Tanga — Students who dislike science subjects, now have no way to escape them following the government's declaration that from now on, science subjects are compulsory to all students from Form One up to Form Four.
Currently, according to the education policy, secondary school students may opt either to quit science subjects or continue with other subjects at Form Three level.
The government announcement was made here yesterday by the Minister of Education, Science and Vocational Training, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, when addressing hundreds of primary school teachers at an in-service short course, on the new teaching curriculum for pupils of Standard Three and Four.
She said as the government is determined to go to the medium economic level with industrialisation, the question of science was inevitable so as to get more science experts to meet the demand in industrial sector.
She said following the deficit of science experts in many fields, the ministry has decided to force students take such subjects until they sit for Form Four national exams, then they may opt either to continue with them or not after that level.
This measure should, of course, force students to pull up their socks and study the subjects, despite the fact that in the current situation many students consider subjects as very difficult. So, most of them opt for the arts streams.
She further said that in order to make the move successful, the ministry has allocated about 12bn/- in this fiscal year's budget that will be spent on laboratory apparatus so that laboratories in all government secondary schools could have the necessary equipment for science practical work.
"There will be no more of what is termed as 'alternative practical.' What does it mean? We want students to undergo complete science practical work and not otherwise so that we can produce competent students who will later serve the nation at various capacities and deliver," she said.
She further said that the Fifth Phase Government is determined to see that the education offered in the country meets the required standards so that Tanzanians could compete with other people from other nations in terms of delivery at work whether one is employed or is self-employed.
She urged the primary school teachers who attended the in-service training to be committed and work hard in accordance with professional ethics, so that they could cement the foundation of education to their children from the initial level.
"If the foundation of the house is weak even the whole building will be unstable. Likewise, in the education arena, if the primary level education is weak, therefore, the higher education will also be sub-standard because it takes in dull students.
Thus, the government is determined to establish the foundation through empowering teachers by equipping them with modern teaching skills," she added. On their side, the teachers thanked the government for organising the training which they said could boost their working morale.
However, they requested the minister to consider the teachers' allowances as some of work in remote areas in harsh environment without even getting motivation. The training was attended by 480 teachers from three districts of Bumbuli, Handeni township and Handeni rural.
Meanwhile, MAUREEN ODUNGA reports that following the minister's announcement, stakeholders in the education sector have applauded the government's move to make science subjects compulsory to all students from Form One up to Form Four, calling for intervention on the various challenges.
In a telephone interview with the 'Sunday News', the Secretary of Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-Government Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO), Mr Benjamin Nkonya, said the move should have come a bit earlier but it was indeed a good way to go.
"The way to go about this is to undergo major improvements in the availability of proper teaching and learning materials such as textbooks and infrastructure like laboratories and libraries. The situation also calls for enough science teachers," said Mr Nkonya.
Another way to go about it is to direct available resources in the proper channels and this is through revoking the licence of both government and private schools lacking necessary resources as per the requirements of the National Education Act, 1978.
"What is happening now is preparing people whose skills are not conducive to the labour market. Most of the graduates have ventured into arts, while the current demand is keen on scientists," he noted.
The Chairman of the Association of Private Investors of Education (TAPIE), Mr Mahamoud Mringo, pointed out that the government should seriously invest in science subjects by making available all the necessary resources to be able to succeed in the plan.
"We have not prepared for this because the country was facing a shortage of science instructors and teachers. For the plan to succeed we have to bring foreign teachers and this can be achieved by creating appropriate environments like issues of permits and giving them bonuses," stressed Mr Mringo.
A parent, Ms Esther Ziara, extended recognition to the government saying that this will give room for children to have an extensive choice in the upper level of education.