I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of Zimbabweans that are opposed to Education minister Lazarus Dokora’s reform or is it “deform agenda, which were ratified by cabinet on September 22 2016 and unveiled by the minister on January 21 2017, in a policy paper entitled “Ground Zero — Getting Traction”.
I would like to argue that the changes to Zimbabwe’s curriculum are not in sync with the best education systems in the world.
It is designed to create a new generation of zombies, incapable of independent thought, leadership, reasoning and enterprise contrary to claims that it seeks to achieve the former.
Importantly, the education reform agenda is not supported by broader reform at macro level, including but not limited to budget priorities, which support the new direction and agenda.
This article will prove that Dokora’s new thrust is not supported by top-end budget support for critical areas such as industry, science, technology, innovation, and ICTs. Children are literally being pushed nowhere very fast as there is no tangible government commitment to the productive sector.
According to Dokora, the new education curriculum seeks to modernise education by ensuring that graduates of this system have the following skills:
- Critical thinking;
- Problem solving;
- Team Building; and
- Technological skills.
It is therefore strange that government, in the process of promoting the above, which are laudable and commendable, goes on to introduce changes which have nothing whatsoever with cultivating any of those attributes.
In order to cultivate leadership, critical thinking, problem solving etc, the same education minister goes on to introduce subjects like Mass Display from infant level right up to “O” Level.
Physical education, introduction of vernacular languages as medium of teaching, physical education.
Mass display is a concept celebrated in many dictatorships such as North Korea and famously during Adolf Hitler’s Germany where the Hitler youth was formed to brainwash children.
Mass Display is an attempt at mass political indoctrination and hypnosis of infants and children.
The national pledge, physical education, mass display at infant level smack of militarisation of the education sector through the back door.
Strengthening of indigenous languages is important on its own, but to go to the extent of making them the medium of instruction may disadvantage our children in the long term in a very competitive global environment. It is sufficient for indigenous languages to be compulsory up to a certain level without using them as a medium of teaching.
At “O” Level the following subjects are now compulsory :
- Physical education;
- General Science;
- Heritage Studies;
- Indigenous languages;
- Mathematics; and
The issue of forcing subjects on students will destroy the ability of the education system to identify, develop and nurture the unique competencies and talents of children.
Of course, I agree that Maths, Science, English and one indigenous language can be compulsory but the high number of compulsory subjects reduces students to zombies and robots.
Not every child is meant to go into agriculture, not every child will be a sportsperson and after all the government is not investing enough resources in ensuring that these sectors are developed.
There is no empirical evidence that making Physical Education and Mass Display and Heritage Studies compulsory will promote critical thinking , improve communication or develop leadership. If anything, subjects like literature develop critical faculties more effectively than Heritage Studies which are a subject of contention because of our contested history and multiple national narratives.
Government’s education curriculum reform is pure deception because it does not mirror the government’s budget, policy priorities and imperatives.
Countries which have some of the best education systems in the world have invested heavily in education and the upstream sectors that support education priorities as reflected in the curriculum. Estonia for example invests 4% of its Gross Domestic Product into education, while Qatar is investing its oil profits on education. In Zimbabwe how much of our diamond revenue went into education of the unaccounted US$15 billion diamond revenue?
While education received the highest budget vote of US$800 million in the 2017 budget, other sectors which support educational priorities or pillars, such as science, information communication technology, energy etc, which drive the productive sector, received paltry amounts in the 2017 budget.
ICT is compulsory at school, but government only allocated US$12 million to this sector.
The energy sector supports the end level side of science and mathematics education, but was only allocated US$5 million in last year’s budget.
Sectors which support science and technology, such as aviation, received US$4,9 million. This is compared to US$ 22 million allocated to the welfare of war veterans, detainees etc.
Official government rhetoric pontificates about encouraging school children to be productive and yet a paltry US$18 million was allocated to Industry and Commerce in the 2017 budget. Self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship are preached about, but the Small to Medium Scale Enterprises ministry was allocated just US$6,3 million to achieve this noble goal.
The office of the president and cabinet was allocated US$176 million, Home Affairs US$366 million and defence US$340 million.
This is a clear indication that government’s curriculum development is not underpinned or supported by broad macro pillars such as budgetary support. In the absence of such support, there will be inadequate infrastructure and resources to support the new thrust.
Forcing people to do physical education and sports, or expressive arts, when there is no budgetary support for such sectors at the end of the education value chain, is a sheer waste of time.
As long as there is no allocation of resources towards scientific research, innovation and small-to-medium scale enterprises, the whole new educational thrust is an exercise in futility.
The new education curriculum has no peers in terms of comparing with the best education systems in the world.
Finland has the best education system in the world, but formal education for children starts at seven, unlike here, where children will literally spend all their childhood at school.
In Finland, children are not stressed with too much homework and teachers spend only four hours a day at school.
There is however, high investment in the professional development of teachers.
According to experts, Finland has gone against the tide of global education which is based on standardisation, core subjects and control.
Zimbabwe is going in the exact direction with its emphasis on control, compulsory core subjects,and standardisation. In Japan, which is one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, there is six years of elementary education, three years of junior high school, then three years of high school and university education is optional and lasts for four years.
In spite of this, Japan has some of the world’s highest standards in terms of science, maths, literacy and has few peers in technology.
This was not achieved through pre-historic command education, as is the case in Zimbabwe, but careful planning, research, investment in systems and policies over many years.
According to studies, the Netherlands has the world’s happiest children because their education system does not place a strain on children.
The Netherlands is among the top five countries in terms of quality education in the whole world.
Another country worth emulating is Qatar, which is investing heavily in education through oil proceeds. The education minister for that country Abdulalla bin Ali Thani (a former teacher) has brought a revolution in education as a result of futuristic planning and ploughing of resources into the sector.
It is disheartening that only US$10 million will be allocated to orphans and vulnerable children through the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), while over US$700 million (combined) to the ministry of Defence, Home Affairs and the Office of the president.
Zimbabwe is simply not spending enough money on basement development of educational infrastructure, production of textbooks, provision of science equipment and training of teachers.
All these are essential in ensuring that an education system is effective and functional.
On the upper end, there is little investment in research, innovation, information communication technology and industrial development. In the absence of these the thrust of the new curriculum becomes suicidal, genocidal and self-defeating. The new system will virtually set up our children for failure.
In essence, parents and the people of Zimbabwe must reject the new curriculum as it is not based on current trends and is not supported by macro-mechanisms to facilitate up stream activities to absorb products of the new system.
Christians should reject this curriculum because it has forced Christianity out of schools even though Zimbabwe is largely a country with a Christian ethos. This is not to say Christianity be forced on children, but the Afro Christian consensus of our nation constitutes an indelible component of our nationhood.
The curriculum seeks to militarise the education system by turning children into tools of mass political hypnosis.
Nkomo is the chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust. He is also a former teacher.