Professor Paul Mavima

Professor Paul Mavima

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The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education last week completed the draft curriculum on education that is going to see the restructuring of the primary and secondary school syllabi. The Ministry says it has taken into context the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Education and Training (CIET) 1999, which proposed the reviewing of the obtaining curriculum.

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Our reporter Edwin Mwase (EM) caught up with the Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Honourable Professor Paul Mavima (PM), to get an insight into the new draft education curriculum.

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EM: Honourable, according to the new curriculum, the grading and subsequent certification of the student will now be based on continuous assessment of the progress made during the scholarly years, how then will the continuous assessment process be implemented, in view of student transfers?

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PM: It is going to be almost the same, as what is happening now, because when a student transfers from one school to another, that school has a record of the student’s performance through the school reports system. You will find out that every student has a report book right now.

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But what we are hoping to do is to come up with a new student profile that follows the student from Early Childhood Development (ECD), all the way to Advanced Level. Throughout the educational career of the student, we will be profiling the student, indicating the performance of the student at every level, so I do not think we will have much of a problem, as we almost had a precursor to that through the reporting system.

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No school will ever take in a student without seeing their school reports, and we are happy that almost all of our schools now have reports for students, which are almost like their profiles.

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EM: In the draft curriculum, it is mentioned that there shall be a compulsory life skills orientation programme for five months, can you explain the scope and the capacity?

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PM: This programme says an individual would not have completed Ordinary Level until he or she completes the life skills orientation programme. Basically, it is going to prepare our students for going into the world, because what happens is that after completing O-Levels, some students go into colleges, others go into vocational training, but others are actually ready to go and work. So we feel that gives us the opportune moment to orient students about what to expect outside the school environment.

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This orientation programme is going to take a variety of approaches, but there is one element which is going to be common for all other approaches, vis-a-viz the inculcation of ethos which value and constantly reminds our students about our national heritage, our history, the values that underpin our culture and our education system.

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That process will be taking place at schools, where we are going to send trainers, who are going to give students an appropriate orientation, but as part of the orientation, we again want students to be exposed to the real world of work, like for example, students will be expected to do voluntary work at schools, hospitals, commercial undertakings or in the armed forces, just for them to see what’s really goes on in the world of work . . .

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EM: Hon, is that programme not similar to the National Youth Service?

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PM: No, no, no, the programme is not like the National Youth Service, the NYS had its own specific programme that was used, but this is going to develop its own modules that would be used solely for that specific purpose to orient students.

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We are going to have a team of technical experts who are going to work with us, in order for us to develop the programme in detail, but the idea is to have all our O-Level graduates go through this capstone, that is to say, let them be exposed to what really it is like at the workplace.

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EM: So, doesn’t that translate into an interference with the school calendars?

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PM: That is where the technical team and experts will come in and work out the details, but in general O-Level exams typically end in November, so from the time the O-Level students finish their exams, if you add five months of the orientation skills programme, it means that A-Level classes would now be commencing in the second term.

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However, we have always had problems with Lower Sixth entrance when they come in for the last weeks of the first term before the April holidays, so basically, we are not going to be affected much but there are going to be technical people who are going to be working on this life skills schedule.

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EM: How much in terms of resource mobilisation have you set aside for this life skills orientation programme?

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PM: We want to do it with as little additional resources as possible, remember we are saying their (students) initial training will probably take place within their own schools when exams are finished.

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Probably, we are going to take a week or two to give them a general orientation, where we will be talking about our national heritage and our history, and we feel that this can be done without many resources.

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Again, when the children go out into various workplaces, employers are not obligated to pay them, but simply provide them with the requisite workplace experience.

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We are going to have assessment procedures clearly outlined and given to the would-be supervisors, so that they can complete these assessments and bring back the results to us, and that is going to form part of the O-Level certification process.

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EM: The issue of the introduction of foreign languages for Form 1 to Form 4 is extensively mentioned in the proposed new syllabi, can you explain the rationale behind their entrance into the new curriculum?

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PM: We are now living in a global village, and we want our students not to be parochial, but to realise that we are part of the global village and, therefore, we are giving the students an opportunity to learn at least one foreign language and we are saying this could be French, Spanish, Portuguese or Swahili, but what we want is to develop the syllabus for these foreign languages so that our students have competence for at least one foreign language by the time they complete their O-Levels.

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EM: Hon, if I may interject, that again brings us back to the issue of resource mobilisation, where currently, Government is currently facing cash flow challenges to extensively roll out this enormous programme, where will the funds to bankroll this initiative come from?

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PM: If we keep ourselves in the confines of limited resource realm, then we are not going to move our curriculum at all. Imagine, we need now to really think in terms of strengthening the vocational training programmes, we need workshops and teachers, so we really as a nation have to make a decision as to whether we want to move forward, and, therefore, once a decision has been made to move forward, we have to roll up our sleeves and find the resources to make this curriculum review implementation a reality.

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Remember, we had the Nziramasanga Commission of Inquiry on Education and Training in 1999, and we had to wait for 15 years to implement its findings. At the same time, the industries are crying out that the education system is giving them graduates who are still raw and not yet ready to go out and help the industries, so we have come to a point where we are saying, we need to move ahead with the curriculum review and at the same time we are giving ourselves responsibilities to aggressively go out and try to mobilise the resources that are needed to implement this.

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However, it must be noted that this country is not going to remain in this obtaining economic climate forever. In fact, the education system is one of the factors that is going to stimulate economic growth in the country and we hope that we will be able to do this through this curriculum we have put in place.

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EM: Again, the draft mentions that there will be a review of the new curriculum after seven years, what informs the seven-year period?

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PM: Typically, plans take at least five to 10 years and within the frame of the new curriculum, a major review is indeed required. Anything up to 10 years would have been more prudent and we thought five years was going to be too short a period, considering that there are a lot of changes that take place, technologically, socially, economically and politically, thus we said we will make a major review of our curriculum after seven years to see areas which need improvements.

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We are not saying at seven years we start a review, but we want to say, as we implement, we are going to be taking information on how things are working and using that information to continuously review the curriculum, but at seven years, we really have to stop and say, what needs to change now given that we have gone the targeted years.

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EM: Finally, Hon Deputy Minister, can you give clarity to the issue of the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe Junior Certificate Examinations?

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PM: There is no clarity needed there, we are not going to have an exam at Form 2. The draft does not say anything about Form 2 exams, no re-introduction of Form 2 exams. We are going to have exams at Grade 7 still, exams at O-Level and then exams at A-Level, period.

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