Government is set to review the new curriculum before month-end to incorporate some of the concerns from key stakeholders who include teachers and parents.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima told the Daily News yesterday that while he was still to receive a full report from a technical team established for that purpose, he was positive that the review will pay particular attention to contentious issues such as tasks and continuous assessment.
He said: “I am still waiting for a full report from the technical team, but we will be making a few adjustments (to the new curriculum) before the end of the month. The issue of tasks – that they be streamlined – the issue of continuous assessment, needs a redo”.
The review follows deafening choruses of disapproval from a cross-section of Zimbabweans peeved by the new curriculum.
There have been complaints that the changes introduced by former Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora should be scrapped altogether because they have made education expensive, laborious and cumbersome.
Some of the misgivings centre around tasks applicable to pupils and the continuous assessment process.
The requirement that pupil should do nine subjects has been criticised as tedious, congests the limited time available for teaching while increasing the workload on both teachers and students.
Another major constraint has been the issue of inadequate resources to implement it and the increased costs on parents.
While acknowledging the existence of “very emotive” issues around the new curriculum, Mavima was hopeful that the consultative meetings he has been holding with various stakeholders would refine the education framework.
He was also upbeat about the country’s economic prospects.
“Our economy is not going to remain the way it is; the fiscal situation will improve,” he said, implying an economic upturn will ease the burden on not just the parents, but the education sector as a whole.
Treasury recently availed a budgetary allocation of $18 million towards the implementation of the new curriculum.
Combined with funds from international partners, the funding will go a long way in assisting the training of teachers and resourcing of schools.
Treasury has, however, shown its reluctance to fund the training of teachers for Early Childhood Development (ECD) due to resource constraints.
It has thus been suggested that School Development Committees (SDC) should fund employment costs for ECD teachers, thus increasing the burden on the parent.
Currently, there is a shortfall of at least 5 907 ECD teachers countrywide.
Treasury has called on parents and communities to participate in supporting the provision of ECD schooling services to save the fiscus an additional $36 million in employment costs per annum.
This has been met with contempt by stakeholders who feel that the development would result in the ill-equipping of students in their formative years of school.
There are also fears that there is not enough space in schools that are capable of employing ECD teachers to take up all the children, leaving the door open for unlicensed ECD centres to fill that gap.
Yesterday, Mavima warned parents against sending their children to unregistered schools.
“The teachers that are currently in service are not going to be affected – they will continue but for now Treasury does not have resources to add on to ECD teachers so we are going to work with schools so that where there is the need the SDC will assist us in recruiting those teachers,” he said.
At a curriculum review meeting organised by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe last week, Mavima felt unless learners are taught critical thinking skills, the country cannot compete on the global market.
“Our objective is to have a competence-based curriculum so that we create the competencies and skills that are required to move our country forward,” Mavima said then.
“When everything is said and done, there are certain skills that we are pushing for. We are looking for a learner who when they go through their studies, can look at a problem and start seeing solutions to them. The whole idea of innovation starts at infant level in countries like China.
“We cannot be stuck in the 20th century when things are moving so fast now. We cannot train children for jobs we do not know if they will still be around in the future, but what you can train for is someone who can quickly adapt and offer themselves as value creators in any job situation they find themselves. That is the type of thing we are pushing for as far as this curriculum is concerned.”
Mavima also gave the first clearest hint that government could review its ban on extra lessons, saying they were necessary for exam classes and students lagging behind but needed to be done “correctly.”
“By the way, I never said that we are criminalising the issue of extra lessons. All I have said is that I don’t want to promote moral hazard among our teachers whereby if we say parents pay willy-nilly the real teaching will not take place, the teachers will wait for extra lessons.
So schools need to organise properly for remedial education, for extra lessons for exam class in a way that doesn’t disadvantage the parents and the learners,” Mavima said during a consultative meeting in Harare recently.
Educationist, Josiphat Gwezhira, is of the view that the current year could have the highest number of failures if the issue of tasks and projects is not scrapped or reviewed.
Gwezhira noted the existence of contradictions in the implementation of the new curriculum whereby training institutions were still training teachers in the old curriculum while at the same time the educationists themselves do not understand what they are teaching.
As schools re-open for the first time of the year, parents have continued to be seized by the debate around the new curriculum.
A parent, Owen Madondo, was not amused with the heavy costs on parents.
He said: “Buying 17 counter books for a grade three pupil in this difficult economic environment is no joke”.
Rajesh Bharat, another parent, said there was no need for government to change a system that had worked well for the country.
He said: “Why change something that worked well? Zimbabweans are probably the most intelligent people in Africa it’s just the political turmoil that hindered their progress.” DailyNews