By Frederick Philander
The absence of a standardised interest inventory for Namibia makes teaching difficult for guidance teachers and other educators to assist learners with their future subject and career choices.
Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, said this at the launch of the Namibia Vocational Interest Inventory (NAMVII) at UNAM on Tuesday. The inventory was designed by Dr Louise Mostert, the dean of the Faculty of Education.
“In fact, the mere use of American, South African or other existing inventories, however well-designed as is the case, is no solution but raises many problems and questions pertaining to validity and reliability of these tests for Namibia. The development of a standardised interest inventory is therefore one step in that direction,” Ndjoze-Ojo said.
According to her, work plays an important role in the life of an individual.
“In addition to the economic value, it provides social meaning and contributes to a healthy self-esteem. Most young people have to make important choices about their future relatively early in life. People normally only start with a first career during early adulthood, though the majority of individuals think and talk about a possible future career from a very young age,” she said.
All schools in Namibia are required to offer guidance or life skills as part of their curriculum.
“These guidance programmes include career guidance as one of the major components. Career guidance covers a broad area and aims at the development of the person on several domains and levels. The junior secondary school phase consists of a large compulsory core curriculum, but with limited subject choice. Learners are compelled to make choices about their future education, which in turn have an effect on their career path,” she asserted.
Through self-awareness, individuals can attain a realistic self-understanding and find out how well their individual talents and attributes are suited for different job opportunities.
“Education is about understanding oneself and this includes values, interests, abilities, and personality of the individual, among others. A measurement, assessment and interpretation of most of these human attributes is a complex process nonetheless, aided by the use of standardized psychometric tests, this is possible. NAMVII is aimed at facilitating this complex process.
Many young people have difficulties perceiving and evaluating interests and abilities, objectively and realistically. They are often influenced by the interests and abilities possessed by others, rather than the ones inherent to themselves,” the former UNAM lecturer said.
It is true that parents, teachers and other educators encounter a number of difficulties when they guide learners in their study and career choices partly because of lack of specific information and tools to assist them, she said.
Adding that inappropriate subject choices can lead to inappropriate career choices and subsequently lead to failure and dissatisfaction in the work arena.
“Given Namibia’s scarce human resources skills, we cannot afford such a situation. It is our responsibility, as educators of this country, to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to guide learners in the right direction.
Learners can benefit much from information generated by psychometric or norm-referenced tests. Psychometrics is designed to measure the intrinsic mental characteristics of a person. An intelligence test will thus measure the mental or cognitive abilities of a person while an interest inventory will measure their intrinsic interests in relation to different fields of study or vocational areas,” she said.
Since such a test is norm-based, the interests of the individual can be compared to those of the general population in each of the fields that are tested.
“Tests should be standardised for the population that it is intended for, to ensure cultural validity. One cannot presume that test questions that are suitable for one culture or group will necessarily be suitable for another,” she concluded.