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Unstable education policies a huge risk

2nd April 2012
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Education is termed as an important component in man’s life and engine of the economy. In other words, education is the brain of the socio-economic development of any country.

Just like the human brain which controls and commands the functions of all other organs of the body, education determines the type of human resources and the economy which will drive the development of the country.

The philosophical, political, cultural and economic orientation and identity of a certain society or country are embodied and transmitted to members of the society through education, whether be formal or non-formal.

Through an education system children and adults learn about their society, their roles and responsibilities toward society development…

Knowing the importance of education toward the socio-economic development of the society and as a brain or an engine which controls and determines the development of various sectors of the economy, one could therefore, conclude that the education system of a society need to be stable, well structured and have firm foundation which could not be shaken easily.

The human brain is fragile to frequently disturbances or shocks. If frequent shocks happen, the results are that the person will either have trauma, faint or get extreme effects such as paralysis or even death. That’s why the brain has been well protected in the hard skull with the fluids which absorb various shocks we encounter in our daily life. The same way our education system needs to be well protected against shocks.

Since independence, out education system seem to have gone through a number of significant changes, according to my opinion, some of which were necessary and some were not necessary.

As we obtained independence, it was necessary to make some changes from colonial education system to fit our political and economic orientation. The Education for Self Reliance (ESR) policy booklet published in March 1967, argue that policy aimed at re-defining the purpose of education. It aimed at eliminating colonial education system which aimed at inculcating colonial attitudes of human inequality and domination of the weak by the strong.

The ESR policies therefore, aimed at changing the elitist education system and therefore enable wider part of the society access education. Moreover, to inculcate in people the sense of valuing work as an integral part of education. This paradigm shift from colonial education to our own system of education seems to have strong justification.

However, in the last two decades there has been a dramatic change in the education system which affected curriculum, textbooks, and many more. However, all these changes have not been due to changing of various socio-economic policies but due to the wishes of the prevailing education ministers.

In 2004, the then Minister of Education, Joseph Mungai announced that some subjects especially in business studies will no longer be taught in secondary schools. Moreover, he introduced a new subject known as “Unified Science” whereby physics, chemistry and biology were combined as one subject. He further, eliminated sports activities and competitions in schools.

By the time he was eliminating business studies in secondary schools, the University of Dar es Salaam, has just started a Bachelor of Education (Commerce) course in order to produce graduate teachers in business studies who were lacking in secondary schools.

In addition there was a Physical Education course which was producing sports and physical education teachers for secondary schools. Moreover, he unified primary school geography, history and civic education into Social Skills.

Mr. Mungai’s decision was followed by wide criticisms from academia and other members of the society, but nothing was changed.

Later on, in 2005, Mrs Margaret Sitta, became the Minister of Education and Vocation Training, and she reinstated all the curriculum which were there before 2004 changes. The Minister defended her position that it was necessary to reinstate the former curriculum after realizing that the 2004 changes reduced a number of subjects in secondary schools after elimination of studies in vocational, business, agriculture, home economics and sports activities. Moreover, formulation of unified science was also not fruitful. The government reinstated all former subjects at primary and secondary school levels.

In October, 2010 it was reported in this newspaper that the then Minister of Education and Vocational Education, Professor Jumanne Maghembe announced that according to 2010 CCM Manifesto, the government has plans of overhauling the country’s education system to enable primary education to run from nursery school straight to Form Four beginning 2012.

This effectively means that Tanzanians will since then be studying non-stop to Form Four. He added that the Standard Seven examination will not be used to split or classify pupils but only to test how well they will have done in Standard Seven. The point here is that all Standard Seven pupils will proceed without let or hindrance from primary school to Form Four.

Professor Maghembe’s statement met a lot of criticisms from the academia and other members of the society, whereby some of them even called it “suicidal, because the foundation will be too weak to withstand the pressure” and that “the government should ensure that pupils completing primary school education are really well groomed as demanded. Swamping them only with theories for all those years is unlikely to have positive results”.

We have recently heard on the on going review of Education and Training Policy which is undertaken by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

During the inauguration of Education convocation organized by the School of Education, University of Dar es Salaam, the Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training told journalists that the reviews of the Education and Training Policy will include shortening of primary education circle years.

From seven years to six years, while pre primary school will be one year instead of two years. Children will be enrolled in pre primary schools when they reach 5 years, and enrolment in primary schools will take children aged 6 years. These some of the few ideas from the new management of the ministry to be revealed.

I am yet to know what other ideas, innovations and wisdoms which will transpire in the near future from the ministry for our education system whether they are going to continue with ideas of the former ministers or they are going to come up with new sustainable ideas and innovations.

As I said before that education is the brain and engine of the socio-economic development, therefore we need to take cautious measure to ensure that it become stable in order for it to produce the highly qualified and skilled manpower which will take us to the development level we need to reach.

Frequent changes make our ‘brain’ unstable and we cannot expect the whole ‘body’ to be stable either. Most of the changes which the previous ministers have made were not out of a general consensus with education stakeholders but it seem that it is either their personal views or just few people making decision for something which will affect all sectors of our lives.

My challenged to the government especially the Ministers for Education, that instead of concentrating on playing around and experimenting their ideas or trying to leave their legacy, they should concentrate on the most pressing needs in the education system such as lack teaching and learning facilities in ward secondary schools, teachers incentives, infrastructure development, mass failures in primary and secondary education and the like. It is my hope that the coming education policy and programmes will ensure that they draw a sustainable ‘road map’ towards the ‘land of promise’-quality education for all Tanzanians.

I am not quite sure how much power is vested into the minister to make any changes in the education sector without consultation with education stakeholders at all levels.

But if that is the case, then there is a need to put some checks and balances on the ministers, so that they cannot make their personal decisions today and when they are out the next minister eliminate the former ideas and instate new ones. We need a stable education system which will have a long-term vision not only during the term of the ministers.

The writer is a specialist in Education Planning, Management, Economics of Education and Policy Studies; he is reached through 0754304181 or albertsozzy@yahoo.com.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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