New curriculum: Infants to be taught in indigenous languages
Vaidah Mashangwa Review Correspondent
On the attainment of Independence in 1980, the Government of Zimbabwe led by President Mugabe embarked on major reforms in the education sector. The programme, Education for All, led to the construction of more schools to ensure access to education by all learners.
In addition to that, adult education played a key role to make sure that even adults who were denied access to education before Independence, especially women and girls, could now go to school.
There was dire need too to ensure that issues of equity and equality in the process were addressed.
In the second decade of Independence there was a paradigm shift in the running of affairs in the education sector as the Government realised the need to provide quality education to the masses of Zimbabwe.
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According to Honourable Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dr L.D.K Dokora, the Ministry is committed to fulfilling the potential of learners in Zimbabwe and emphasis is being provided to improved access and quality education to every learner, thereby bringing about meaningful transformation in the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.
In 1998, therefore, the Government set up the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training (CEIT) which is popularly referred to as the Nziramasanga Commission which was chaired by Dr Caiphas Nziramasanga.
While the Nziramasanga Commission has several recommendations in terms of the education system in Zimbabwe, one of the major findings was that the curriculum was too academic and hence the need to review the school curriculum so that it addressed the needs of the learners and implementation.
The introduction and implementation of the new curriculum in 2017 is therefore a product of the recommendations that were highlighted in the Nziramasanga Commission. The Zimbabwean populace therefore should embrace the new curriculum.
It came as a result of wide consultation in 2014 and all interested stakeholders were given an opportunity to make contributions to the new curriculum they envisaged as the most suitable for learners.
The new curriculum outlines the three learning levels as infant school, that is, ECD A–Grade Two, junior school (Grade 3-7) and secondary school comprising Form Two to Form Six.
It is only in the infant school where the medium of instruction is in the indigenous languages and this does not apply to junior school and secondary school.
From Grade Three onwards, English remains the medium of instruction. At infant school, learners will still learn English as one of the learning areas.
For the past two decades, research has pointed out that the best strategy to teach learners at infant level is to use the indigenous language as the medium of instruction.
If young children are only taught in English, they will fall behind in academic subjects.
Children actually have difficulty learning a subject when it is taught in a language they do not speak at home or is not spoken in the community.
If learners at ECD A are taught Mathematics and Science in the indigenous language, their mastery of the content is higher than when they are taught in English, especially if they do not speak the language.
Instruction in the indigenous language does not in any way decrease the rate of mastery of English and does not place learners at a disadvantage when they interact with other learners in English.
The pre-Independence era did not place great emphasis on the importance of the indigenous languages as medium of instruction. It was only in 1980 when the Government recognised the significant role played by the indigenous languages in the teaching and learning process.
The use of the indigenous languages as medium of instruction is not a new phenomenon. When a child masters the first language, it becomes less problematic to master any other language.
It is further observed that using the indigenous language as a medium of instruction assists in analytical reasoning, concept formation, creativity and cognitive flexibility.
It also promotes a learning environment that is positive and encompassing to all learners.
Studies conducted in Kenya and Nigeria alluded to the fact that indeed indigenous languages facilitated more meaningful learning at infant school than English.
The success of the indigenous languages as medium of instruction rests on the attitudes of people towards their mother tongue and history also plays a significant role.
Colonialism in Zimbabwe perpetuated an elite society which was punctuated by the division of people into classes and less emphasis was placed on the importance of our own values, norms and beliefs.
In fact, the official language of instruction and local languages should complement each other rather used as conflicting entities where one is regarded as superior.
The implementation of the New Curriculum started with ECD A, Grade One, Grade Three, Form One, Form Three and Form Five. There will be continuation of the implementation of the curriculum by ECD B, Grade Two, Grade Four, Form Two, Form Four and Form Six in 2018. The success of the implementation rests on the efforts and support of the nation at large.
No one left behind
Kuhava a salako!
- Vaidah Mashangwa is the director of ICT, e-Learning, Communication Strategies and Image Building in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. She can be contacted on 0772111592