Education in Namibia: Myth and Reality

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By Nahas Angula (Teacher-on-Sabbatical) The Scene When the second session of the Fourth Parliament opened on February 14, 2006, the Speaker of the National Assembly ordered a general debate on the state of education in the country. The Honourable Nangolo Mbumba, Minister of Education, opened the debate on this topical issue with a formal statement. The statement highlighted remedial actions the Ministry is undertaking to respond to a myriad of problems in the Education Sector. These include (a) lack of places in Grade 1; (b) few places in Grade 11; and (c) learner transition from Grade 7 to Grade 8. The debate offered the opportunity to members of the National Assembly to air their views on the state of education in the country. Many did so on the basis of newspaper reports or their particular experiences without necessarily looking at the actual facts on the ground. On the basis of their individual perception some members declared that the education system was in crisis. Some called for a national conference on education. Some others admitted that there were challenges to be addressed and bottlenecks to be smoothed out. What is the true state of education in Namibia today? What is myth and reality? In this piece an attempt is made to analyse the October/November 2005 International General Certificate of General Education (IGCSE) examination results focusing particularly on fulltime candidates. The purpose is to look at the educational balance sheet and draw conclusions from that balance sheet. The Educational Balance Sheet During the months of October and November 2005 a total of 26 571 candidates sat for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examination. The 2005 candidates entries were 6.3 percent more than those of 2004. The total number of full-time candidates were 1 385 or 52.1 percent. The number of part-time candidates was 12.721 or 47.9 percent. How did the candidates perform in 2005 as compared to 2004? Table 1 below illustrates comparisons of results for 2005 full-time and part-time candidates to those of the previous two years. From this table the following conclusions can be drawn: (a) the national entry, that is, full-time and part-time candidates combined improved by 1 304 subject entries. (b) the cumulative percentages of candidates scoring a “C” or better symbol improved by 7 percent; (c) and the number of ungraded entries decreased from 11.4% in 2004 to 10.6% in 2005.2 The general picture shows a general improvement in results. However, the results also show the following weaknesses: (a) performance in symbols “A+ ” “B” did not improve. The results for 2005 in these symbols bands are similar to those of 2004. (b) candidates continue to underperform in the average and higher symbol. For example, only 35.8 percent of entries obtained a “D” or better grade. One would have expected the cumulative percentage of 50 or above at “D” grade band. The implication of these weaknesses is that schools should now focus on grade improvement. Table 1. COMPARISON OF THE RESULTS FOR THE 2005 FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME CANDIDATES COMBINED WITH THOSE OF THREE YEARS EARLIER CUMULATIVE PERCENTAGES (Percentages at each grade appear in brackets) Year of No. of A* A and above B and above C and above D and above E and above F and above G and above Percent.ungraded Exam. subject entries 2002 97 032 0.2 1.2 5.0 16.5 32.4 51.1 71.0 86.1 13.9 (0.2) (1.0) (3.8) (11.5) (15.7) (18.7) (19.9) (15.1) 2003 94 266 0.3 1.3 5.3 17.4 34.0 53.7 73.7 87.7 12.5 (0.3) (1.0) (4.0) (12.10 (16.6) (19.7) (20.) (13.8) 2004 101 179 0.2 1.3 5.5 17.4 34.9 54.6 74.7 88.6 11.4 (0.2) (1.10) (4.2) (12.0) (17.5) (19.6) (20.1) (13.9) 2005 102 483 0.2 1.3 5.6 18.1 35.8 55.9 76.4 89.4 10.6 (0.2) (1.0) (4.3) (12.5) (17.7) (20.1) (20.5) (13.1) Dif.* * +1 304 0.0 0.0 +0.1 +0.7 +0.9 +1.3 +1.7 +0.8 -08 Source: (Ministry of Education) * * Difference in cumulative percentages between 2004 and 2005 results. Table 2 gives the rank order of thirteen educational regions on their overall performance in all the subjects entered by the full-time candidates. From this table the following conclusions can be drawn. (a) Education resource distribution is improving, that is equity in resource distributions is improving. The traditional North-South divide in performance is disappearing. (b) The Karas Region improved its performance and Hardap Region dropped by one point. Omaheke Region overtook Caprivi Region in 2005. (c) The Oshikoto Region maintained its lead