It is an established fact that the academic trends have been downgrading in the recent past as published by Botswana Examinations Council. It is also an established fact that the relevance of the education system particularly regarding to what the curriculum is offering as against the needs of the job market is not in conformity.
The results of these realities facing our education system and indeed our beloved country are to a larger extent damming economic liberation of our citizens. Unemployment standing at 17.6% can largely be credited to the realities stated above.
The impact can also be extended to poor work ethics, moral degradation and the lacking in self-regulation. At a national entrepreneurial level, the impact is revealed as we see some failure in well-orchestrated government initiatives geared especially towards economic upliftment of its citizens.
This opinion seeks to critically assess the good intentions that have been articulated with utmost precision to redress the scenario as we face them. It further seeks to provide a more practical approach to the project implementation. May be we first need to understand the full extent of the effects of the current system’s gaps which include but not limited to insufficient job readiness and poor work ethics by secondary school leavers, lack of enthusiasm towards learning which to some extent has some bearing on the diminishing pass rate. Perhaps at this juncture, we have to recognise the acknowledgement of the above stated repercussions by several surveys that have been carried out locally and internationally including our own Sector Strategy 2020. The Strategic Plan has clearly narrated the gaps in the system and went further to give an overview of what could be the umbrella solutions. The two most impactful changes at secondary schools that are to address the critical sector strategic priorities in education at secondary school are Competency Based Education (CBE) and Multiple pathways.
Competency Based Education seeks to improve learner outcomes, improve quality and relevance and focus on life-long learning while multiple pathways will look into strengthening of skills development, improve access and equity and developing new and alternative pathways for education. CBE is a huge project.
Not only does it affect teaching and learning pedagogies, it encroaches into the assessment methods. The new standards would require thorough in-service and pre-service. Three main features ought to be part of our education system in order for us to push the Competency agenda. Our teaching and learning must be learner-centric through introduction of methods such as research and project based learning, well defined outcomes so much that competencies are in alignment to the desired outcomes
Where do we start the implementation?
I strongly believe that embedding ICT in all teaching and learning is the first step. ICT is the foundation upon which all innovations are hinged. To enhance research and collaborative learning in the information age, we will definitely need some basic principles on ICT. This brings me back to advocating for some partial training to teachers on 21st century learning designs. This can be done at school level by teachers within. It does not have to be a full scaled training but an awareness that will equip facilitators with basic skills of using computers, projectors and embedding 21st century skills in our daily learning activities. With time this would be perfected. On the side of the Ministry of Basic Education, it will require some provision of basic equipment such as projectors inserted in every classroom. I subject myself to correction but I assume that this should not take more than three months to cover all senior secondary schools since it would be school-based training.
Implementing pathways should also be gradual. Let us borrow from what used to be Lobatse Secondary School back then when Technical Drawing was their speciality or Madiba when it ran concurrently with a Brigade. That idea can be expanded to other pathways that we deem necessary for equipping learners and nurturing skills. We can continue with comprehensive schools such that all programmes are running and just make emphasis on a number of schools to begin units of such pathways depending on the availability of resources and raw materials. For example, if a school is to be accorded Agriculture pathway, then practising agriculture should be intensified at that very school.
The school should also admit learners who would not have met the requirements to enter senior secondary school on the basis of overall grading but would have shown evidence at junior level of passion and skill for agriculture. The same should happen for sports, music, brickwork and other disciplines as per the dictates of our economy. Working on such a template should give us a better view on how we can implement the good intentions. We will further deliberate on this matter on our next issues.