7 February 2012

Namibia: Towards Educational Excellence

The Curriculum for General Education in Namibia is organized on the principles of diversity, choice and comprehensiveness. Diversity addresses different learner aptitudes, intellectual capacities and attitudes.

In this regard, the General Education Curriculum offers a range of subjects with the view to capture the learning capabilities and needs of different learners.

The range of subjects also offers learners choice of fields of study.

The first ten years of schooling, that is Grades 1- 10, are aimed at providing a solid foundation for further learning and offering skills to learners to be able to function in a democratic society.

The scope and sequence of the General Education Curriculum capture also the cultural needs of the learners. It is for this reason that a variety of national languages are being taught.

A Namibian citizen is also part of the global community. In this regard, a number of foreign languages are offered as electives.

The Senior Secondary Curriculum is supposed to be organized in fields of study. These include the Social Sciences; the Physical Sciences; the Symbolic fields (languages and Mathematics); and the Psycho-Motor fields, that is, Sports and Arts.

Due to the scarcity of qualified teachers schools find it difficult to organize teaching and learning along fields of study.

Similarly, the National Examination System is organized in a similar fashion like the General Education Curriculum. The Junior Secondary General Examination attempts to capture the different aptitudes and intellectual capabilities of learners. It is for this reason that performance and achievement is measured on the continuum ranging from "A plus" to "Ungraded". In many ways the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination is a sorting mechanism.

Those who perform between "A plus" and "C" symbols are the ones who are expected to proceed to Grade 11. Those who perform below the "C" symbol were expected to follow a Vocational and Skills Development Stream.

Since schools are not equitably resourced, the Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) was established to give a second chance to learners of high intellectual aptitude who might not have had equal learning opportunities in the formal system.

The imbalance we are experiencing in the Educational System is because the rationale on which the system was constructed was not fully implemented.

The Vocational and the Skills Development leg were neglected. NAMCOL assumed the function of accommodating those who could not be absorbed in the Vocational and Training System. With the establishment of the National Training Authority (NTA) the Vocational and Training System should now expand to offer training opportunities to those young people who are not academically orientated.

Scaling up Educational Excellence

The Senior Secondary Education Level was designed to scale up academic excellence in our country. It is for this reason that the National Senior Secondary Certificate Examination is offered at two levels, ordinary and higher levels.

The Ordinary Level follows a standard curriculum. The Higher Level provides an Extended Curriculum. The expectation was that the top quartile of learners in Senior Secondary stream was to take the Higher NSSC.

However, few schools are offering a full range of learning opportunities at the Extended Senior Secondary Curriculum. Most of the rural Regions are only offering the Extended Curriculum in National Languages found in those Regions.

Out of more than 40, 000 candidates who sat for NSSC Examination only some 15393 took subjects at Higher Level. A cursory look at the results of Higher NSSC Examination Region by Region gives the following picture: In Karas Region there are five Senior Secondary Schools offering Higher NSSC. A total of 320 learners sat for Higher NSSC. Fourty-nine (49) of the learners were ungraded. The picture of other Regions is illustrated in the table below:

Region HNSSC Schools No. Candidates Ungraded

Khomas 22 4723 263:5%

Omusati 19 2878 46:0.9%

Hardap 4 151 8:5%

Oshana 7 2318 39:1,6%

Omaheke 2 121 6:5%

Oshikoto 10 918 22: 2,4%

Erongo 12 744 11:1.5%

Kavango 9 1154 25:2.2%

Otjozondjupa 6 371 31:8,3%

Caprivi 3 407 22:5,4%

Kunene 1 141 19:13.5%

Ohangwena 7 1334 4: 0,3%

Total 96 15260 498: 3,3%

The table above demonstrates that Regions with high concentration of urban areas provide opportunities for Senior Secondary Schools to offer HNSSC.

