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Can we achieve 'big results now' in education?

19th August 2013
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Overcrowding- one of the challenges facing education sector in Tanzania (File Photo)

Education is termed as an important component in man’s life an engine of the economy. In other words, education is the brain of the socio-economic development of any country. The education system of a society need to be stable, well structured and have firm foundation which could not be shaken easily.

Since independence, out education system seem to have gone through a number of significant changes, according to my opinion, some of which were necessary and some were not necessary.

In the past few years or education system has gone through turbulences in terms of discontent of citizens on quality of education both on academic performance and mastery of content and skills among primary, secondary and tertiary graduates.

Some of the inhibiting factors for Tanzania to achieve good results in education is that most teachers lack of ethics and adequate skills, knowledge and morale for work, poor working conditions, lack of teaching and learning materials and facilities, and general teaching and learning environment does not support active learning process.
As a result we have observed disastrous examination performance in Standard Seven and Form For examinations in the past five years. These poor results fuelled anger and frustration among citizens and demanded accountability of the government in ensuring or education is improved.

According to the education vision in the Tanzania Development Vision (TDV) 2025, education should be treated as a strategic agent for mindset transformation and for the creation of a well-educated nation, sufficiently equipped with the knowledge needed to competently and competitively solve the development challenges which face the nation.

Recently, as a process of implementing TDV 2025, the government analysed sectors which need adequate investment to bring quick improved results in few years. The government came up with the programme dubbed as “Big Results Now (BRN)” which was inaugurated by the President of United Republic of Tanzania, His excellence Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. Six sectors namely energy, water, infrastructure, agriculture, education and resource mobilisation have been identified and targeted for BRN.

It has been argued that these six sectors can bring swift big results as they bear fundamental factors for opening of opportunities for national economic growth and being catalyst for improved general welfare of citizens.

For each sector analysis of challenges and proposed strategies to curb challenges was done in a form of laboratory, which collected participants from government and non government organisations with experience and expertise in the relevant sector.

In education sector, a total of 34 participants from 31 government institutions, development partners, and education development stakeholders met in form of a lab for six weeks between 25th February and 5th April, 2013, to analyse challenges facing the education sector.

One of the main challenges in the education sector was to recognise that although the enrolment rate has increased tremendously, the quality of education has dropped significantly, especially poor examination results in primary and secondary education.

The BRN-Education laboratory realised that improving quality of education is one of the development catalysts in the country. In addition, the laboratory recognised that though pass rate is not the only indicator of quality education, but for the time being it is important to use it as an indicator of quality education in the country.

Furthermore, the laboratory identified some of the burning challenges facing the education sector which have affected quality of education. Some of these challenges are:

(a) inadequate teachers, teachers’ content and pedagogy competence;
(b) lack of teachers’ motivation;
(c) lack of accountability among teachers;
(d) lack of teaching and learning aids;
(e) lack or inadequate infrastructure;
(f) lack of proper supervision at school level;
(g) monitoring and evaluation, and control of school quality;
(h) lack of effective and efficiency resource utilisation,;
(i) poor community participation;
(j) evaluation of skills and knowledge;
(k) provision of examination results;
(l) health of students;
(m) electricity and ICT utilisation;
(n) curriculum preparations processes;
(o) curriculum content;
(p) teaching and monitoring of curriculum; and
(q) lack of adequate support to slow learning students.

In order to rectify the above mentioned challenges, laboratory made a critical analysis of the challenges and came up with nine strategies which are likely to bring ‘big results’ within a short time of implementation of these strategies.

The main objective of all these strategies is to raise examination pass rate from 31 percent for primary schools in 2012 to 60 percent in 2013; likewise, in secondary schools, pass rates to rise from 43 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2013.

In addition, pass rates should also rise to 70 percent in 2014 and 80 percent in 2015.

