I have had a great opportunity to make a case for the implementation of ETSSP in last two articles published so far, courtesy of the Patriot newspaper. I have not only provided reasons for my support for the urgent implementation of this major reform, but also alerted the reader about potential impediments to its effective rollout. In this article, which is probably the last on ETSSP, I explore the pivotal role that teachers, institutions of higher learning and the private sector should play in the roll-out of ETSSP and what should be done to ensure their preparedness for the job. I further highlight change processes that have taken place in other countries from which we can learn some lessons as we put our heads together to come up with strategies of implementing this reform.
It is my hope that understanding what has been taking place, especially in our neighbouring countries, will allay public fear about implementation of an education reform of this magnitude. I must admit that while there have been comprehensive reforms in education in the past in Botswana, ETSSP is even bigger and will certainly be a more daunting task, and nerve-wracking, because it entails overhauling of the entire curriculum which will obviously have implications for resources, including comprehensive training of implementers, and even the involvement of stakeholders outside the ambit of education.
The good news is that we will not be the first to have ventured into such a huge task as our neighbours South Africa and Zimbabwe did following attainment of their independence. In South Africa they replaced the curriculum with one that was based on principles of constructivism instead of one based on prescriptive principles. What was therefore approved was an outcomes-based curriculum of the magnitude never implemented before in a very long time, and similar to what we will be implementing in the next couple of months. Soon as they started the implementation process, challenges began to emerge, which in my view should be lessons from which Botswana must learn. Unlike our situation this was to be expected in view of the legacies of apartheid, a system that had been running a segregated education system for many years to the disadvantage of the majority who were non-whites, especially those of the Black communities.
One of the major legacies as reported in the literature on reforms in South Africa, was the poor quality of schooling as reflected in teachers “who were unequally schooled, unqualified and trained” (Chisholm, 2012, p. 93). As further noted by Chisholm, when outcomes-based education was introduced under these conditions, government had to explore potential initiatives that could be adopted to normalise a more complex situation education system that had existed for many years. Critical to effective implementation and survival of this reform was to give priority to ensuring that they did not only provide more teachers, but most importantly that they were of the required quality to avoid a fiasco in the implementation process. The starting point was to ensure that teachers were rationalised, redeployed and redistributed within the system instead of training new teachers. As fate would have it, the consequences were contrary to government intentions as many qualified teachers resigned from the profession than to be moved. Another major decision taken in an effort to achieve effective implementation was to remove teacher education from old teacher training colleges which were mainly in the former Bantustans and to be under higher education.
There can be no doubt that at inception in Botswana, the issue of preparedness of teachers will also take centre stage as it was in the case of South Africa. First, is the fact that right now the majority of teachers are not well trained on outcomes-based education and if indeed they are any, this would just be a trickle. It would also be very critical to take audit of teacher training institutions to determine the extent to which teaching staff are trained on outcomes-based education to be able to transfer such knowledge and skill to teachers such that they are able to come to terms with this change process. In addition, it would be of interest to find out the extent to which teacher training institutions are involved in preparations for implementation.
A significant change will also occur in the manner in which students will be assessed. The adopted form of assessment will be based on continuous assessment mainly to be carried out in the schools themselves. This will obviously dictate that the government puts in place some standards and quality assurance processes to be adhered to by everyone involved. With most things taking place in schools, it remains to be seen what will then be the fate of Botswana Examination Council (BEC). May be its role will become much more significant or maybe not…I guess time will tell. How all these will unfold will be determined by the stakeholders involved, and spearheaded by Ministries concerned.
Reading through ETSSP, another critical role player is expected to be the private sector, and as in the case of teacher training institutions, it would also be of interest to find out if they are effectively and on a regular basis, involved in whatever discussions and decisions arrived at to determine the nature of the implementation process, including skill development. As I have already indicated that considerable funding will be required, it is also important to know if there are any discussions taking place between the private sector and government to ensure that the former makes substantial contribution to a budget that could sustain reform implementation. Such information would include knowledge of any concessions or tax rebates in lieu of their contribution to this national fund.
As we prepare ourselves for the roll-out, it would be in our best interest to benchmark with such countries as South Africa, Zimbabwe and others which have adopted similar reforms. Such benchmarking need not just be confined to education institutions, but also include understanding and appreciation of the involvement of the private sector. Given where we have come from with this impending reform, I take it such benchmarking has already been completed and that what only remains is the implementation process, which I hope and trust will be speeded up as a matter of urgency.
*Dr Philip Bulawa is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Botswana