This probably means that regions with urban centres attract highly-qualified teachers. This suggests that rural incentives, should be targeted to attract teacher talent. Rural Regions such as Omusati, which show many Senior Secondary Schools offering HNSSC, are mostly offering Oshindonga and Oshikwanyama at that level.

The second constraint as to why the Education System has failed to scale up educational excellence through the provision of HNSSC in all Secondary Schools is the fact that the University of Namibia has failed the nation for not producing a sufficient number of teacher graduates especially in key subjects such as English, Mathematics, Biology, Physical Science, History, Geography and ICT.

Recently UNAM has opted to follow a misguided policy of producing teachers for Grade 1 at Bachelor Level. This is a waste of resources. One does not need such a high qualification to teach the 3Rs.

The UNAM Faculty of Education was supposed to concentrate on producing a sufficient number of teachers for Senior Secondary Level.

The Colleges of Education should continue to produce teachers of Basic Education at Certificate and Diploma Levels.

The improvement of rural schools at Junior Secondary Certificate Level demonstrates that the Teacher Training Colleges, through the Programme of Basic Education Teacher Diploma, are doing a good job. The misguided policy of producing Grade 1 teachers a BA level is detracting UNAM from producing teachers for Senior Secondary Level.

Such a policy needs to be revisited.

The Way Forward

The promotion of educational excellence requires both an epistemological and pedagogical strategies. Epistemology dictates that knowledge and values in the Curriculum should be organized in a logical order taking into consideration the needs of society and the interest of a variety of learners.

The ill-informed demand from certain quarters that the Curriculum should be reviewed in order to minimalize it should be rejected. The Basic Education Curriculum should be broad and comprehensive in order to form a solid basis for further intellectual development, psycho-motor development and informed citizenship.

The current Curriculum Scope was designed for this purpose. It was unfortunate that the pre-vocational skills subject was removed from schools. This action denied the practical oriented learners opportunities to develop their potentialities in accordance with their aptitudes and needs. Equally, the current random selection by learners of subjects of study at Senior Secondary Level deprives the learners the opportunity to study subjects within a field of choice. It is essential therefore that the Senior Secondary Curriculum should be implemented in accordance with organization provided in the Broad Curriculum Guide of 1992.

The Broad Curriculum Guide was designed on the basis of solid epistemological considerations. The Broad Curriculum Guide provides a strategic framework for Senior Secondary School Curriculum implementation.

The second area that requires strategic consideration is pedagogy.

The School Curriculum was developed to reflect the ethos of a democratic society. Democracy implies participation by citizens in decisions affecting their lives. In terms of teaching and learning the learner is expected to be at the centre of the learning process.

The learner must participate. Participatory learning should inform pedagogy. In this regard, a learner-centred pedagogy was adopted for Namibian teachers.

Learner-centred teaching is promoted through activities such as project work, teamwork, discovery learning, debates, modeling and problem solving. The goal is to promote learning with understanding as opposed to rote learning.

In terms of teacher training the school-based studies are key to understanding the school social dynamics, including the hidden curriculum.

At a classroom level management of the process of teaching and learning is central to educational outcome. In particular, time management is key to learning. Teachers are expected to manage time in such a way that all the time is spent on learning tasks.

Time on task is key to effective pedagogy. Teachers who produce excellent results go an extra mile to spend more time with learners. They supervise homework sessions. They reserve time to allow individual learners to consult them. A teacher is expected to work forty hours a week.

Teachers' time should be divided into lesson preparation, face-to-face teaching, marking of assignments, and sport and cultural activities. This is the professional conduct of a teacher. Teachers' Unions are expected to encourage their members to adhere to these professional ethoses.

In a nutshell, the Education Sector should consolidate teaching and learning into educational excellence. This is the only way the Education Sector can justify the huge Budgetary allocation at the expense of other equally priority sectors.

Curriculum organization, the management of the learning process, time management and classroom control are key ingredients for achieving educational excellence.

Our educational leaders, school principals and teachers should commit themselves to the promotion of educational excellence, particularly at the Senior Secondary Level.

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