Blessings for 2018. A lot has happened since my last piece in 2017, but there is no way I can cover all of it in this piece.
I shall therefore zoom in on the burning issue of the day: Grade 12 results. This topic has been around, and will continue to demand our attention until there are some drastic improvements.
Some commentators have raised the problem of English as a compulsory subject, and I agree with this observation. It is obviously not the only cause of the dismal results, but it is something I wrote about in the past. In fact, my beef is not with English per se, but with languages as compulsory subjects. For instance, a learner intending to study engineering is compelled to do two languages! In other words, out of a total of six subjects, exactly 33 percent (a whole third) is taken up by languages, and you know the attitude of science-oriented learners towards languages.
It appears to me that two of the compulsory languages are a legacy of Bantu education, where Afrikaans (first language) and English (second language) were the official languages. The curricula for these subjects are predominantly irrelevant for further studies, except for those students who want to major in literature, law, philosophy, etc. There is thus an urgent need to revisit the compulsory language requirement, and to reduce the number of languages, as well as to revamp each language curriculum to make it more practical and contextual for our national purposes.
Moreover, there are fatally flawed fundamentals in our education system. The Namibian Government has been seized by this matter since independence, but somehow we do not seem to be making any headway. If, 27 years since independence, we are still struggling to obtain a 40 percent pass rate (or university admission) for Grade 12 (it is actually just over 15 percent if NAMCOL students are taken into account!!), then we do have a serious problem. But surprisingly, education in general is not part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP). HPP only focuses on technical and vocational education, which is commendable, but the entire education system is in the ICU and thus needs attention from the highest office in the land.
What I am missing in the public utterances of the Government, is reference to initiatives like ETSIP (Education and Training Sector Improvement Program), for instance. They do not continually link what they are doing to the long-term plan. ETSIP aims to “…substantially enhance the sector’s contribution to the attainment of strategic national development goals, and to facilitate the transition to a knowledge-based economy.” It was planned to be implemented in three 5-year cycles, from 2006/07 to 2020/21. It is a sector-wide programme that covers: (i) early childhood development and pre-primary education, (ii) general education, (iii) vocational education and training, (iv) tertiary education and training, (v) knowledge and innovation, and (vi) information, adult and lifelong learning.
At the conceptual level, Government seems to have applied its mind regarding education in order to attain Vision 2030. So, where is the problem? Why does it appear as if Government has no strategic direction? We need to know, as per ETSIP, whether all the teachers are now fully qualified (with minimum BETD (Basic Education and Teaching Diploma))? What is the average teacher: learner ratio? How far are we from the ideal ratio of maximum 1:35 (primary school) and 1:30 (secondary school)? Have VTCs (vocational training centres) been established in all regions? The list is long…..
Finally, what happened to the recommendations of the 2011 Education Conference? I have so many questions, and I hope that 2018 will help us to focus on resolving the challenges of our education.
Happy New Year.