This opinion is greatly influenced by an article written in the Weekend Post issue of September 30, 2017, signalling the latest Global Competitiveness Report (2017-2018). This is a report emanating from direct engagements of Executive opinions Survey at the World Economic Forum.
The Global Competitiveness Index tracks the performance of close to 140 countries on the 12 pillars of competitiveness. It assesses the factors and institutions identified by empirical and theoretical research as determining improvements in productivity which in turn is the main determinant of long-term growth and an essential factor in economic growth and prosperity.
According to the report, the top six challenges and barriers to economic growth in Botswana are Poor Work Ethics, Access to Financing, corruption, Restrictive Labour Regulations, Inefficient Government Bureaucracy and Inadequately/trained workforce. As an educationist, my submissions will zero on two factors which are Poor Work Ethics and Inadequately trained workforce. This is because my work as a teacher has direct implications in that regard and therefore my actions or inactions thereof has some bearing onto how these factors are pegged by the Global Competitiveness Index.
Poor Work Ethics
This is a factor that is said to be the most haunting among all barriers to doing business in Botswana with a score of 19.0 out of 20. The trend has been like this in previous reports if not for the fact that numbers have jumped from 16.00 out of 20 for the worse. Such a reality contradicts efforts to lure potential investors to set up in Botswana. The attitude towards work by the national labour force is found wanting by the report, resulting in low productivity levels. Appreciating this setback, the Ministry of Basic Education, mandated with producing a knowledgeable, skilled and competent labour force has devised a Sector Strategic Plan 2020. In it are skills blended purposely for enhancing the 21st century work related attitudes. Ways of thinking and learning attitudes, ways of working attitudes and tools for working (National Curriculum & Assessment Framework, June 2017, Page 28-29) are just some of the many skills embedded in the strategy to be emphasised. With these added to the curriculum, the hope is that the education system will produce products with high creativity and innovation skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving and decision-making skills not to mention adequate use of information technologies. This will help shape
Pegged at position six with a score of 8.7 out of 20 is the issue of training within the labour force. I must hasten though to point out that this factor featured as third in the last report scoring a whooping 10.4 out of 20. It is therefore safe to say that the Ministry and departments mandated to educating and training Botswana workforce are heeding this call. The introduction of the Nation Credit and Qualification Framework by Botswana Qualification Authority, initiatives geared towards balancing qualifications to the requirements by the Job Market through Human Resource Development Council and the opening of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology are just some of the many positives helping in improving the country’s image under this sub heading.
In light of all the positives made, there is still room for improvements. Through the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan, (ETSSP), the Ministry of Basic Education is introducing pathways at Senior Secondary Schools. This is meant to tap on the learner’s interest and abilities, ensuring that all citizens have a role to play in the economic development of Botswana. The pathways which are Technical, Professional and Academics are a deliberate measure to further bridge the gap between the needs of the market and what the graduates have been taught. Hence the plan is meant to streamline what we offer from primary schools to tertiary institutions.
I want to summarise by saying that as a country, Botswana is doing well generally. Even though she could be doing much better, measures are being taken purposely to eliminate the current hiccups. Multiple pathways at Senior Secondary Schools will produce readymade graduates and the skills embedded within the curriculum will ensure a positive attitude towards work. The Education Sector Strategy 2010 will definitely improve the ratings in the long run.
*Ignatious Njobvu is a Performance Improvement Coordinator at Maun Senior Secondary School & OBE Task Team Four Core Member.