The nine strategies which aim at improving quality of education are:
(a) Official school ranking: rank 100 percent of all schools in the annual official school ranking, starting with 2012 Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (CSEE) results;
(b) School incentive scheme: reward 4,000 most improved schools every year with monetary and non monetary incentives and recognise top 200 performers, starting with 2013 results. Monetary incentives expects to be between TShs. 1,000,000/= and 5,000,000/= for primary schools and TShs.2,000,000/= and 10,000,000/= for secondary schools;
(c) School Improvement toolkit: distribute school improvement toolkit and train 19,000 school heads. This kit aims at supporting school heads to execute their work effectively. It complements the existing guidelines and is focused around a practical advice and simple best practices on school management;
(d) National reading, writing and arithmetic (3Rs) assessment: conduct the first national 3 R assessment in Standard Two in October 2013;
(e) 3Rs teacher training: train 12,300 Standard One and Two teachers in 3Rs teaching skills;
(f) Student Teacher Enrichment Programme (STEP): train 17,000 primary and 8,000 secondary school teachers to support low performing students;
(g) Basic facilities construction: construct basic facilities in 1,200 secondary schools.
(h) Capitation grants: ensure 100 percent timely delivery of books and materials to all students through alternative funding and monitoring. The Resource mobilisation lab aims to provide TShs.158 Billion by 2015 for teaching and learning materials to schools through the “Education Investment Levy”; and
(i) Teacher motivation: recognise teachers through non monetary incentives, ensure zero outstanding claims by end of June 2013, and zero unresolved claims not more than three months ahead.

Implementation of the above mentioned strategies have started since 17th April 2013. There are a number of tasks which have been accomplished including preparations of tool kit, training of teachers, releasing of TShs.26 Billion to start construction whereby 260 contracts have been awarded and payment of teachers’ accumulated claims.

BRN for Education sector was publicly inaugurated on 15th August 2013 by Honorable Shukuru Kawambwa, Minister for Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT). During the process of inauguration of BRN, senior education officers took oath pledging to meet targets as set in the education sector through BRN, failure of which they will be held accountable.

Public inauguration of BRN for education sector was preceded by internal meeting between the MoEVT high officials and education officers (DEOs and REOs). During the meeting top officials from MoEVT provided a detailed explanation of BRN and expectations from REOs and DEOs to push forward implementation of this programme.

As MoEVT is pushing forward BRN in education sector, many education stakeholders including teachers, education officers and general public are pessimistic on whether the BRN ambitious targets will ever be met. I talked to a number of education stakeholders who pointed some anomalies; taking an example of achieving 60 percent pass rate this year is next to impossible considering that only one month has remained for STD VII candidates to take their final national examinations; while about two months have remained for Form Four students to take their final examinations.

Another argument from education stakeholders is that sources of financing such an ambitious plan is yet to be confirmed. Though they were told that the implementation of the plan started since April, 2013, many feel that resources are not adequate to push forward this plan countrywide.

In addition, education stakeholders argue that there has been many plans, statements, slogans which aim at improving education in Tanzania, and exciting ceremonies and speeches, however, not much have been put into practise. For example, where did most celebrated “kilimo kwanza (agriculture first)” plan gone? Currently no one is seriously sing that slogan, will BRN survive trials of time?

I agree with opinions of education stakeholders, but I am also optimistic that BRN can give us big results in education now. There are a number of issues which need to be taken seriously in order to ensure we reach intended goals at last by 2014. The issues are:

(a) Need for radical change in execution of our duties. We need to stop doing business as usual and brace ourselves to work hard and diligently in a speed to reach intended goals. This is possible if we have will and commitment to do that;
(b) Need to be accountable. Levels of accountability should be strengthened and followed up effectively. Who ever we feel can not cope with the speed we need should be set aside so that we are no delays in accomplishment of targets;
© Ensure that there are adequate resources and are distributed to relevant levels on time, to do away with delays;
(d) Create an open working environment within different levels of education sector. Transparency will help in identifying hindrances and take care of them earlier so that the work progresses. It will also improve motivation among implementers of BRN at different levels; and
(e) Need for collective responsibility in enhancing education delivery in the country.

Despite challenges ahead, MoEVT have shown a way on enhancing transparency and accountability among its officers, by holding an open meeting between officers and ministry’s high level officials as well as demanding its officers to pledge their accountability to the public. With support from all education stakeholders, and increased commitment among top officials at the MoEVT, we will make a step forward, it cold be slow but steady. We can still discuss, debate and advise MoEVT on how best BRN in education sector can be implemented to achieve the most out of it.
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The writer is a specialist in Economics of Education and Finance, Education Planning and Policy Studies. He is reached through: masozi.nyirenda@gmail.com or +255754304181 

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN