Problems in Education

During the early 1980s, Ivory Coast spent a higher share of its gross national product and of its national budget on education than any other country in the world. Although this served as an indication of the nation's high regard for education, expatriate teachers' salaries accounted for a disproportionate share of current expenditures, reducing the benefits to the nation itself. Generous scholarships for secondary school students also reduced funds available for younger children.

The Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research assigned highest priority to problems of financing educational development and reducing the number of school dropouts. Reducing regional inequities was also important; in 1986 enrollments in the south averaged about four times those in the north. The government employed innovative methods to improve the education system, including the use of televised instruction in primary schools in the 1970s--a project that was abandoned as too expensive. Computers and automated data processing equipment were being used at the National University in 1987 and were to be introduced at lower levels of the educational system by 1990. By the late 1980s, the government was also producing its own text books, previously purchased in France, to reflect local rather than Foreign cultural values.

The internal efficiency of the education system was relatively low, partly because of the large number of students who repeated courses and the high dropout level. The number of school-aged children was expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent by 1995, increasing the school-aged population by 50 percent. Unfortunately, teacher-training programs could not keep pace with these changes, and educational planners were in particular demand. The link between education and employment was also weak, exacerbated by the economic recession of the 1980s. Graduates, in effect, expected more than society could give them. As in many countries, academic institutions and personnel often annoy government officials with their outspoken criticism of national policies. A number of mechanisms are used to co-opt or intimidate dissident leaders, although a few of their criticisms have been received favorably and have produced policy changes. Some outspoken teachers have been offered government jobs, in effect to receive the brunt of criticism they have generated. Some students have been expelled from the university. The campus was closed down following antigovernment demonstrations in 1982, and campus organizations were banned. Secondary-school teachers who protested against the elimination of their housing benefits in 1983 found their professional organizations banned as well.