific skills needed by sectors. Professional experience (apprenticeship and internship), essential to get a job, is a way to link the two. So metalworking skills needed for construction will be different from machinery maintenance needed in agri-food (Table 5.1) and professional experience will make these skills more precise. On-the-job training should be in both formal and informal businesses, especially for sectors where informal firms account for a large share of activity and jobs (light industry and logistics).

  3. Ensure the TVET system is responsive and can meet changing skill needs. Planned or ongoing institutional transformation (the skills observatory, regular contact between firms and TVET providers, greater inclusion of workplace experience in TVET courses) will make TVET concentrate on the skills most in demand. The aim is to ensure the system responds to the changing economic structure and conditions instead of offering inadequately trained people to employers. Sensitivity to the market is crucial for the long-term success and efficiency of the TVET system.

  4. Ensure the TVET system has solid foundations. The base of the skills development pyramid comprises elementary skills such as numeracy, literacy, cognitive skills, personal qualities and workplace attitude, all essential in a modern work situation and a rapidly changing society. Also more advanced common skills, such as reasoning and problem-solving, general social and cultural knowledge and using modern tools such as IT platforms. These must be solidly in place for TVET to be effective. Many African countries have in recent years put more emphasis on agricultural skills than on primary and junior secondary school education. But the results have been disappointing, mainly because the training staff themselves lack basic education to use modern techniques. Solid basic knowledge is recognised today as vital for workplace efficiency, even in highly-qualified jobs.

Table 5.1. Professional skills needed for sectors driving structural transformation





Mechanical trades, electricians, metalworking

Assembly, agri-food, construction

Hazardous materials handling

Chemicals and pharmaceuticals, agriculture, agri-food, construction

Transport (people and freight)

Logistics, agriculture, agri-food

Customer services, accounting

All sectors (agriculture, agri-food, construction, retailing, transport/logistics, tourism, ICT)

Computer processing and software

All sectors, especially ICT

Food preparation

Tourism, commerce



Source: Authors.

Source: Filmer and Fox (2014); Nguyen (1998).

The wide range of these reforms and their application elsewhere suggest a more gradual and careful long-term approach would probably be more fruitful despite the urgency of the situation. TVET reform requires new institutions, changing qualification systems, an increase and reallocation of funding, and greater access to training, even as economic conditions and needs are substantially changing. Successful reform can thus be more complicated and difficult than at first appears. South Africa was much affected by the problems TVET has worldwide, especially the difficulty of balancing social and economic priorities and working effectively with the education and labour ministries. The country’s new challenge is to review the entire process while keeping the main successful parts (Atchoarena and Grootings, 2009).

Special programmes must tackle adult literacy (Recommendation 11)

Côte d’Ivoire’s high illiteracy rate must be reduced if economic transformation is to succeed. Investment in education dropped between the early 1990s and the early 2010s, so adult literacy is very low (43% in 2015, including 33% among women, according to Unesco). Functionally illiterate people will probably not be able to use the opportunities of economic transformation, which will increase inequality. The growing importance of mobile technology makes literacy all the more urgent, at the risk of increasing the digital divide. Education handicaps pass from one generation to another, with children of illiterate parents likely to have even greater learning problems.

Effective adult literacy programmes must take into account social conditions and develop a different teaching approach from TVET or child education. The experience of various countries, notably in sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO, 2003), shows that the key to adult literacy is ensuring students own the learning process, and connecting literacy to modern daily life, moving away from traditional education (UNESCO, 1999). Adult literacy must be linked to ongoing activity and courses must respect local customs, encourage on-the-job training and connect learning materials to people’s lives and cultures. Literacy courses are most successful when students work with materials they have created themselves and are linked to their own lives so they can own the subject, which might not happen if materials are ready-made. Beginner adult literacy students are probably from the informal sector, so this approach must be adapted to the sector’s informal and self-reliant nature. This worked in Mali and in smaller programmes in South Africa (see Box 5.5) and Namibia (Papen, 2005).

Box 5.5. Successful adult literacy programmes in communities

Effective literacy programmes depend on the skills of the main figures in a community. The effectiveness of adult community education is debated but more and more results show that community learning is a good way to increase human capital, especially in poor areas or where there are no formal social services. These methods provide good support for more conventional approaches to adult literacy (led by a schoolteacher in a classroom).

A successful small programme in Durban (South Africa) is a model for this approach. It was aimed at elderly poor people in a working class area and began by surveying their literacy needs and practices. Its organisers in the community were trained by experts for several weeks. An important feature of the method was that students brought to class items they needed help with, such as bills, thus adapting the programme to their needs.

One problem with community learning is keeping adequate contact with standard teaching methods. A gap was noticed between the community approach and the expectations of students and teachers, who were used to a classroom, so a little time was needed to get used to the new approach. A diploma ceremony at the end of the course can make the link with traditional literacy teaching, which the community model can complement. The Durban experience has been reproduced elsewhere in Southern Africa.

Source: Authors; Papen (2005).


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