Demystifying the upgraded curriculum

While most articles in the Press are clearly justifying the need for curriculum reform, little is being said about the way these reforms are being implemented in schools. These reforms emanate from the Nziramasanga Commission and the need to conform to global standards.

Guest Column: Martin Tinashe Njagu

Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora

Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora

A closer look at the education policy objectives in the Education Act of 1987 and the amendments to the Education Act of 2006, clearly justifies the stance taken towards the upgraded curriculum. Yes, policymakers are doing the right thing, but why is there so much controversy upon implementing the much-needed reforms?

One school in Zvishavane took Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora to the Constitutional Court over the new curriculum. Is it that the responsible ministry is busy doing the right thing in a wrong way? Are parents reluctant to change? Is it that parents were left out in the consultation process prior to implementation? In short, the way the new curriculum is being implemented has raised more questions than answers on the part of parents and facilitators.

I attended two school parent assemblies (annual general meetings), one high school and one primary, where both head teachers took the opportunity to unveil the upgraded curriculum. Below are the major highlights, as presented:

  • Parents were encouraged to provide laptops to their learners for e-learning
  • Teachers are now called facilitators and subjects are now called study areas
  • Agriculture is now compulsory to all classes
  • Science subjects are now stematised
  • Introduction of new study areas in entrepreneurship, mass displays, physical education and heritage studies
  • Fashion and fabrics is now called textile technology and design, building studies is now called building technology and design
  • The first dose of the upgraded curriculum was administered to ECD, Grade 1, 2 and 3, Form 1, 3 and 5
  • Introduction of coursework, where it contributes 30% to the final exam mark
  • It is now mandatory for schools to provide lunch for learners

I also got the opportunity to take a look at a scheme book for mass displays. Trust me, it means more paperwork and preparation for the facilitators.

The upgraded curriculum really needed someone to explain it in simple terms so that parents can embrace it. Nziramasanga, being a scholar and researcher, took almost a year gathering data, with that data, for instance, drawn from 30% of the population.

On the other hand, Dokora, being the policymaker, with only 5% data, can make decisions within a short period of time. In one article, Dokora is quoted saying that he is just following up on the Nziramasanga Commission when he was supposed to demystify the reformed curriculum.

Well, the outgoing curriculum trained students to take instruction, pass and look for a job. Now those jobs are scarce there is need to change reasons for going to school. The upgraded curriculum caters for learners’ varying aptitudes, interests and abilities.

Students need to learn to start their own businesses. In this current situation, graduates are failing to secure employment, while technicals and vocationals are enjoying, for example, builders, carpenters, welders and apprentice trades.

The only reason for the slow uptake of the reformed curriculum by parents is the high financial implications. Parents tend to ask themselves how much they will need to fork out on top of school fees.

Each secondary school textbook costs at least $25 despite that they are not readily available on the market. They need to buy at least three textbooks for new subject areas. A laptop costs around $250. This means more spending on education when the general trend shows parents are struggling to pay school fees.

Let me conclude with possible alternatives for implementing the new curriculum.

  • Instead of laptops for learners, schools could expand their computer labs to enhance ICT and computer education. Inferiority complex arises in those who cannot afford laptops.
  • Schools should invest in devices that can educate children. White boards and projectors should be used in the classroom. It means facilitators should own laptops. If such devices are provided in the teaching and learning process, facilitators, who are best in certain topics, can be recorded and played to learners in different schools. In this way technology can be viewed as a pro-poor intervention.
  • As a strategy to improve retention in schools, the government should subsidise textbooks. Schools should assume responsibility for providing textbooks. This can be done without hiking fees. If a particular project levied on the fees structure is completed, schools may not review down the fees, rather channel the same allocation to fund books.
  • The ministry should draft pacesetters for use by facilitators. This will reduce paperwork for facilitators, thus giving ample time to lesson delivery.

Martin Tinashe Njagu is a policy analyst in education and agriculture. He has written in his own capacity. Email: tinashenjagu28@gmail.com for feedback