New curriculum: Pupils’ perspective
Julia Mugadzaweta Features writer
The April school holidays have come to an end and pupils returned to their places of education this week to begin the winter term.
Donned in freshly pressed school uniforms, carrying loaded school bags and trunks, pupils in Harare who attend boarding schools waited at various bus termini to be ferried to school for the term.
The mood around the pupils returning to schools was cheerful as many recounted the adventures of their holiday and what prospects lay ahead for the new term.
Pupils nationwide have been adapting to the new education curriculum set by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and expressed mixed views on it and what to expect in the second term.
Kudiwa Silongwe, a Form 1 pupil at Chindunduma High School, narrated how he was enjoying his high school experience which was a lot different from his primary education.
“High school has been quite interesting and a lot different from primary school. I am currently learning 10 subjects and this terms we are going to be doing a project for each and every subject including Shona and Accounts,” he said.
Kudiwa expressed excitement at the prospect of the projects and was keen to see what other pupils would come up with.
“Before first term ended our teachers told us to think of what projects we would want to do during the term. I did my homework and am going to show the teachers what I can come up with,” he said.
Kudiwa’s experience is an illustration of what the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education intends to do with the new curriculum.
The foundations of the new curriculum are to encourage children to embrace different aspects of learning and be more involved with practical exercises to better develop their skills and broaden their educational experiences.
Pupils like Kudiwa are given the opportunity to develop and grow their skills, some of which they might not have known they possessed.
While Form 1 student Kudiwa was showing enthusiasm at returning to school, Form 3 student Takunda Banda did not express the same emotions.
The Mazowe Boys High School student lamented how he was struggling to cope with the rigorous academic programme. “I am in Form 3 now and first term was very difficult. We are now doing the things that I don’t think are meant for us,” he said.
“We are doing Pure Maths at Form 3 and am not enjoying it. I understand that the syllabus is also longer in some subjects. “I also think that these projects that we are being told to do are not necessary. Why would one do a project in Shona?”
Takunda added that he was unsure whether all of his teachers understood the new curriculum and this contributed to how difficult it was for him to get a grasp on the work.
Shelton Mapfidza and Crispen Chigogo from St John’s High School Murewa reflected on the curriculum stating it was productive but could yield better results if the pupils were acknowledged and included more in the implementation.
The Lower Six pupils enjoyed how engaging the new curriculum was and required them to use their brains a lot more.
“We have been doing alright so far and the approach we are taking is really encouraging us to think outside the box.”
“The projects are forcing us to look at the bigger picture of things and think big and better.
“Of course it is challenging but when you are done, it is amazing to see what you can come up with.
“I am in Lower Sixth and now my course work contributes 30 percent of my exam mark.
“In the past when we did our O-Level that was not the case, this time around I have to work harder,” Shelton Mapfidza said.
In helping to deal with examination anxiety as they prepared for mock exams in the second term, Shelton suggested that the ministry should provide them with sample exam papers set to the new curriculum.
“I wish the ministry would provide us with sample papers we could use for our mock exam before the final one because the anxiety is overwhelming. A lot of what we are learning is new so at least a mock exam would prepare us for what is to come.”
Crispen Chigogo said the work was manageable and that teachers and pupils had made an effort to help each other get through the new material. “We are all working together to find how best to adapt to the new curriculum. “I can guarantee that we will yield the best results when we get to exams.
“I would like to suggest though that the ministry adds seminars to the continuous assessment. Those seminars would be a platform for us pupils to engage with students from other schools and share ideas and the best approach to understanding the various subjects.
“I think they will help us with problem solving and interactive skills,” he said.
Responding to Chigogo’s request, Educationist Dr Peter Kwaira highlighted that this could be the turning point in the education as the ultimate goal is to produce pupils who thirst for knowledge. “That is a constructive contribution, if not a turning point in our system,” he said
“The whole idea of the curriculum is to produce a pupil who has the ability to look for and acquire knowledge and that is what the students making this request are doing. “It shows a high level of maturity and I would say that their request is truly the way to go.
“It would be wise to set up these seminars for them because in this process these students are searching to have an understanding of what they are learning, not just for an exams but for them to internalise what their are learning and understand it in more worldly manner not just for exams,” he said.
On the issue of mock examinations, ZIMSEC public relations manager Ms Nicky Dhlamini said that it was not ZIMSEC’s mandate but rather an issue to be addressed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“The issue of providing mock exams does not fall under our mandate but it is an issue that the ministry is responsible for.
“Given that the ministry requests such exams from us we have no problem providing them to school.”
She explained that while the issue of mock exams could not be addressed by ZIMSEC, they however had an alternative.
“We do understand where the pupils is coming from, that is why we have sample papers for these new subjects. We did that with agriculture and sent specimen papers and circulars on the examination to schools in aid of exam preparations,” she said.
Receiving feedback from the students is important as it helps with better implementation of the new curriculum.
Positive feedback shows that efforts being made to have an education systems which provides relevant skills for today’s market and the jobs of the future are not in vain.