SWANU welcomes the initiative in principle
SWANU gives commendation to the Ministry of Education and welcomes the initiative to review the curriculum that will pave the way for reform if and when is necessary. Since we are living in a world that is dynamic as opposed to static, we in principle welcome the initiative provided it is genuine and not a haphazard political experiment that will turn our youth into sacrificial lambs.
The long and winding road that culminates pre-primary schooling in the formal educational system is a positive development that must be applauded.
Review/Critique regarding the Curriculum Reform
2.1 Curriculum orientation
Granted that the idea of both academic and vocational streams are accepted, it is important to provide a proportion or percentage of what would constitute the vocational stream in order for one to make an informed review. Be that as it may, it is common knowledge that by late 2010 there were about 1 700 schools countrywide with 600 000 learners and approximately 22 000 teachers (Hon Dr Iyambo in The Windhoek Observer Supplement, July 31 August 2010).
The introduction of the vocational stream will definitely be accompanied by new logistical demands that inter alia dictate the re-deployment of learners, teachers and resources. The envisaged curriculum reform makes reference to one or more secondary schools that would offer the vocational stream while in terms of 2.4 vocational subjects would also be offered from Grade 4, meaning the provision has deficits in respect of Grades 4 –9. There is a proportion of the 22 000 teachers who would need to be retrained in those vocational subjects.
Issues with Grade 10
It is observed that the curriculum reform envisaged a system whereby there would not be any examination at the end of Grade 10 as has been the case hitherto. The rationale for such a change is not provided, but it is a common cause that investment returns to the approximately 20 percent of the annual budget given to the Ministry of Education has been very pathetic. The evidence of this pathetic state of affairs lies in the reduction of figures from 100 percent, 50 percent and then to 25 percent representing respectively approximately 36 000 learners in Grade 10 at the beginning of the year, 18 000 at the end of the year who normally proceed to Grades 11 and 12 and from where only 4 500 pass and qualify for admission to institutions of higher learning. This is the state of our educational affairs, and if political gimmicks and the rhetoric used in playing to the gallery is sustained, then we need to deliberate the pros and cons.
The failure of our Grade 10’s has been a thorn in our flesh, a disease already diagnosed and what is needed as a matter of necessity and urgency is treatment. SWANU suggests that in the event the Grade 10 examination is phased out, then it will become imperative to have exit certificates in Grade 9 - a certificate that will enable learners either to embark on vocational training opportunities or to proceed on the academic route.
Issues with NSSC Ordinary Level
The curriculum reform envisaged a system where Ordinary Level will be taken at Grade 11, while the learner is at the age of 17 years. Worldwide and especially in most of the Commonwealth countries where Ordinary Level is offered, learners take it while they are 16 years old. It is therefore SWANU’s submission that the reduction from 18 years that has been the case in Namibia to 17 years is a progressive step.
SWANU doubts the practicability of the assumption under item 2.1 of the curriculum reform that creates an impression that with NSSC Ordinary Level a school leaver will be able to gain entry to regional universities. While this is created, paragraph 3 under 3.4 candidly negates this impression by stating that Ordinary Level holders are not academically equipped to enter institutions of higher learning.
The only university in the region where such a certificate can enable entrance is most likely the University of Botswana. This is not possible in South African universities. The statement under item 1 of the envisaged curriculum reform indicates that curriculum models used in Southern Africa were researched, but there is no reason provided as to why a system not commonly used in the region is introduced.
Issues with NSSC Higher Level
The curriculum reform envisaged a system where Higher Level will be taken at Grade 12 while the learner is at the age of 18 years. We are perturbed by the proposal in the sense that it is expected for the programme to be finished within one (1) year after completion of the NSSC Ordinary Level. It is a universal practice that Higher Level is a programme that is undertaken at least within two years.
SWANU recommends a one year duration on condition that a maximum of three subjects are taken and will be accepted as an entrance requirement to second year courses in our tertiary institutions.
2.4 New subjects in the curriculum
The initiative of the Ministry of Education through NIED to consider introducing new subjects such as Life Skills, Information and Communication, Chemistry and Physics is a positive development. The move is progressive in the sense that it also lessens the burden on tertiary institutions to offer some of this courses as part of their First Year Core modules. SWANU, however, has suggestions relating to Advanced/Additional Mathematics and Vocational subjects.
