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Opinion - My recollection of curriculum reform

2023-01-27  Staff Reporter

Opinion - My recollection of curriculum reform

Rihupisa Kandando

It is perhaps important to revisit how education reform, whose product is the current subject matter of discussion, evolved to assist both those with genuine concerns and those inherently-born spectators in the national affairs, whose pre-occupation is to criticise left, right and centre without offering any practical solution to the problem confronting us as a nation state.  

Those who are at the receiving end, justified or not, must be consoled by what chairman Mao Tse-Tung once remarked: “the one who never fails is the one who never tries”. It is more than a decade ago, 11 years to be precise, that after the convocation of the National
Education Conference in June 2011 under the leadership of the late Dr Abraham Iyambo as minister of education and the submission of a report thereof to Cabinet, that the said ministry was directed to issue a public notice to stakeholders to enable them to comment on the Proposal for Basic Education Curriculum Reform. 

The notice was duly issued by the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), and appeared in The Namibian on 13 April 2012. 

I would, therefore, not challenge but rather for the 

lack of better vocabulary extend an open invitation to those who are genuinely concerned with education to consult these rudimentary documents, and on that basis appreciate the rationale for what the proposed education reform envisaged.

I am a carrier of bad news on a point of order in that the discussion on education curriculum reform currently taking place is inconsistent with the agenda item that was put forward in 2012 for deliberation by stakeholders, and to which some of us through institutions that articulate the fundamentals of our people’s aspirations made a contribution. 

The Katjoruu-born honourable Usutuaije Maamberua, and Herta Pomuti, the then director of NIED, are living personalities who may testify to that effect.  

The issues brought forward for discussion were inter alia about the abolition of Grades 10 and 12 examinations, and a replacement with the National Senior Secondary Certificate (Ordinary Level) and National Senior Secondary Certificate (Higher Level); and the desire to have both schools with predominant academic streams and predominant vocational stream.  

The issue of the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level was not on the agenda. We must accept that, unfortunately, because of our unique situation as an antidote to the evils and remnants of apartheid colonialism, we are victims of a situation in which some of us who presided and/or are presiding over
educational matters and with the greatest respect to our dignity, are recipients of solidarity degrees and jobs for comrades only.  As a result, we have limitations on educational matters and, therefore, we must be assisted at all cost.  We must also, as compatriots, men and women, young and old, be reminded that we cannot abrogate and at the same time appropriate and think that we have the exclusive monopoly and copyright of deciding the destiny of other’s children without their participation.  

I have carefully listened on NBC Omurari Radio to some senior highly-respected figures from public institutions during 2021 with dismay, frustration and disillusionment ,who asserted that those grade 11 school-leavers who are products of the newly-implemented curriculum are eligible to admission in regional universities, including South Africa, contrary to the well-known fact that all regional universities use a hybrid system for university admission ,which is a combination of subjects from ordinary level and higher level, or equivalents thereof. 

Despite this assertion, which I consider as being economic with the truth and exercise in the arena of public relations, advanced to justify a system which in all fairness was well
thought-out and which only lacks implementation, such as establishing a vocational stream, and the introduction of vocational subjects in grades four to 12 as per letter and spirit of the proposal. As usual, NBC was not amenable or rather procrastinated to air the other viewpoint, leaving one with no option than to conclude that such action gives concrete expression to a notion that says "a revolution can’t be televised".

As a matter of principle, let me put it on record that there is nothing wrong with the curriculum reform that was implemented. What is wrong is the fact that the nation state was not well-prepared on how to deal with learners with different aptitudes emerging from the new curriculum, some of who may not have academic inclination but rather have the vocational inclination. 

Editor, please forgive your writer, I may confuse your readership: the vocational stream is not only confined to VTCs, but can also be done at the Polytechnic to enable one to be awarded the highest diploma. I don’t subscribe to the notion that 80% of learners who apparently recently ‘failed’ are better for nothing, and should be relegated to the dustbin. The nation state is responsible for this culpable homicide and will only be acquitted by a court of law if, over the next 12 months, my two dearest sisters, namely honourable [Anna] Nghipondoka and [Itah] Kandjii-Murangi, reconsider introducing Polytechnic and technical colleges in abundance to absorb these learners per their aptitude. The reintroduction of these institutions is to diffuse the perception that if one has not obtained 25 points in grade 11 to be admitted to universities, then one is a failure. In other jurisdictions such as Germany, there are fach-schule, fach-hochschule and universiteit, which are the equivalent of vocational centres, polytechnic (technicon) and universities.  The rationale for establishing such entities is to cater for different aptitudes, and awarding certificates, diplomas and degrees. It is also my humble, sincere and honest view that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and Namibia Training Authority (NTA) revisit strict compliance of those institutions to award only certificates, diplomas and degrees. The issue of articulation between programmes of vocational centres, Polytehnic and universities has been a thorn in the flesh of many, and needs redress.

Dr Rihupisa Kandando, a clinical biochemist by profession, teaches at the School of Medicine, UNAM. He is a recipient of certificates, diplomas and several degrees from Germany and the UK.

2023-01-27  Staff Reporter

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