UB dean calls for Institute of Education

Professor Tabulwa
Professor Tabulwa

Access to education is without a doubt one of the contentious global issues of this century. Of utmost significance is quality, and this has led to debate on the two-tiered education system that most countries have adopted.

Under this arrangement, private providers are synonymous with quality, while public education is mostly identified with low standards.

An announcement by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron last week that he was sending his daughter Nancy to a state school, attracted much media attention. 

The UK media acclaimed him for being, ‘the first serving PM in history to send his daughter to a state school after securing a place at the Grey Coat Hospital academy.’

 Writing for the Daily Express, Hellen Barratt described the move as a “message of confidence ahead of the general election...”

Cameron is reported to have lately spoken in support of the expansion of grammar school and independent state schools.

The Prime Minister is not a loner in this transformation. In fact, the education secretary Michael Gove took the initial steps last year when his daughter Beatrice took up a place at the same London school, according to the UK Guardian. 

Here at home, concerns over the declining quality of public education have dominated headlines. Amidst the poor 2014 national examinations results, stakeholders have called for reforms and an overhaul of the system.

Education unionist, Tidimatso Maeletso has called on policy makers to give the citizenry assurance on the quality of public education through enrolling their children in the system. “We need to see their faith in the system, especially now with concerns over the teaching and learning environment,” he said.

Maeletso is the Botswana Teachers’ Union (BTU) publicity secretary.  He said the rate at which legislators and other policy planners were sending their children to private schools was high.

“Policy makers don’t have their children in public schools in numbers like used to be the case in the past years.

They are not available in government schools, and in recent years, the trend is such that they (children) are being sent to local and external private schools en mass,” he said.

The educationist said this was the relevant time for policymakers to show confidence in the system. He is of the view that if the education system was not two tiered; policy makers would give greater attention to issues in public education. “Issues such as lack of infrastructure in our schools, shortage of text books as well as overflowing classrooms would be prioritised,” he said. He added that the school environment was no longer safe as indiscipline reigned supreme. Maeletso added that if these problems were neglected, the nation would be headed for disaster.

“The situation in our schools is severe. What is reported in the mainstream media is not even reflective of what is transpiring on the ground,” he said.

University of Botswana (UB) academic Professor Richard Tabulawa said it was okay for legislatures and other policy makers to send their children to government schools, if the public had faith in the system. He said they did not have much faith in the public education system.

Tabulwa further said the expectation that legislators send their children to government schools must be backed against the right of choice. “Everyone has a choice regarding the type of education they want for their children,” he said.

Tabulawa added that the nation needed to face reality and uncover the ‘black box’ that public education has become.

“We don’t know what is going on. The problem is that we seem to understand the problem yet we don’t know what it really   is,” he said.

The dean of the UB’s Faculty of Education posited that the classroom was failing to translate educational inputs into outputs. He also said problems of this nature required qualified personnel to undertake research inorder to inform appropriate redress. “There is need to establish an institute of education mandated to engage in research whenever there are burning issues in this sector,” he said.

Although Tabulwa said UB was underutilised in this aspect, he was quick to point out that some academics do not avail themselves to carry on national assignments of this nature.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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