in performance 2005. In order to appreciate the level of performance per region we shall focus on cumulative percentage of entries scoring a “C” or better graded and the ungraded entries per region. Table 2. COMPARISON OF REGIONAL PERFORMANCES REGION RANK ORDER IN 2005 RANK ORDER IN 2005 NO. OF SUBJECT ENTRIES Oshikoto 1 (1) 5 591 Khomas 2 (2) 13 233 Oshana 3 (3) 9 309 Erongo 4 (4) 4 540 Karas 5 (6) 2 747 Hardap 6 (5) 3 398 Ohangwena 7 (7) 5 410 Otjozondjupa 8 (8) 3 349 Omusati 9 (9) 13 871 Omaheke 10 (11) 1 546 Caprivi 11 (10) 5 786 Kavango 12 (12) 6 909 Kunene 13 (13) 1 990 Table 3 shows regional comparisons of entries scoring a “C” symbol or better and the ungraded entries. Table 3. REGIONAL COMPARISONS OF ENTRIES SCORING “C” OR BETTER GRADE AND UNGRADED ENTRIES. REGION 90% “C” GRADED UNGRADED TOTAL ENTRIES BETTER ENTRIES Karas 21.06% 223 (8.1%) 2747 Hardap 23.02% 297 (8.7%) 3398 Khomas 27.64% 1168 (8.8%) 13223 Omaheke 20.42% 176 (11.5) 1546 Erongo 25.32% 360 (7.9%) 4540 Otjozondjupa 19.30% 320 (9.6%) 3349 Kunene 8.04% 210 (10.6%) 1990 Omusati 16.62% 749 (5.4%) 13871 Oshana 22.45% 481 (5.2%) 9309 Ohangwena 20.16% 379 (7.0%) 5410 Oshikoto 29.88% 220 (3.9%) 5591 Kavango 13.75% 802 (11.6%) 6909 Caprivi 18.04% 590 (10.2% 5786 Symbol “C” or better constitutes the first quartile in performance. Entries scoring symbol “C” or better qualify for admission to universities. Regions producing lower cumulative symbols are likely to produce lower candidates for admission to institutions of higher learning. From Table 3 the following conclusions could be made: (a) Ohangwena Region which is one of the highly populated regions could not enter candidates proportionate to its population. (b) In absolute terms the Khomas Region had the highest ungraded entries. In relative terms Kavango Region and Omaheke Region had the highest ungraded entries followed by Caprivi. On the positive side, Oshikoto had the lowest ungraded entries. From Tables 2 and 3 the following conclusions could be drawn. (a) Regions of Kunene, Kavango, Caprivi and Omaheke should work hard to improve performance and reduce their ungraded entries. (b) The Regions of Oshikoto, Khomas and Erongo should strive to improve their first performance quartile to a least 30%. (c) The Regions of Oshana, Karas, Hardap, Omaheke, and Ohangwena should work hard to improve their first performancequartile to at least 25%. All in all the balance sheet of education is showing marked improvement in performance in a number of regions. Some other regions should make efforts to reduce the number of ungraded entries and improve on the quality of symbols. Conclusion If the general picture is that there is marked improvement in performance what is the hullabaloo about? There are a few issues which should be noted: (a) Population mobility distorts enrolment at Grade 1 level. There is a widespread perception or belief that schools in urban areas perform better than those in rural communal areas. Parents would prefer therefore to enroll their children in urban schools. This puts pressure on schools in urban areas. (b) The top first quartile performers at Grade 12 seek admission to universities in South Africa or elsewhere leaving our local higher institutions of learning with the second quartile performers. The complaint by Dr Lazarus Hangula of the University of Namibia and Dr Tjama Tjivikua of the Polytechnic of Namibia should be understood from this perspective. (c) The thizd quartile of performers have limited access to career and technical education and training opportunities. This group puts pressure on Namcol with the view to improve its symbols in the hope to join the second quartile and secure admission to institutions of higher learning. The need to expand vocational and career education and training cannot therefore be over-emphasized. (d) The Education system did not anticipate improvement in performance and Grade 10. Development of physical facilities at Senior Secondary Level was lagging behind, hence, the bottleneck at Grade 11. (e) The tied job market excludes many school leavers from employment opportunities, hence, the high rate of youth unemployment. The balance sheet for education in Namibia does not support the notion of a crisis in the sector. Yes, there are bottlenecks in the system. Precisely why the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme is aimed at addressing these bottlenecks. The much quoted SAQMEC results were done some ten years ago. The picture is clear, the education sector is changing all the time. Forward with quality improvement in the Education and Training Sector.