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How UNESCO is helping youth and adults return to primary education in Mozambique

UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Human Development (MINEDH) in developing and implementing a new curriculum for primary education for youth and adults with particular attention to multilingual teaching.
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In Mozambique, where over 20 languages are spoken, the language of instruction is Portuguese. However, only a minority of learners speak this as their first language.

Many learners are faced with challenges to their education from a young age, echoed by the fact that less than half of learners make it to the last grade of primary education according to the Unesco Institute for Statistics.

While bilingual education is on the rise in Mozambique, recently expanding to a quarter of schools and resulting in literacy learning outcomes improving by 15 per cent, there remain large numbers of youth and adults who missed out on basic education.

Glória Jacinto Novela, a teacher in Maputo Province, is one of the educators who received UNESCO-supported training on multilingual teaching for primary education for youth and adult learners.

UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Human Development (MINEDH) in developing and implementing a new curriculum for primary education for youth and adults with particular attention to multilingual teaching.

The four-year-long curriculum offers youth and adults a complete basic education equivalent to grades one to six. Previously, the only adult education programmes available were limited to basic literacy and numeracy.

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The curriculum includes six subjects: Portuguese, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, life skills, and five Mozambican languages (Changana, Emakua, Ndau, Ronga, and Sena). The multilingual dimension aims to contribute to increased commitment and retention among learners and better communication between learners and teachers.

The inclusion of these Mozambican languages builds on the programme’s support in 2018, which contributed to the written standardization of 19 local languages.

Following the development process, the curriculum was adopted in 2018 and piloted over a five-year period across five adult education centres. To support the implementation phase, CapED developed the capacities of teachers to pilot the curriculum in their local communities. Out of the 605 learners who took part in the pilot, most of whom were female, 392 learners successfully passed their exams. Today, in 2023, the piloting of the final year of the curriculum is being carried out.

Over the course of her career, teacher Glória Jacinto Novela had never worked with adult learners. Through CapED-supported training, she learned how to adjust her teaching practices to be better adapted to adults.

She says that the training and the overall experience were beneficial for her career and highlights how the curriculum was impacting learners: “There is a group of girls from the Logo zone who have been positively impacted by the new youth and adult education curriculum,” says, referring to an area with many agricultural projects. “I had female students who have their own fields, but who didn’t know how to write down their products for sale. Today, they do it.

They sign their own documents and carry out their business perfectly, without any difficulty in calculating or writing.” She added, “seeing my pupils finish primary school is a great satisfaction for me, I believe that they won’t finish here either, they will continue with their studies.”

Adult education has become a higher priority for the government, which can be seen by its inclusion as one of the six priorities of the Education Sector Plan (2020-2029), the development of which was supported by CapED, in synergies with GPE and other education partners under the leadership of the Government.

Moreover, the government is having an initial discussion on the possibility of developing new learning centres to tackle the large geographical distances between primary and secondary schools. During an event to celebrate the new curriculum, Antuia Soverano, National Director of Youth and Adult Literacy in the Ministry of Education and Human Development, noted: “We believe that these [new] centres will boost education in the communities.”

Looking ahead, in 2024, the implementation of the curriculum is planned to be evaluated. In parallel, the Programme is planning to support the government to adapt secondary education distance learning material for adults to ensure learning continuity and promote more synergies between adult education and Technical and Vocational Training (TVET).

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