COMMENTARY: All to blame for failure rate

SHARE   |   Monday, 01 February 2016   |   By Staff Writer
Students results continue to drop every year Students results continue to drop every year

A careful analysis of the 2015 JCE results reveals a pattern of poor results, which has been ongoing for the past five years. Yes, five years! And government appears clueless about what is wrong in our education system. We have repeatedly heard the excuse that parents do not partner with learners, schools and government to improve the results of our learners. While to some degree such may be true, and we are in support of concerted efforts by all stakeholders to mould the future leaders of this land, the deteriorating results point to something bigger than that. As some suggest, the biggest folly in our education system is government continuing to pay lip service to glaring needs of our learners and their instructors. First, our education system, deriving from the existing policies and legislature, is cock-eyed not to recognise and appreciate that learners have divergent talents and skills.

Our system groups all children as if they are all gifted in theoretical academics, totally ignoring other talents in other areas like vocational education. And after they fare horribly these children are allowed to continue to high school under the automatic promotion policy, where the end result is obvious. Perhaps this is done to score points in the Education for All targets set by institutions in developed countries. Universal access to education should not be achieved at the expense of quality. Automatic progression which dumps all learners in academic theoretical education irrespective of capability is contributing to the degrading standards of education in this country and consequently, resulting deteriorating examination results across all levels. We are in agreement with suggestions that a two-tier system where the same emphasis and opportunities are given to students to pursue either the vocational educational or the academic theoretical education is the way forward. In this case vocational education (which is currently stigmatised) is given equal status with the academic theoretical education.

It is shocking that government continues to ignore standards set by her organs to manage the class sizes in our schools. The Revised National Education Policy on Education of 1994 recommended that class sizes be reduced to 35 in elementary schools and 30 in secondary schools. In spite of the fact that government adopted the recommendation, it was never implemented, and on the contrary, classes keep on increasing as we currently have schools with 50 students in a class. This is a far cry from international standards of 1: 25. Needless to say, large class sizes adversely affect the quality of education in that the teacher and the learners do not have adequate time to interact sufficiently. Ironically, we have always been told that we have a large number of teacher-graduates roaming the streets jobless. We are even sending some of these to countries as Namibia, South Sudan and Seychelles.

The issue of lack of conducive learning environment due to dilapidated infrastructure and ill-equipped laboratories cannot support production of quality graduates. It is an indictment on government that many schools around the country, in this upper middle income economy, still have learners taught under trees in the 21st century! To add insult to injury this is very common in rural areas, where education is on its knees barely holding true to the values of proper learning. Even basic provision of computers and connection to the internet remain a pipe dream for learners in rural areas. It then sounds ironic that government would still be investigating why students are failing to make the minimum pass mark, and schools in towns and cities still perform better than those in the hinterlands.  With the advent of ICT the world has entered the information age where all aspects of the economy, including the education sector, are changing drastically. We then cannot expect teachers who last saw a computer at university to remain relevant forever. There is a serious need for government to have a clear training policy for serving teachers to upgrade to remain relevant and deliver quality education to the learners.

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Credit should be given to government for admitting that there are problems in our education system. We note that government is trying to reform the education sector through initiatives like ESSTP, but even then that is not enough. Government should expedite the numerous initiatives announced by President Ian Khama in the 2015 state of the nation address. Construction and maintenance works in schools country wide, as announced by the president, should have started yesterday. The construction of houses for primary and secondary school teachers, along with new classrooms in the primary and secondary schools, as well as an additional science labs and upgraded ablution facilities will go a long way to improve the welfare of learners and teachers. Lastly, there should be closer collaboration between all stakeholders particularly between government and teachers in an effort to resolve the current education crisis, which is currently a ticking time bomb.