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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Our education system needs major overhaul

15th January 2012
Editorial cartoon

It’s undeniably true that education in Tanzania is in a shambles. Our education system is at the intensive care unit at a time when the country needs skills more than any other times in our history in order to compete in the globalised economy.

For about two decades education in Tanzania from primary to tertiary level has been measured mainly by the quantity at the expense of quality. Our curricula at both primary and secondary schools are the most hopeless this country has ever witnessed since the achievement of independence in 1961.

Between 1995 and 2010, our curricula at primary and secondary levels have been changed so many times, not in order to match with the needs of the rapidly growing entrenchment of the country in the global economy, but just to suit the needs of some parliamentarians and top officials at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

Today, even the once reliable National Examinational Council of Tanzania (NECTA) can’t produce trusted results for candidates who sit for their primary and secondary school leaving exams. The latest example is the drama behind the Standard Seven results, which we are told are questionable. The National Examinations Council for the first time came up with the most appalling multiple choice exams for Mathematics for Standard Seven leavers, a gesture which is a very big joke to this country.

Last year half of Form IV students failed in their final exams and most of them were from the much praised ward secondary schools, mushrooming in Tanzania during the past decade, after the ruling party realised that it messed up during phase one of Universal Primary Education it introduced blindly in the late 1990s.  Despite the massive failures no one was held responsible. It was business as usual because at the end of the day the elite can afford schooling for their children abroad, or at the local expensive private schools.

The result is that we shall have a small group of people, which is well educated in terms of quality, and a large number of failures. We are in a situation where a university graduate can’t express himself properly in   English, and makes some common mistakes in Kiswahili.

While this is happening, our politicians especially those tasked with the responsibility of leading this nation seem to be occupied with the 2015 race to the State House. They simply don’t have the time to care.

In another dramatic move this week the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training announced that it has re-introduced national form two exams, which were controversially abolished a few years ago by some of our politicians just to suit their personal needs.

In a quick survey, we have established that this is the fourth time the status of this exam is being changed; the ministry has been playing the very same game during the past two decades. Today they will introduce Form Two exams, but the next morning, when their children have abysmally performed, they will rush to abolish the very same exams.

The truth is very clear: our education system has too many of the ‘copy and paste’ products it has fostered. It needs a major overhaul at the primary, ordinary and advanced levels. Our curricula should be able to give us a clear picture of what kind of nation we want to have in the next five decades.  What we have today is something akin to experimental curricula and no wonder the National Examinations Council has the audacity to introduce multiple choices in Mathematics during last year’s Standard Seven final examination.

We at The Guardian on Sunday strongly urge the government to overhaul our education system to ensure that at the end, we have in place a system that is pegged on quality. It is good to build more primary and secondary schools to pave the way for many children to access education, but in so doing, quality shouldn’t be sacrificed at any cost.

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