The practice has been that both Mathematics and Additional Mathematics were offered in Grade 10. Those who passed Additional Mathematics at Grade 10 were given opportunities to continue with Mathematics Higher Level at Grade 11 and also at Grade 12, but then with an option to drop it to Mathematics Extended Level.
In essence, Additional Mathematics is a subject in current Grade 10 and not in Grade 11, since by Grade 11 it is expected to start with Mathematics either at Core, Extended or Higher Levels.
Clarity is needed on how a Grade 11 learner who is not doing Mathematics Higher Level during Grade 11 but rather Additional Mathematics will be in a position a year later to do work of Mathematics Higher Level in a year’s time. Clarity is also needed on why a Grade 11 learner who is doing Mathematics cannot continue doing it in Grade 12 as if Grade 12 is only Grade 12 Higher Level.
Clarity is also needed to indicate whether there will be two Grade 11s, one that aspires to continue to Grade 12 and one that considers Grade 11 as an exit point.
In the absence of a proper explanation, SWANU recommends that it is better to have a single Mathematics course taken by all learners. Learners with a greater aptitude and inclination for Mathematics will achieve the highest descriptor such as symbol A that would be indicative that a learner has intellectual capacity to take Mathematics Higher Level at Grade 12.
Since continuation to Grade 12 is a right and not a privilege, it is also not clear why Mathematics that is not Advanced/Additional Mathematics cannot be offered at Higher Level.
As a matter of principle, SWANU is finding it difficult to comprehend why vocational subjects should be included under Basic Education while there is an Act of Parliament (Act No.1 of 2008) on Vocational Education that is entrusted with the Namibia Training Authority. Is this not an ultra vires of the highest order in a country that is governed based on the constitution?
It is SWANU’s contention that most of the subjects that are offered at school through the academic stream are essential prerequisites for vocational education and training. For instance, subjects such as physics and mathematics would enable someone to do electrical/electronics, motor/auto mechanics while at the same time they are useful to someone who intends to study dental technology or medical technology.
It is therefore imperative for learners to be grounded in subjects that are a common denominator to most of the vocational courses instead of learners being exposed to bricklaying, plastering and tiling, plumbing and pipe fitting, electricity/electronics, motor/auto mechanics that are not vocationally representative in nature in the early phases of their basic education.Observer Supplement, July 31- August 2010).
Besides that, there is nothing academic about the subjects that are offered in schools that justify opening the floodgate of vocational subjects while learners have not made up their minds as to whether they are academically or vocationally inclined. SWANU is however comfortable with the idea when the route of vocational education is encouraged at the end of the Junior Secondary phase in terms of 3.3 of the envisaged curriculum reform.
The realisation to have a pre–primary schooling as part of the formal education is a progressive development because it will provide a good foundation and enhance the principle of equity.
SWANU recommends closer consultations between the Ministry of Education, NIED, institutions of higher learning and the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) when deciding on the NSSC(O) as an entrance requirement to the institutions of higher learning. This recommendation is anchored on the fact that the adoption of O’ Level as in 3.1.1. would leave Government with no immunity from funding bridging courses or foundation years of tertiary institutions - an expense that would otherwise not have been incurred if the country adopted NSSC Higher Level at Secondary Schools.
SWANU recommends that All vocational fields should be treated the same. It is therefore important that learners up to Grade 9 should be grounded in subjects which would be pre-requisites to their desired vocational field. For instance, it is better to have physical science, mathematics, engineering science during the Junior Secondary Phase that will also have applicability to other vocational fields instead of introducing Electricity / Electronics, Motor / Auto Mechanics at that level. How would someone who wishes to do a vocational training course in optics, dental technology, medical technology or public administration benefit from vocational subjects such as technical drawings, bricklaying, plastering and tiling, plumbing and pipe fitting as envisaged under 2.4 of curriculum the reform? This is not feasible and that is why the reason dictates that physics or physical science instead may be beefed–up for the benefit of all vocational fields instead of advantaging some vocational fields by offering their subjects at such lower phases at the expense of others.
SWANU implores the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) as a statutory body fentrusted with vocational training and education to be pro–active to spearhead and validate a curriculum that will fulfil the needs and aspirations of the end- users.
SWANU recommends that at the end of the Junior Secondary Phase at least a Certificate should be awarded even if the Grade 10 certificate is phased–out.
SWANU Politburo - Secretary for Organisation