Barriers to student success in Madagascar


  • Abigail R. Wills The Ladybug Project Inc.
  • Kim E. Reuter The Ladybug Project Inc.; Temple University
  • Arleen A. Gudiel The Ladybug Project Inc.; Temple University
  • Bryan P. Hessert The Ladybug Project Inc.; Temple University
  • Brent J. Sewall Temple University


International Education, School Policy, Development, Literacy, Class Size, Africa


Various indicators suggest that many students in developing countries are not learning in school. Using Madagascar as a case study, we aimed to: (1) evaluate the effectiveness of education among those enrolled in science and math programs of primary, secondary, and university institutions; and (2) understand barriers to student progression through the education system. To address these aims, we conducted 63 semi-structured interviews in June and August 2012 with science and math teachers in five population centers, across all three levels of the public and private school system. We found that crowded classes, limited resources (pedagogical and infrastructural), an average student age range of seven years per classroom (suggestive of grade repetition and/or late school starting age), and discontinuities in the language of instruction explain why teachers estimated that almost 25% of their students would not finish school. Although most secondary and university teachers taught the sciences only in French, they estimated that just one-third of students could fully understand the language. There were also urban-rural and public-private disparities. Teachers in urban areas were significantly more likely to teach using French than their rural counterparts, while public schools housed significantly larger classes than private institutions. While resource equalisation will help to resolve many of these disparities, improved early training in professional languages and increased local autonomy in designing appropriate curriculums will be necessary to tackle other shortfalls.