A lack of forward planning and an inability to implement the new high school curriculum by the ministry of education are the factors underlining the chaos that engulfed schools and learners at the start of the 2020 school year. If one considers that this brainchild of former Minister of education Dr David Namwandi was already introduced into our schools in 2015 (upper primary phase).
It is inexplicable why the ministry decided to abruptly terminate the old curriculum at the end of 2018, leaving thousands of grade 10 learners to fail their grade and then find themselves in limbo with literally no choices when it came to getting to grade 12.
The ministry of education has reacted, predictably, in panic when confronted with outrage from parents and learners when the latter were informed that those who improved their grade 10 results (old curriculum) on part-time basis could return to full-time schooling to continue with grade 11.
Should these learners redo grade 10 (new curriculum), which they could have done last year had they been informed of what was transpiring?
This astounding and weak-kneed U-turn by the ministry of education in the above regard betrays an absence of planning and foresight. This action raises its own set of questions and problems, with the learners being the major losers in this situation.
These learners, who couldn’t pass grade 10 (old curriculum) the first time, will now be expected to pass grade 11 (new curriculum), and even achieve a C-grade in four subjects at ordinary level if they want to do grade 12. How schools are expected to help them bridge the quite considerable gaps in their subject knowledge remains a mystery. Then there is the vague language with which the Deputy Minister, Anna Nghipondoka, and the Executive Director, Sanet Steenkamp, are hedging their bets: “We HOPE to spend some of our budget on building new classrooms”; “Grade 10 learners can return to school IF there is place for them” – what does this mean? 50 learners in a class? Who will decide and on what basis?; “Grade 10 learners can return IF they achieved 23 points”, and about learners who do not meet the required performance targets for their grades “they will be told to repeat” their grade.
Why has this directive, which has been in place for many years, not been enforced as a matter of course in all government schools? If learners must pass English and achieve an overall average of 40% at the end of every school year (the performance targets referred to above) then every school should surely be enforcing these requirements? Is it any wonder that the pass rate is as low as it is when the learners are finally confronted with a standardised public examination? Perhaps the Ministry would like to explain to the Namibian people how such a blatant disregard of standards throughout a learner’s school career will equip him or her with the necessary skills and knowledge required for tertiary education? It is bad enough that symbols have no fixed value anymore!
I challenges the ministry of education to explain why it has not delivered on all the promises it made to parents and teachers when it introduced this new curriculum in 2015.
It is common knowledge that many teachers require training to cope with subject teaching in the new curriculum. It is clear from a study of the content of the subject syllabi of the new curriculum that the work formerly done in grade 11 (old curriculum) has been moved into the grade 10 syllabi (new curriculum) and the grade 12 work (old curriculum) into the grade 11 (new curriculum) syllabi.
This was a fairly easy change to make; however, what cannot be changed so easily is the mental maturity of the learners and the subject knowledge and understanding of the teachers. When 50 learners fail the new grade 10 at a highly functioning school like Windhoek High School, the PDM can only wonder what the pass rate was at other schools without the same advantages. The Ministry should enlighten the nation so that we know what to expect at the end of 2020
To underline the poor planning within the Ministry of Education: Steenkamp says they ‘HOPE” to appoint more teachers this year – a total of 404 teachers are needed – yet the school year started on 15 January 2020. Does this mean that learners are beginning the year without hundreds of teachers? Did the ministry only now discover that more teachers are needed?
The ministry of education has been unable or unwilling to explain, in simple terms, how leaving school after grade 11 will benefit the Namibian child. Therefore, I believes that the real reason behind the introduction of the new curriculum is to get as many learners off the school benches and onto the streets as quickly as possible so that they are no longer the government’s responsibility!
*Nico Smit is a Member of Parliament on a PDM ticket and also the party’s treasurer general