By Tapiwa Marume
Over the last two decades there have been conversations in government, education system, non-governmental organizations, the business world and other social facets in Zimbabwe about the nature of the educational system. The conversations have focused around its shortfalls and on what could be changed or improved to make it produce individuals able to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country economically and socially in light of the emerging socio-economic challenges bedeviling the country and the world at large. The government in 1998 set up the Presidential Inquiry into Education and Training (CIET) which produced a report in 1999 that stressed that education in Zimbabwe since the colonial era was overly academic in nature and did not cater for the majority of learners, among other things.
The Presidential Inquiry into Education and Training (CIET) also known as the Nziramasanga Commission advocated that there was a need for a further detailed review of the school curriculum in order to address the identified need of the learners and the nation. So in 2010 the National Education Advisory Board (NEAB) Under the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture compiled an analysis of the curriculum needs of the country and proposed that a more comprehensive review of the curriculum be carried out pointing out that recommendations by the Nziramasanga Report had only been fulfilled partly.
The review objectives were to (i) compile findings on significant developments that have transpired since the 1999 Nziramasanga Report that have a noticeable effect on the curriculum review, (ii) include stakeholder contribution into the desired content of curriculum for infant, Junior and Secondary Education in Zimbabwe, (iii) engage stakeholders for ideas on implementation strategies to achieve the intended results and desired impact on national development, (iv) match the new curriculum emanating from the review with the development needs of the country as espoused in the country’s economic blue print to economic recovery (ZIMASSET, 2013-2018) and (v) develop a framework for curriculum which reflects the Zimbabwean context while remaining consistent with international trends and standards.
Public consultations commenced in November 2014 and concerned stakeholders were afforded an opportunity to contribute their views on the nature of the curriculum they wanted to see established in the school system. To ensure inclusivity, the consultations were held in all of the 5, 683 primary schools, 2, 424 secondary schools, at 72 district centers, in 10 provincial centers and at a national center that was located in Harare. Further consultations were held with targeted groups in government, universities, commerce and industry, churches and professional associations. The media was also employed to spread information and gather contributions from the general public.
According to a document produced by the ministry, the new curriculum takes into consideration the impact of information and communication technologies and their drive towards a information driven economy and how this warrants new skill sets to enable citizens to live and work competitively in the global village. The curriculum seeks to accomplish the following:
–Motivate students to cherish their Zimbabwean identity, value their heritage, history and cultural traditions
–Prepare students for life and work in a indigenized economy and global world
–Ensure students acquire and demonstrate literacy and numeracy skills including practical competences necessary for life
–Prepare students for participation in voluntary service
–Foster lifelong continuous learning in line with emerging opportunities and challenges.
The curriculum is founded on notions of inclusivity, accessibility, equity, relevance, continuity, respect, gender sensitivity, transparency and accountability. The new curriculum is organized into three learning levels which are:
1) Infant school, starts at Early Childhood Development (ECD) up to grade 2. Emphasis at this stage is on the acquisition of basic foundational skills for learning. The following are the learning areas at this level: Languages; Visual and Performing Arts (Expressive Arts); Physical Education; Mass Displays; Mathematics and Science; Family and Heritage Studies (Social Studies) and; Information Communication Technology (ICT).
2) Junior School, starts from grades 3 to 7 reinforces foundational skills and begins to introduce students to life and work skills. Learning areas covered include: Languages: Mathematics; Heritage and Life Orientation Program (LOP); Science and Technology; Agriculture; Information Communication Technology; Visual and Performing Arts; Family, Religion and Moral Education and; Physical Education, Sport and Mass Displays.
3) Secondary School, that is forms 1 to 6, prepares students for various options including university education, technical and vocational training programs, apprenticeship and civil service as teachers, nurses, army officers and police officers. Learning areas are: Heritage Studies; Mathematics; Sciences- Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Science and Geography; Humanities including History, Religious Studies, Sociology and Economic History; Literature in indigenous Languages and English; Indigenous Languages and English Language; Foreign Languages such as French, Swahili, Chinese and Portuguese; ICT- Programming and Packages; Agriculture (Agriculture Engineering, Animal Science, Crop Science and Horticulture); Commercials (Accounting, Commerce, Commercial Studies, Economics, Business Enterprise Skills and Management of Business); Practical subjects (Wood, Metal, Food, Textile Technologies and Home Management and Design); Physical Education and Mass Displays; LOP and; Visual and Performing Arts (Theatre Arts, Dance, Music, Art and Film Production).
Assessment will focus on leaner competences that include knowledge, skills, abilities, values and traits, and this is going to be formative and summative. Formative assessment monitors the student’s behavior and performance on a continual basis. Summative assessment will measure performance at the end of a learning program and will result in grading, placement, selection and informing system performance.
The new curriculum is to be implemented in seven phases (2016-2022) and implementation commenced as of January this year.
