Improving the Education System

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By Nathaniel K. Mbaeva

– How can we improve our system of education?

Constitutional Obligation
The constitutional obligation of the government through the Ministry of Education is to provide free and compulsory education up to the age of sixteen (Article 20 (3)).
In practice the government provides free and compulsory education up to Grade 10 level. Although education is presumed to be free throughout the school system, costs are however indirectly recovered through school fees which differ from state school to state school.
Presently government provides free education to the following groups of learners who do not fall within the limits of this obligation to give impetus to Article 20 (1) of the constitution which states that “all persons shall have the right to education”:
– Those who turned sixteen while in primary schools and transferred to junior secondary schools.
– Those in grades eleven and twelve.
To fulfil this obligation government makes huge investments while the output thereof is dismal.

Societal obsession with a pure academic Grade 12 certificate
Since the colonial era, society attaches great value to a pure academic Grade 12 certificate although this certificate does not empower the holder thereof with the necessary skills to for example enter the job market. Any attempt to reform our system of education should in my opinion first demystify this perception. Prospective employers including the government should not use a pure academic Grade 12 as the basic qualification for employment purposes but rather put emphasis on skills and attributes.
Anyway, Grade 12 is only used for initial screening of applicants by employers. Nowadays, some employers even use Grade 12 to screen applicants for positions such as cleaners.
In the meantime, employers spend a lot of money on in-service training. Societal obsession with a pure academic Grade 12 certificate is in my opinion the major contributing factor to the mass of unskilled youth that our school system produces.

Quality Primary Education
Government focus should be on primary education. If the foundation is solid the chances that future learning and training will be effective is good. The emphasis should be on the attainment of literacy and numerical skills.
It is important at this stage to test and monitor learners’ aptitudes and attributes. This will enable schools to refer learners with artistic abilities to the college of the arts, learners with technical attributes to technical training centres, learners with exceptional academic abilities to high schools, etc.
The present seven years of primary education is in my opinion inadequate and should be extended to nine years followed by three years of secondary education or training in a specific trade depending on the learner’s aptitude, attribute and performance in primary school.
The dreaded cutting point at Grade 10 [JSC] must be abolished. School inspectors and subject advisers should monitor the performance of schools especially those in the remote rural areas and those in poverty stricken areas closely to ensure that all schools are at the same level in terms of quality.

Government should make it a point to build more primary schools. No cost recovery whether directly or indirectly should be permitted at this stage of schooling. Education at this stage should be free and compulsory in the real sense of the word.

Repetition at this stage should be allowed up to the age of 18 upon which learners will be referred toe Community Skills Development Centres (Cosdecs) for training in specific skills that will make them employable.
Learners who successfully complete primary school will receive a certificate, the Primary School Certificate, indicating whether the learner is capable of academic training or training in a specific trade.

Secondary
Education
Secondary education should be divided into two: trade schools and academic schools and should be three years leading to a secondary school trade certificate or an academic secondary school certificate.
Depending on his or her performance at primary school a learner will either go to a trade school or an academic school. There will be some form of cost recovery for secondary education.

Trade Schools
Some of the existing secondary schools will become trade schools offering a variety of courses. The private sector should step in to ensure that the courses offered are in line with their expectations.
Courses will range from banking; marketing and salesmanship; office administration and clerical work; technical training; laboratory technicians; computer technicians; accounting; hospitality; animal husbandry and crop production; environment, conservation and tourism; insurance; project management; fish and meat processing; diamond polishing; sports coaching and administration; beauty therapy; community and youth development to interior decoration.
Apart from the regular instructors, experts in the fields from the private sector and government will offer the courses on a part-time basis in the form of workshops, short courses and seminars. There will also be job attachments.
The Namibia Training Authority will issue the certificate which will indicate the specific trade, e.g. Namibia Secondary School Trade Certificate [NSSTC] in Banking. This certificate will empower the holders thereof with the necessary skills to enter the labour market.
Learners who do exceptionally well in their NSSTC will be eligible to pursue further studies at the University of Science and Technology (Polytechnic).

Academic Schools
These schools will offer pure academic courses and those who graduate from these schools are expected to pursue their studies at the University of Namibia. The two tiered Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate should become one course, the Namibia Secondary School Certificate (NSSC), which will be a group certificate issued at the end of the three year academic secondary school. Learners who do not perform at this level should be referred to trade schools. Learners will be allowed to write supplementary examinations within two months after the results of external examinations were released and the university should not admit learners who obtain the certificate after three examination sessions.

Vocational Training Centres
Vocational training centres will become part of the University of Science and Technology (Polytechnic) and offer courses designed by this institution of higher learning. This will prevent duplication of courses in engineering and technology as well as unnecessarily prolonging the duration of studies.

Teacher Training Colleges
Teacher training colleges will become part of both universities where teachers and instructors will be trained.
Teachers will study towards a four-year Bachelor of Secondary Education or a Bachelor of Primary Education while instructors will study towards a four-year Bachelor of Technology (Training).
The Basic Education Teachers’ Diploma (BETD) will be phased out.

Namcol & Cosdecs

Namcol will merge with the Cosdecs and offer short-term and long-term skill based courses in various trades to learners referred to Cosdecs by the primary schools, communities, farmers,
small businesses, etc.

It is important that Cosdecs should liaise with institutions that provide a valuable service to the community such as the IMLT, AgriFutura, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, USAID, UN Agencies, the various international embassies and high commissions, the churches, etc.
Learners can also obtain a NSSTC through the Cosdecs.
The NSSC distance learning component will only be limited to learners who obtained a Primary School Certificate indicating that they are capable of academic training but who were prevented by circumstances beyond their control to pursue their studies.
The ideal is that there will be Cosdecs together with community or multipurpose centres in every constituency.
The regional councils will be responsible for the administration of these centres.

The National Youth Service
The National Youth Service should equip learners with pre-service skills to those who will join the police, defence force, correctional and security services.
From the onset the trainees should be made aware that the NYS is not an employment opportunity for them. It only renders a service to young people to do self-introspection so that they can become useful and law-abiding citizens one day.
No one who did not undergo a period of two years with the NYS should be eligible for recruitment by the uniformed forces.
During school and university holidays students should be taken to various community centres where they will be addressed on issues such as leadership, good citizenship and nationhood, cultural heritage, caring for others in need, the dangers of alcoholism and substance abuse, etc.

Scholarships/loans/bursaries
Instead of giving loans to a selected few, government should increase its subsidies to institutions of higher learning.
This will enable many students to afford tuition fees.

Financial institutions such as banks should relax their requirements (collaterals, securities, etc) when giving study loans.

In conclusion, dear editor and respected readers, a nation with a good education will overcome the evils that hamper development and progress such as narcissism and hopelessness.

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