30 May 2008

Tanzania: Education System Set for Major Overhaul

The education system is set for a major overhaul following the appointment by the Government of a team of 11 experts to review the existing 13-year-old policy, which, it's generally agreed, is outdated and cannot meet the country's needs.

The deputy minister for Education and Vocational Training, Ms Mwantumu Mahiza, announced in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the group of experts had been chosen to collect views from the public on the kind of education system the country should adopt.

Ms Mahiza said the team would be expected to present its recommendations by December.

A retired Permanent Secretary for Education and Labour, Mr Abubakar Rajab, has been named as the consultant to lead the experts to be drawn from various institutions in the public and private sectors.

Mr Rajab, who was with the minister at the press conference, said: "This is the only way to come up with a system that will be wholly supported by the public, and aim at improving education in the country."

The Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) and the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) immediately welcomed the announcement, saying that the review would offer an opportunity to respond to rising concerns about the quality of graduates from local universities and other institutions of higher learning.

The education system was last reviewed in 1995 following the recommendations of the Makweta Commission of 1984, and a special national commission formed in 1990.

However, academicians argue that in its current form, the system is more than a decade behind the "fast socio-political and economical changes taking place in the 21 century".

The Makweta Presidential Commission recommendations were to last until the year 2000.

Yesterday, TTU president Gratian Mukoba told The Citizen by telephone that there was need to completely overhaul the national education policy, arguing that the current system had proved ineffective.

Mr Nicolas Mwanji, chairman of ATE, while welcoming the review, urged that the changes be implemented quickly to "curb the trend in which the country's development is greatly undermined by poor the quality of its human resource base".

At her press conference, Ms Mahiza said that both the Education and Training Policy of 1995 and the Higher Education and Training Policy of 1996 would be improved to enable the provision of quality education.

"The current system, which many have complained about for quite some time, is guided by these policies. There is need to improve them for the country to cope with technological changes in the world," she said.

The team will comprise education experts, gender activists, human rights representatives, youth, representatives from the vocational training sector and universities.

The deputy minister said the team would begin collecting views from the public before Parliament resumes for the Budget session in Dodoma on June 14.

The Government, she said, had shown commitment to continually improving the education sector by forming the National Education Advisory Council in 2006.

"Almost all issues relating to education sector will be reviewed and the most strenuous ones harmonised. There have always been complaints about the increasing numbers of students compared to the small number of teachers," she said.

With the number of schools up from 1,083 in 2003 to 3,485 in June last year, the ministry was struggling to recruit 5,000 teachers, and recalled 250 retired teachers to cope with the demand in some areas.

But Ms Mahiza said the increasing number of secondary schools in the wards was one of the products of the current policies.

TTU president Mukoba said the poor quality of local university graduates was one of the major sources of concern in the education sector.

"Most of these graduates fail to deliver to the expectation of employers, a clear indication that some thing is amiss within our education system.

"Our government is still sticking to some colonial policies that have since been abandoned by the former colonisers themselves. If anything, many countries have changed their education systems to cope with new developments in the world," he said.

He said a good education system could help fight the rampant corruption in the public sector.

Mr Mwanji said a good education policy would help produce the required manpower.

He said research conducted by ATE in 2000 and in 2004 showed that most graduates performed poorly at work.

He said that unless serious steps were taken, the country would still have to rely expatriates, denying locals opportunities.Since the formulation of the 1995 education training policy, several changes have been made, and sometimes reversed in Cabinet and ministerial circulars, creating more confusion in the sector.

President Kikwete has twice intervened since coming to power to order the inclusion of disciplines such as sports in the primary and secondary curriculums, after decades of neglect.

The President also ordered that social-science subjects that had been dropped by former minister Joseph Mungai be reinstated. Recently, he asked the ministry to review the importance of standard four and form two national examinations, saying they could be responsible for the high dropout rates.

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