Has TCU failed as quality assurance and admission body?

27Feb 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Has TCU failed as quality assurance and admission body?

This month has been very eventful in our country. It started with public outcry that there is famine caused by climate change which caused drought in various areas of the country.

Visitors to an education exhibition by the Tanzania Commission for Universities.

As a result a number of livestock perished, water has become extremely scarce, and plants in farms dried up due to lack of rain, indicating that there will not be adequate harvest in the coming season.

Before we had time to think of what to do with dying livestock and drying up farm crops, the Regional Commissioner (RC) for Dar es Salaam, came up with a campaign against drugs in the region, targeting producers, distributors and users.

A number of famous artistes, politicians, policemen, religious leaders and government officials were in the list of shame announced by the RC, to report at the Central Police Station for interrogation. For about two weeks this campaign captured headlines in the media, and became a talk among citizens countrywide.

As the dust were yet to be settled, on 20th February, Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) announced that it has conducted an in-depth analysis of the qualifications of students enrolled in 2016/2017 academic year, and found that more than 8,000 students in various higher education institutions did not meet the criteria for joining higher education.

TCU’s announcement was met with strong public criticisms from the academia, politicians and ordinary citizens. The criticisms included doubts that if TCU is the organ which performs the duty to sift all applications and allocate students to courses according to their qualifications, and drop those who do not qualify, how on earth was it possible for unqualified students to be admitted? If their results are true, does it not put TCU under spotlight that it has not been able to perform its duty effectively?

Some leaders took TCU’s announcement with extreme caution towards education sector development in the country. Bashe Hussein Bashe, the Member of Parliament for Nzega, posted the following comment in Kiswahili on his social media account: “TCU na Wizara ya Elimu wanachofanya kwenye elimu ya nchi yetu ni Hatari kuliko Madawa ya kulevya.

Elimu imegeuzwa uwanja wa experiment”, which can be simply translated in English as ‘What TCU and the Ministry of Education is doing to education in our country is dangerous than drugs. Education has become an experiment field’.

For the likes of me, who take education as an engine for economic growth; I understand how deeply Bashe was touched by TCU’s announcement, and its results to our education sector.

I have written a number of articles such as ‘need for stable education system’ and ‘education as an engine for economic growth’ which insist that we need to have strong education institutions which can help us produce highly qualified graduates to feed into various sectors of the economy.

TCU is using a Central Admission System (CAS), therefore, we expect that they will use the available system and their human resources to ensure that only qualified students are admitted into higher education institutions.

It may not be very attractive to the public when TCU tells us that some of these students were admitted by oversight. This may raise million questions, including:
(a) Is CAS a reliable system for this function? Is human resources department at TCU qualified enough to perform this function?
(b) In case some of these students who were admitted by ‘oversight’, have completed their courses and awarded their academic qualifications by the institutions, will TCU cancel their qualifications? What are the implications to this for those who are already employed?
(c) Is TCU ready to be accountable for this problem that it caused due to its oversight?
(d) Is the current TCU management qualified to oversee and drive processes to ensure TCU perform the tasks and functions intended as an admission and quality assurance body?
(e) Can TCU take responsibility of refunding resources wasted to train ‘unqualified’ students they admitted into institutions? These are resources which are paid by taxpayers, so we should not gamble with them.

I would like to concur with Bashe that we should not make our education sector as an experiment field. Maybe I should provide a brief explanation of the role of education in economic development to emphasise my point that education is an engine for economic growth.

There is a close link between education and training and the economy. Main arguments on investment in education and training are based on Human Capital Theory. Human capital was generally defined into five categories namely: health status, on the job training, formal education, adult study programmes and migration to find better job opportunities. The theory emphasises that many skills and capabilities can be acquired by learning outside of tradition or formal education, or outside of schooling altogether.

The changes in world economies brought by globalisation have influenced economies of all countries, including Tanzania. The global economies are increasingly based on knowledge and information. Knowledge is now recognised as the driver of productivity and economic growth, leading to a new focus on the role of information, technology and learning in economic performance.

Education and training provides the following to individuals, which are essentials for enhancing productivity: freedom and confidence; more earnings; possibilities to be employed/self-employment; it’s pedagogy of the oppressed: to emancipate themselves from physical and mental slavery; help individuals to have liberated minds: open minded to new ideas and thinking; develop free individuals and create many sided human beings if revolved around people’s lives and not only organised mainly around work and the production of commodities; literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

Other benefits of education and training are to stimulate talents, creativity, innovations, critical thinking; build work skills which bring about productivity and economic growth; promote improved health status: for adults (especially for women) and children. Better education results in better health for mothers and children due to better access to crucial information and health care.

A rise in human capital boosts the return on physical capital: i.e. interlink between human capital and physical capital: equipping unskilled workers with ever more complicated and more expensive machines does not necessarily boost output. In fact, output might rise more significantly if the additional money were spent effectively and efficiently on more human capital instead of more physical capital.

As we embark on making our country middle-income semi-industrilised country by 2025, we need to take an issue of training of qualified manpower very seriously. For skills training we rely on bodies such as Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA), National Council for Technical Education (NACTE), National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NACTE) and TCU to ensure we obtain qualified students to go for training in various skills in order to get highly skilled and qualified graduates to drive our various sectors of the economy to make our country into middle-income industrialised economy. Let us not play games with our education.
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The writer is a specialist in educational policy, planning, economics and finance. He is reached through: [email protected] or +255754304181

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