The Sunday Mail
Harmony Agere and Veronica Gwaze
As schools open this week, Government has begun consultations to adjust the new education curriculum in order to streamline it with the country’s social and economic needs, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima has said.
This follows an outcry from parents, teachers and religious groups who were not happy with the way in which the new curriculum was being introduced in schools.
Some of the contentious issues were the increased workload for teachers and learners, shortage of teaching materials, the contents of the National Pledge and the failure by Government to consult on issues related to education.
Respected educationists such as Dr Caiphus Nziramasanga, who led the inquiry which recommended a new curriculum, have since castigated former Primary and Secondary Education minister Dr Lazarus Dokora over his handling of the matter.
After weeks of maintaining that the new curriculum would be kept as it is, Professor Mavima has now admitted that some readjustment to the curriculum may be needed.
He said an evaluation framework has already been designed with the earliest changes expected when schools open this week.
“We have done a lot of consultations and we compiled various inputs from stakeholders,” said Professor Mavima.
“Our internal team has come up with a framework and it is that framework which will tell us of the things we need to adjust.
“But at the same time we are also putting together a team of experts, external experts who will continue to do this work and continue to advise how we should move forward.
“We have done consultations here in Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo. We are also going to do consultations with Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and other stakeholders.
“So the consultations will help us to know where we need to change and tweak. There are only certain things we can adjust when schools open but some of the things we can only change as the term progresses”
The Sunday Mail Society understands that a consultative meeting with key stakeholders was held on Thursday at David Livingstone Primary School.
PTUZ president Dr Takavafira Zhou – who was part of the meeting – expressed hope that the new minister would consider their recommendations.
“Yes, we were part of that meeting and it’s a good thing that Government has realised that it cannot proceed without consultations,” he said.
“Some of the recommendations we made were that the amount of learning content for primary children was too high for their cognitive development and it should be reduced,” he said.
“We had reached a point where children in primary were doing up to 11 subjects and, as teachers, we know that is just overloading children.
“Also, some of these subjects were duplications and could have been bundled into one subject.”
Dr Zhou also said the issue of seven compulsory subjects at secondary was defeating the whole purpose of specialisation which the new curriculum sought to promote.
“This has left little room for elective subjects and it kills the career path for children,” he said.
Dr Zhou raised concerns about the high workload that teachers now have, adding that most of them are not well-trained and equipped to properly carry out their duties.
He advised Government not to include projects which were done last year in this year’s examinations saying they were not properly marked and assessed.
“The teachers themselves need to be retrained for them to carry out their duties properly.
“On projects, students in secondary school were being made to do projects for each of the subjects they were doing and that is time-consuming for both the learner and the teacher.
“As such, neither of them knew what they were doing nor did they have enough time. Zimsec should just disregard those projects in this year’s examinations.”
Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Mr Obert Masaraure weighed in saying the number of compulsory subjects should be reduced to three.
“The issue of seven compulsory subjects should be revisited and probably reduce them to three so as to allow the children to specialise in their areas of interest than spending energy on multiple things and master none,” he said.
“Continuous assessment is also not really structured in a uniform way in terms of its implementation.
“The system we have at the moment does not allow teachers enough time to do their work and produce quality results.
“We are also calling for more teaching and learning materials. For rural schools, the Government has a lot to do if ICTs are going to be introduced there, there is need to electrify rural schools as well as providing them with the necessary gadgets.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union Chief Executive Officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu also called for urgent readjustment of the new curriculum.
“I think what is needed is formal evaluation of how the curriculum has been implemented so far,” he said.
“It is something which should be done every year so that we refine and fine-tune it until it is what we want it to be.
“For example, we are talking about introducing new religions, have we thought about how this will impact on us as a largely Christian society?
“We would also want to see continuous training of educators because at the moment, they are not really familiar with what they are doing.”
Educationist and lecturer in the Department of Technical Education at University of Zimbabwe Dr Peter Kwaira said any changes should be done through systematic consultations.
“It cannot be true to say that everything that came with the new curriculum is bad nor is it true to say that everything that came with the new curriculum is good for our children,” he said.
“So what should happen is that we should find both an educational and political solution to the problem whereby everyone comes to the table and agree what is good for us as a nation.”
This year will see the first examinations being written under the new curriculum.
The general feeling among experts is that students are not yet ready for examinations under the new curriculum.