Curriculum review: Shaping a progressive education system

21 May, 2023 - 00:05 0 Views
Curriculum review: Shaping a progressive education system Mr Jobert Ngwenya

The Sunday News

Jobert Ngwenya

With the ongoing curriculum review in Zimbabwe, it is an opportune time to reflect on the existing system and propose reforms that align with the changing needs of the country and the future of work in general. 

In recent weeks, I have made several suggestions regarding continuous assessments, prioritising teachers, enhancing parental involvement in secondary schools, and rethinking the Advanced Level studies.

This article aims to highlight critical reforms essential for the development of a progressive education system, with a particular focus on the secondary level. While some views expressed here are general, others are specific to secondary education. Certain issues have been previously addressed here, and I intend to delve further into new insights hopefully in the coming weeks.

One of the key aspects to consider in the curriculum reform is adopting a holistic education approach. It is crucial to shift from a solely academic-oriented approach to a more comprehensive education system in word and in deed. This entails integrating vital life skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and emotional intelligence into the curriculum. Despite being termed a competence-based curriculum, the current system remains overly focused on exams and excessive content. Consequently, a large number of Ordinary Level graduates (at least based on Zimsec results over the past decade) are marginalised.

To address this, it is imperative to recognise the importance of vocational and technical education. Collaboration between the government, tertiary institutions, industry experts, and other stakeholders is necessary to develop a comprehensive vocational training framework. This reform will provide alternative pathways for learners who possess practical skills and interests, empowering them with marketable skills, reducing unemployment rates, and promoting economic growth.

In the context of Ordinary Level studies, it is essential to reconsider the role and weightage of examinations. While assessments are important for evaluating learners’ understanding, heavy reliance on high-stakes exams can have unintended consequences on learning outcomes. Instead, a shift towards a more balanced and comprehensive assessment approach should be considered. 

This may involve reducing the emphasis on examinations and incorporating a refined range of alternative assessment methods, such as project work, practical demonstrations, presentations, and portfolios. By adopting such an approach, learners will have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and understanding in a more holistic manner. This fosters critical thinking, creativity, and the practical application of knowledge, which are crucial for their overall development and future success. It is important to note that implementing learner-centred assessment (CALA) requires a reasonable summative assessment regime, not the current one.

While celebrating our post-independence educational achievements, it is necessary to acknowledge a historical downside: an emphasis on knowledge acquisition without application. Taking inspiration from the concept of “less is more” and “learning to learn,” we can focus more on depth rather than breadth.

By streamlining the curriculum and reducing content overload, educators can create space for meaningful learning experiences that foster deep understanding and critical thinking skills. This approach calls for teachers to move away from a traditional information delivery model and adopt a facilitative role, guiding learners in actively constructing knowledge through inquiry-based and problem-solving activities.

By emphasising the process of learning rather than the mere acquisition of facts, our education system should nurture curiosity, resilience, and a lifelong love for learning.

Another crucial reform is to reduce the number of compulsory subjects, integrate certain subjects, and introduce module learning of cross-cutting themes. By streamlining the curriculum, learners can have a more focused and meaningful learning experience. 

Reducing the number of compulsory subjects allows for a deeper exploration of core concepts, laying a stronger foundation of knowledge and skills. Integration of subjects promotes interdisciplinary connections, enabling learners to see the interconnectedness of different disciplines and apply their learning in real-world contexts.

Module-based learning provides flexibility in curriculum design, allowing for personalised learning paths that cater to individual interests and strengths. Such reforms promote a holistic and integrated approach to education, promoting deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem solving.

To encourage innovation and meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global economy, the curriculum should also place greater emphasis on STEAM education. Strengthening science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics subjects will equip learners with the necessary skills to thrive in the digital age. The application of STEAM concepts can be practical, involving hands-on projects and experiments to enhance learners’ problem-solving abilities. 

Additionally, it is essential to incorporate entrepreneurship education (STEAM), nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset among learners and addressing high unemployment rates in the long run. Exposing learners to real-life business scenarios, financial literacy, innovation principles, and creativity equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to start their own businesses, create employment opportunities, and contribute to the country’s economic development.

The success of our education system heavily relies on our teachers, who deserve proper training, respect, trust, and adequate support. Teacher training plays a crucial role in enabling holistic education outcomes that prioritise learner-centred, individualised, and adaptive teaching and learning processes. Redesigning pre-service programs to align with new educational goals equips prospective teachers with innovative methodologies, assessment strategies, and technology integration skills.

Continuous professional development and in-service training supports teachers’ growth and adaptability. Workshops, seminars, and mentorship programs focused on formative assessment empower teachers to monitor student progress and provide timely feedback. Respecting and trusting teachers, providing them with sufficient teaching resources, and ensuring fair remuneration are vital considerations for a well-functioning education system.

While drawing insights from successful global educational systems, caution must be exercised when considering their direct adoption in Zimbabwe. Various imported ideas without proper adaptation to our culture and values have failed to have a positive impact on our education system. However, in an increasingly interconnected world, it is equally crucial to cultivate a sense of global citizenship. Integrating global citizenship education into the curriculum exposes learners to diverse perspectives, promotes intercultural understanding, and nurtures the skills and attitudes necessary to navigate the complexities of a globalised world.

In conclusion, the ongoing curriculum review in Zimbabwe presents an opportunity to shape a progressive education system that meets the evolving needs of our country, the future of work and indeed quality education by 2030. By embracing holistic education, re-evaluating the role of examinations, prioritising depth over breadth, streamlining the curriculum, emphasising STEAM and entrepreneurship education, supporting and respecting teachers, and cultivating global citizenship, we can lay the foundation for an inclusive and forward-thinking education system that equips learners with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century. 

The journey towards educational transformation requires collaboration among policymakers, educators, parents, and all stakeholders in the education sector. Let us seize this moment to create a brighter future for our learners and indeed this our great nation.

Jobert Ngwenya is an award winning educator, Fulbright TEA Fellow, National Geographic Education Grantee, author, and academic audio content creator. He holds a Master of Arts in Development Studies (MSU) Bachelor of Arts (UZ) and Post Graduate Diploma in Education (ZOU). He can be contacted by email on [email protected].

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