14 December 2012

Namibia: Stop Lowering Standards


A PROSPECTIVE engineering student, in The Namibian of 7th December 2012, questioned why a C in English is required for entry into the University of Namibia’s engineering studies.

He called on the university to relax this specific requirement because, in his/her opinion, engineers who studied in non-Anglophone countries have also been registered to practice as engineers in Namibia. I thought how spoiled we have become in this country. We seem to want things in the easiest of all available ways.

I have two sets of advice for this young person. Firstly, relaxation of educational requirements in this and all similar cases is like seeking the easiest way out of any situation. These requirements are time-tested, and are applied globally. In this specific instance, it is applied SADC-wide in countries where English is the medium of instruction. Even in countries where Portuguese or French are the media, you would be expected to achieve a good grade in those languages. Incidentally, the Polytechnic of Namibia applies this rule and so do all universities in South Africa.

Secondly, the practice of relaxation of entry requirements in order to accommodate certain persons expeditiously, which Namibia has been practising fairly recklessly since independence, has begun to cost this country dearly today. For example, look at the English competency of an average Namibian teacher; look at the financial dire straits that many parastatals find themselves in today; look at the effect that the practice of automatic promotion of learners in government schools has had on their cognitive development especially when they need to pass grade 10 or even when they reach tertiary level.

Relaxation in this case is the easiest way out but it will have dire consequences in the long-rum. It will also set a very bad precedent because today it is English but what will it be next? Maths and science?

There are definitely other options which are a lot more honourable and which require hard work: A) What about improving your English results by rewriting the subject in question? There are many facilities available like Tucsin, Namcol and numerous private tutorial centres. B) There are one-year bridging courses at universities of technology in South Africa. These programmes have been developed specifically to address the problem you are experiencing which affects many students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Instead of calling for relaxation of entry requirements, you could have actually called on Unam and the Polytechnic to consider introducing similar bridging programmes in Namibia as well.

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