Phase 1 is concerned with preparation and syllabus development. It focuses attention to areas such as development and printing of syllabuses, development of learning materials (text books, handbook and manuals), induction of all teachers into the new curriculum, syllabus interpretation for teachers and supervisors taking the following classes in 2017: ECD ‘A’, Grade 1, Grade 3, Form 1, Form 3 and Form 5.
Dr Makanda the Director of Curriculum Development in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said that already they have made substantial progress in implementing phase 1. He said the new curriculum had already been piloted successfully in 100 schools and that induction and syllabus interpretation training for teachers taking the above classes in 2017 had been carried out in all the districts. He further disclosed that currently syllabuses were being printed for all schools so that by January 2017 the new curriculum will put into effect.
Phase 2, dubbed ‘Preparation and Implementation’ begins in 2017 and there will be a continuing of training in syllabus interpretation for teachers and supervisors taking the following classes in 2018: ECD ‘B’, Grade 2, Grade 4, Form 2, Form 4 and Form 6. 2018 heralds the 3rd phase proceeding with further implementation of the syllabuses for the classes afore mentioned and interpretation of the syllabuses to teachers. Phase 4 will take place in 2019 and will focus on implementation and syllabus interpretation for teachers taking Grade 6 and Form 4 in 2020.
In 2021 phase 5 will proceed with implementation of the new curriculum for Grade 6 and Form 4 levels. There will also be training in syllabus interpretation for supervisors and teachers taking Grade 7 classes in 2021. Phase 6 transpires in 2021 and it will be the implementation of the first Junior School Examinations at Grade 7. The last phase in 2022 will see the full scale implementation of the new curriculum. The curriculum will follow a seven year continuous assessment and monitoring cycle to analyze strengths and weaknesses.
The new Curriculum for Primary and Secondary Schools which was approved by the government last year on the 22nd of September entered its first phase of implementation starting January this year is set to prepare graduates with a broad range of precise set of:
a) Skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, communication, team building and ability to use technology.
b) Knowledge – basic literacy and numeracy, business and financial literacy and mastery of subject content
c) National identity, patriotism, value of national symbols and participatory citizenship
d) Values, for instance discipline, integrity, honesty and Unhu/Ubuntu
e) Attitudes and dispositions: self initiative, self managing and ability to plan and organize.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Dr Lazarus Dokora said the new curriculum was meant to modernize the educational system in line with new technologies and it would produce learners able to create employment as opposed to educating learners to be employed. Dr Makanda (Director of Curriculum Development, MoPSE) said, ‘’ We want to produce learners who will not only look for work or demand for jobs from the government but those who will be able to create employment taking advantage of the resources we are endowed with.’’
To support research, initiative and creativity in the 21st century in line with international educational standards the new curriculum is biased towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It’s important to note that the Ministry also introduced Visual and Performing Arts (music, film, dance etc) at Infant School all the way up to Secondary School. Not every child will become a doctor, lawyer or business person; some have a passion for music, film or dance and this is where Visual and Performing Arts come into play to groom and prepare the learner from an early age. There is no doubt that once this socio-economic quagmire deep seated in politics comes to an end that the Arts will be a lucrative source of income for talented individuals.
The new curriculum introduces a few foreign languages and this has sparked controversy from different quarters of the society which advocate for the promotion of local languages first before embarking on the teaching of foreign languages in schools. The rationale behind this is that Shona and Ndebele should be mandatory subjects in all primary and secondary schools across the country before any foreign languages are given a nod. This supports local cultures and furthers social integration.
Dr Makanda said that the inclusion of foreign languages such as Chinese, Portuguese and Kiswahili would enable graduates with the ability to source business opportunities outside the country to nations such as Portugal and France. Ever since the ‘Look East Policy’ opened up trade relations between China and Zimbabwe learning Chinese by Zimbabweans has become an important business communication tool. A significant question would therefore seek to probe if the Chinese are also learning dominant local Languages, Shona and Ndebele.
Nevertheless, come 2017 will the ministry have the numbers of qualified teachers to take new learning areas such as music, art, film and the new foreign languages for all the 5,863 primary schools and 2,424 secondary schools in Zimbabwe? There have been reports already that some schools in rural areas still have not received comprehensive information about the new curriculum and they seem to be lagging behind; is the ministry following a center periphery model where development begins in the cities and then spreads out to the rural areas (peripheries)? These are just a few thoughts among many others to consider.
Nonetheless, it’s apparently clear that a new curriculum is the way to go in Zimbabwe besides the many issues that need special attention. Waiting for perfect conditions to prevail in this type of economy before implementing this program would have been further delay of this much needed change in the education sector. Taking this first step is important and changes can be made as we progress forward along the way.
For more information visit:
Ministry of Primary & Secondary website: www.mopse.gov.zw
and Facebook: MinistryofEducationZimbabwe.