There has been a wide range of comments, mostly concerns, about the New School Curriculum that is being introduced in Zimbabwe. It is not clear what the way forward will be, but the responsible Ministry seems to be arguing for proceeding with implementation. Below I highlight some of the developments that the public may need to note and hopefully this may assist on agreement on the way forward.
There is world-wide interest to review curricula, possibly even more regularly than Zimbabwe has done so far. In recent years, many countries have done so due to the following influences:
- Advances in Science and Technology have generated a large stock of new results available to accelerate innovations particularly those that can lead to productive activities and hence accelerate creation of new employment. This has led to the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), as areas that need greater emphasis in study to prepare pupils to learn and exploit such results. The preferred approach in studying the subjects tends to be investigative to allow pupils to develop independent abilities to learn more even without the teacher and, more so, on completion of formal study. With mounting pressure to generate more employment for the youth, this is a positive initiative by the education sector.
- Second is the advancement specifically in IT, which has generated several new ways of acquiring information by the pupil, often independent of the teacher. Indeed some hard-working pupils may very well get to read and understand some issues beyond the teacher. This calls for a new relationship between the pupil and the teacher. To keep this under control many see the pupil partnering with the parent in that interaction with the teacher. No one is certain of the overall impact that IT advancement will have on this relationship. However, what is certain is that new IT ideas will continue to come and through consultation, the nature of the teacher-pupil-parent collaboration will have to evolve.
- All pupils should have access to IT facilities, books and related items and be in a position to use them under competent guidance from the teacher. At the core of concerns so far expressed, all these are reported to be either unavailable or inadequate. It is a call on the responsible Ministry to respond positively and address the shortcomings.
- In moving from one curriculum to another, the management of transition should maintain or improve standards. In Zimbabwe what tended to define the standard achieved at each level of study at school was revealed by the subject content, examination paper and grade scored. The introduction of continuous assessment with a teaching community not seeming to understand what they are doing will make the grades ultimately scored questionable. The Ministry has the obligation to ensure that the examination and grading process is credible enough to be recognised elsewhere. Without that the students' qualifications will stand the risk of not being accepted in several institutions of higher learning internationally.
- Teachers are one of the most critical components of a well-functioning educational system. Obtaining their buy-in on new curriculum development and equipping them with the necessary tools and skills to enable successful implementation should be at the fore.
In responding to these influences, the success of Zimbabwe's new curricula will need to uphold the following:
In conclusion, it is clear that the way ahead is rooted in intensive stakeholder consultation, common understanding and agreement between pupils, as represented by their parents, teachers through their schools and unions, and the Ministry. Such a consultative process should be there to stay as new developments will continue to arise and call on need to revamp the curricula from time to time.
Secretary for Education
Movement For Democratic Change