New curriculum under spotlight

exams Stanely Mushava Features  Correspondent
Zimbabwe, regionally credited as an education powerhouse, is undergoing a turning point of record proportions. Government is ringing changes in the education sector to wean the country’s 8 682 schools off their colonial inheritance and adapt them for a globalised age.

Building on Africa’s highest literacy rate, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is shifting emphasis from content to competency to capacitate the sector for emerging economic and cultural needs.

The changes are outlined in the “Curriculum Framework for Primary and Secondary Education 2015-2022” recently published by the ministry.

A curriculum framework is a blueprint aggregating, synthesising and informing educational content, activities, aims, values, assessment and outcomes.

Schools will be on a shape-shifting course over the next six years in an arrangement whereby entry-level pupils will grow on the new curriculum while senior students will finish on the old.

While the 2015-2022 time-frame has been mapped for implementation, changes will guide the education sector well into the future.

The education segment of Herald Review of this edition provides a comprehensive outline of changes to be rung under the new curriculum, and the circumstances in which they are coming.

The new curriculum synthesises input from students, teachers, parents, tertiary institutions, industry and commerce, religious groups, civic society and Government, aggregated during consultations conducted by the ministry in 2014 and 2015.

These were compiled as “Narrative Report 2014-2015” and recently put out along with the new curriculum.

The new curriculum aims to prepare learners for a largely agro-based economy and increasingly globalised environment; encourage life-long learning; and promote patriotism, participatory citizenship and sustainable development, among other objectives.

The Ministry of Primary and Education explains that it is moving away from the old, colonial-style curriculum which has tended to be overly academic.

“The trend today is to pay increased attention to competency and development, that is learners’ ability to mobilise their knowledge, skills and attitudes independently and creatively in order to address different challenges,” writes the ministry in the new curriculum framework.

According to Primary and Secondary Education minister Dr Lazarus Dokora, the curriculum framework also embraces the “Presidential Commission into Education and Training,” commonly known as the ‘Nziramasanga Commission’ (1999), Zimbabwe Constitution (2013), Education Act (amended 2006), Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (2013), and also the country’s heritage, history and aspirations.

Commending the new curriculum framework to the nation, President Mugabe writes that he had been for years beating the bell for a relevant, quality and inclusive education, and calling for such education to remain accessible and affordable.

“I am glad to see that this curriculum blueprint provides a robust response which the nation should support by offering appropriate human, material and financial resources so that the sterling work does not become archived,” President Mugabe writes in the preamble to the curriculum.

“The changes to our primary and secondary education that are suggested here are a reflection of the concerns, aspirations and views of the general public on the curriculum.

“The consequential curriculum as codified in the present seven-year cycle will no doubt have a positive bearing on Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic transformation where Science, Mathematics, technology, practical, technical and vocational skills without abrogating our already recognised academic excellence, are the sine qua non of a growing economy,” he writes.

If the new curriculum is a software update to the country’s evolving education needs, following up on our continentally renowned literacy drive, then the building of more schools has been the hardware update.

Both initiatives are designed to sweep away residues of injustice whereby Africans were bottlenecked out of education’s upwardly mobile functions.

President Mugabe says the country inherited “discrimination, pyramidal structure in education and unequal investment in the education sector that was carved along racial lines”.

Government has made headway past some of the challenges in terms of the hardware side of things. As at 2014, there were 5 963 registered primary schools, 993 of them satellite, and 2 719 registered secondary schools, 803 of them satellite.

The ministry is currently seeking partnerships for the construction of more than 2 000 more schools to embrace a growing population and track down post-resettlement distribution patterns.

The software overhaul set forth by the new curriculum to complement these efforts looks to equip learners with world-wise and self-reliant exit profiles, cutting away from the rote culture by and large maintained since independence.

“The ministry will equip every learner to the disciplines of Science and Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and heritage studies. In addition, learners will be exposed to life-and-work learning contexts through the life-skills orientation programme,” says Education Minister Dr Dokora.

Primary and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango said the curriculum framework was reached in consultation with millions of Zimbabweans in various sectors, hence is strategically equipped with their interests.

“In order to compete with the best in the world, the national curriculum framework must develop young Zimbabweans who are knowledgeable, can think critically, creatively and have leadership skills and are able to communicate effectively,” Dr Utete-Masango writes.

The curriculum takes into account some of the contemporary trends in education and aims to redirect focus from teaching to learning, transfer of facts to learner construction of knowledge, memorisation of information to analysis, synthesis and application, rote learning to applied learning, and categorised knowledge in traditional subjects to integrated knowledge.

Cross-cutting themes from infant school to Advanced-Level include gender, children’s rights, disaster risk management, financial literacy, sexuality, HIV and AIDS, child protection, heritage studies, collaboration and environmental issues.

New learning areas include heritage studies, life-skills orientation programme, visual and performing arts, sport and mass displays, information and communication technology, while the 16 indigenous languages recognised by the 2013 constitution and foreign languages include French, Mandarin and Swahili are being uploaded into the fresh syllabi.

“Along this journey, there are opportunities and certainly adequate space for participation by all stakeholders of goodwill. Learners must be assured of quality learning and teaching. This is part of the nation’s continuing commitment to an agenda for sustainable socio-economic development,” signs off the ministry.

The new curriculum maps mutually gainful synergies between basic education and industries such and publishing, technology, culture and higher learning. It is a fresh stimulus for national development.

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