By Tapiwa Marume
The Progressive Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) on the 4th of January conducted a one day symposium under the theme ‘Perspectives and Reflections on the New Curriculum’ at Allan Wilson High School, Harare. The symposium focused on the current challenges being faced in the implementation of the controversial New Curriculum framework which was a brain child of the former minister in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Lazarus Dokora .
Minister of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Hon Paul Mavima was the guest of honor among other representatives from the Apex Council, University of Zimbabwe (UZ), ZIMSEC, churches, parents, political parties.
Presentations by PTUZ revealed that from the Infant School right up to Secondary School students, teachers and parents were confronted with a plethora of challenges that were making it very difficult for smooth implementation of the updated curriculum.
Dr T Zhou (President, PTUZ) stressed that they were not calling for a total removal of the curriculum as some suggested but rather correction of mistakes and streamlining it in line with its overall objectives.
The hottest issues tabled included the shortage of teachers for new learning areas such as foreign languages, ICT, Heritage Studies and so forth. High teacher student ratios, duplication of content for instance in PE and Mass Displays for ECD; lack of resources and requisite infrastructure for new learning areas; time and resource consuming tasks and projects in all learning areas for the learners and increased work load for teachers without an increment in salaries and benefits in sight were highlighted. Another issue was the fact that compulsory learning areas for secondary schools do not reflect the drive towards a STEM/STEAM bias being pushed forward by government.
Gwezhira J (PTUZ) in his address argued that it was not helpful for a system that values nurturing talents and abilities to demand that all learners produce a 15 page written project taking cognizance of the fact that some learners cannot even spell their names correctly.
He added that these can be creative in other areas and should be given the prerogative to choose a project of their own liking whether in dance, art, carpentry or any field one is most capable in.
In his presentation on recommendations Dr Zhou suggested that the number of compulsory subjects be revised from 7 to not more than 5 and that these must dove tail with the spirit and letter of the curriculum framework. He proposed that tasks be stopped, that the ministry provide learning materials to disadvantaged schools, teachers be trained to mark tasks and projects at ZIMSEC’s cost and that distribution of ICT infrastructure be treated as a top priority.
Hon Mavima in his speech pointed out that current economic power houses such as China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea realized that they needed transformation in their education system first before socio-economic development and success. He said they incorporated the same ideas from these nations into the new curriculum. He said these nations pushed students to the limit in all areas such as academic and non-academic fields which is the very thing the ministry is trying to do via tasks and projects to instill a critical problem solving mentality in the learners.
In relation to lack of resources and adequate infrastructure the minister pointed out that the new political dispensation had poised the nation favorably with the international community such that well wishers and donors were now beginning to come in and offer assistance in the education sector. He said the financial aid would go towards setting up proper ICT infrastructure in schools and teacher capacity building programs among other issues.
He also said he would take the recommendations put forward by PTUZ and submit them to the ministry were a consultative process would be started. He appreciated the role being played by the organization in the education sector.