Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
THE teaching of Mathematics and Science in local languages will only be confined to infant classes, while junior grades going up will be taught the subjects in English language, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has clarified.
Infant level starts from ECD (A) up to Grade Two while junior level starts from Grade Three up to Grade Seven. In a wide ranging interview on issues surrounding the implementation of the new education curriculum which was introduced at the beginning of the year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango said under the new education framework, the medium of instruction at infant level was the mother tongue.
She said this was meant to allow learners to quickly grasp concepts which will be delivered in a language that they are familiar with. Her remarks follow widespread criticism of feasibility of teaching Mathematics concepts in IsiNdebele and ChiShona among other local languages. Dr Utete-Masango said some of the criticism of the new curriculum was based on misinformation, urging stakeholders to consult with the ministry first should they need clarification.
“It is empirically proven that for one to learn other languages you must have good grounding of your own “mother tongue.”
Remember Infant is ECD to Grade 2 and concepts are better learnt when taught in the language that the learner is familiar with. Thus, at this formative age emphasis should be on inculcating the basic concepts through play in line with the learning areas,” she said. Dr Utete-Masango added that having the mother tongue as the medium of instruction at infant level was also in keeping with the new curriculum’s thrust on making learners cherish their Zimbabwean identity and value their heritage.
“Notwithstanding this, the new curriculum, among others, aims at motivating learners to cherish their Zimbabwean identity and value their heritage, history and cultural traditions and preparing them for participatory citizenship,” she said.
In recent weeks some religious groups have been claiming that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had scrapped the teaching of Religious Studies in schools, particularly christianity.
Dr Utete-Masango said, instead, the area of religious studies had been further expanded under the new framework.
“Nothing has really changed from the old syllabus. Under the new curriculum this area has been enhanced to include ‘Family, Religion and Moral Education’ so nothing has been banned. Stakeholders should actually celebrate because the new areas will help mold the Zimbabwean that we all yearn for,” she said.
Speaking on the teaching of foreign languages which has also come in for some serious criticism, Dr Utete-Masango said the subjects were not compulsory.
“Please note that foreign languages are introduced from Junior Level (that is, from Grade 3 up). English and any other foreign languages whether it be French, Germany, Swahili, Portuguese, are at the school’s disposal,” she said.
Dr Utete Masango said the outcry over the new curriculum from some quarters sounded as if almost all the children were affected at one ago. Instead, added Dr Utete-Masango only three grades at primary level and three at secondary level were implementing the new curriculum while the other grades were still learning from the old curriculum. She said at infant level, the curriculum has been introduced at ECD-A and Grade One.
“Thus, ECD-B and Grade Two will continue with the old curriculum. At junior level, the curriculum has been introduced at Grade Three. Thus, Grades Four, Five, Six and Seven continue with the old curriculum. At secondary level, the curriculum has been introduced at Forms One, Three and Five. Thus, Forms Two, Four and Six continue on the old curriculum.”
Dr Masango-Utete also defended the increase in the teaching of Mass Displays, Visual and Performing Arts and Physical Education which has also come under scrutiny from parents.
“Most parents pay huge sums of money for their kids to get private tutorship in ballet, karate, piano lessons and so forth. How do we hope to get more (Dominic) Benhuras (sculptor) from the young? Talk of filming, dance, photography, pottery and so forth — these are some of the learning areas enshrined in the new curriculum taking cognisance of children’s talents.
Remember Kirsty Coventry learnt to swim as a toddler, the Blacks (Byron, Wayne, Cara) did the same in tennis so why can’t we emulate that.”
On the overall implementation of the new curriculum, she said it was going on well with teams from the ministry monitoring the implementation of the new framework. She said the Government would continue training teachers on the new curriculum as well as provide budgetary support to schools for the implementation of the framework.