- Published on Sunday, 08 July 2012 04:56
- Written by ANTHONY TAMBWE
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AS Tanzanians wait with morbid anticipation to the now inevitable East African Federation, things are not as bright as they look on the Tanzanian side, literally.
What worries some Tanzanians is the fact that with the kind of education offered, it would drastically affect their integration into the federation, with countries like Kenya and Uganda boasting of excellent education background. For the past decades, there has been a steady flow of warnings from parents, the government, the private sector and the civil society about the falling standard of education in Tanzania.
Two major benchmarks are used to assess the level of quality in education. First, educators look at the performance of learners in basic skills such as writing, reading and basic arithmetic (adding and subtracting). Secondly, educators look at the level at which learners are able to acquire basic life skills related to the preparedness of learners to fit into the world of employment.
Sometimes these two benchmarks are categorized as the academic and vocational dimensions of education outcomes, where the academic component focuses on intellectual pursuit as reflected in the high standards of thinking, arguing, enquiring, experimenting and speculating. Using this benchmark, for example, in recent years the performance of candidates in national examinations has been declining, with an implication that the quality of education has been declining as well.
According to the 2010 Ministry of Education and Vocational Training report, the proportion of students passing the primary
school leaving examinations has been declining steadily since 2005. The pass rate decreased from 70.5 per cent in 2007, 52.7 percent in 2008 and to 49.4 per cent in 2009, a very worrying trend by any standard.
The analysis of the national secondary education examination results also shows a declining trend, with the report indicating that between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of candidates scoring at Divisions I and II in the national form four examinations has decreased from 12 per cent in 2005 to 6 per cent in 2009.
Indeed, a majority of candidates (more than 50 per cent) in secondary school national examinations, has been scoring Division IV, which is relatively a fail grade in Tanzanian standards because candidates scoring at this grade generally have difficulties obtaining admission into tertiary and higher education institutions. Clearly, therefore, judging on the basis of performance of learners in examinations, the quality of education at both primary and secondary levels has been deteriorating. It is also notable that the quality of learning of students in schools is quite questionable.
A recent study conducted by Haki Elimu revealed that about 50 per cent of children completing primary schools cannot
read a passage in English and/ or Kiswahili, and the situation is particularly worse in rural areas. The quality of education offered in our schools therefore clearly calls for a diagnosis of the factors that have led to the current trend so as to be able to devise informed remedial measures.
The report indicated further that the Tanzanian school curriculum affects delivery of quality of education at all levels. The study which targeted Arusha, Iringa, Tanga, Mwanza, and Shinyanga regions, was intended to examine the relationship between curriculum quality and their influence of the quality of education. One of the findings revealed in the final report point out that the majority of teachers and students thought that the country’s curricula are not effective enough to produce competent graduates in various capacities.
Some participants in a focus group discussion observed that the curricula were not effective in producing self-reliant and independent graduates. They also noted that the education provided in the 1980s and 1990s was useful as it made a graduate very competent and capable of being self -reliant at every level of education accomplishment. A district education officer noted, “Great emphasis is on the academic kind of education which makes children pass examinations and not its application on the ground.
Children are taught how to pass examinations, but not to become independent and self-reliant,” he said. He noted that Tanzanian curriculum does not match with the fast changing scientific and technological development, saying that there have been too many changes that have been made to the curriculum within a relatively short period of time, and teachers and other stakeholders are not involved in making such changes.
Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) is responsible for pre-primary, primary, secondary school and teacher education curriculum design, development, dissemination, monitoring and evaluation. The development of the curriculum is centralized, therefore, and is universal for the whole of Tanzania. Most teachers interviewed expressed their dissatisfaction with the system, blaming TIE of creating a curriculum which needs intense preparation by teachers.
Pupils seem also to be disillusioned with the teaching and learning process and drop out either to look for more pragmatic activities or to take up actual work opportunities in the newly expanding informal sector. “This increases the likelihood of rural young people leaving home with little or no formal schooling and moving to urban areas to join the rising numbers of the unemployed,” said John Hosea, an education stakeholder and retired headmaster.
He says that when students come to secondary level, if they don’t get a base that is strong, they are likely to get nothing in final exams. Students’ failure in their exams has also been attributed to lack of seriousness in reading books; text books and reference books. “They always concentrate on solving past papers and reading through solved problems. This makes them build no concept other than just cramming the material.
If a question comes in an examination twisted, there is no way this student is going to answer this question. Simply because they lack the basic concept behind a given topic”, argues Sovello Hildebrand, a second year engineering student at the University of Dar es Salaam.