Stone age, bronze age, iron age, industrial age and now the Information and Communication Technology age. The world changes everyday and fast. Actually, it was once said that “There is nothing permanent as change.” For human beings everything surrounding him continues to change in his attempt to conquer his environment-making it easier for him to live. Now the hard part for each one of us is coping with the fast changing world of our days.
Since independence, our education system has gone through a number of significant changes, in my opinion, some of which were necessary and some that were not necessary. Main changes in education curriculum have been observed at primary and secondary education levels.
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.
Last year I was invited to an education stakeholders’ workshop on curriculum changes which was organized by Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE). TIE in its attempt to cope with global and employment demand changes had reviewed syllabi of various subjects for primary and secondary educational levels. The new syllabi were expected to be on effect starting 2012.
The changes aim at improving the content and activities of the syllabi to be competence-based. If it is implemented effectively then for sure our primary and secondary school graduates will acquire adequate skills to be competent indeed. They will be able to explain phenomena, applying their knowledge in daily life, use and maintain domestic appliances, use sustainable energy conversion system for environmental conservation and use ICT tools in accessing information, simulating and modeling various phenomena.
According to the proposed new syllabi, the learning resources are expected to include computer simulations and internet. The students’ competencies will be assessed by various assessment mechanisms including oral examinations, real practical sessions, individual assessments, and tests. In addition students will also hand over a portfolio to the subject teacher at the end of every term.
The proposed Continuous Assessments (CA) expects to contribute a total of 50 percent to the student’s final results. The remaining 50 percent will be contributed by the final exams. This will for sure dissolve the ever increasing tendency of students to escape doing school continuous assessments. This also means that TIE is starting to recognize the importance of teachers in producing competent students.
We believe that the education our children receive must explain our environment and help us to conquer it. It must help us cope with our ever-changing environment. This is where challenges arise. Taking our current status of teachers’ competence and low motivation, number of students in classes, lack of teaching and learning facilities and many more, the proposed new syllabi, however promising, seem to be unrealistic and ambitious.
We believe that reaching targets of the new syllabi will take a longtime and adequate investments. The education system must itself undergo major changes before we can hope to have a nation of competitive graduates. These changes are what we discuss today.
To start with, TIE must involve other education organizations especially National Examination Council of Tanzania (NECTA), teachers, students and other educational institutions in the whole process of syllabi changing. During the workshop it was revealed that there was lack of inter-linkages between various bodies which are under the same ministry. Representatives from NECTA, Inspectorate department, as well as some teachers who attended were not aware of what TIE was doing.
We are talking about the linkages or close working relationship between developers of syllabi (TIE), Assessors of the syllabi (NECTA), implementers of the syllabi (Teachers), consumers of the syllabi (students), evaluators of implementation of the syllabi (school inspectors), consumers of the graduates (employers), and supporting education stakeholders (parents and community members).
Lack of such close working relationship will hinder progress of implementation of the new changes in the syllabi and hence failure to meet the intended objectives. Therefore, we plead with the Chief Education Officer at Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) to establish a technical working team comprising experts from all relevant agencies in order to ensure that all important issues have been ironed out before disseminating the new syllabi.
On the other side, school environments need to be prepared with relevant facilities before introducing new syllabi changes. For example, in order to enhance utilization of ICT for learning, schools need to have electricity (either from main grid, generator or solar). Many schools have no electricity.
In addition, teachers need to be prepared to cope with these changes and improve their skills and knowledge to ensure that they are competent to implement and assess these new syllabi. Students as consumers of the syllabi also need to be aware of changes and given orientation of how they can go about learning.
The education sector really needs a big transformation to realize the TIE’s goal of competent graduates. It needs more than just sitting on a table and making changes in the syllabus and sending copies to teachers to implement. It needs more than just good plans. It needs more than just what is done.
Dear reader, for these changes to happen they need collective efforts- they need you too. They need me. They need us together, to make our nation a better place to stay. This is why we say Tanzania needs more than just syllabus changes.
The writers: Masozi David Nyirenda is a Specialist in Education Management, Economics of Education and Policy Studies; while Samson Genya is a Form Six Science graduate of Songea Boys Secondary School. They can be reached through +255754304181 or firstname.lastname@example.org and +255767676673 or :email@example.com