SADC education systems in the spotlight

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Southern African Development Community education systems vary considerably on many levels, with some similarities in the manner in which education ministries plan, organise, control, and direct both human and financial resources in their respective countries.

However, despite agreement on the SADC protocol, early research reveals a lack of coordination from primary schooling right through to higher education among SADC countries when it comes to education system management. This is one of the issues this research tries to address.

With respect to educational structures and to the duration of studies, there are certainly noticeable similarities and differences across the SADC region. For example, the duration of study at the primary level ranges anywhere between five to eight years, although seven years is the most common length of time as in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Countries with eight-year primary schooling are Malawi and Zimbabwe, whereas Madagascar on the other hand, is the only country with the shortest primary schooling at only five years. Schooling duration also varies at the secondary level, ranging from four to seven years. At the secondary level, Angola, DRC, and Mozambique all offer a vocational stream.

Notwithstanding these variations, there are similarities across SADC education systems as well. For instance, Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa, and the DRC share a similarity with respect to their vocational stream at the secondary level. Furthermore, 11 of 15 SADC countries offer qualification after 12 years of schooling.

The exceptions to this model are Tanzania, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe, who offer qualification after 12 years of schooling and additional advanced secondary qualification after 13 years. Interestingly, of the entire SADC region, it is these four countries who produce the highest number of students who enter universities.

Further similarities can be seen in higher education, where most undergraduate programmes range between three to five years in duration. With the exception of Angola, the length of Masters’ studies in virtually all SADC countries is similar – one to two years – while PhD studies mostly range between two to six years, although Nambia and Tanzania offer PhD studies that can be completed in two years. By and large, however, doctoral studies require a minimum of three years.

Notwithstanding the good intentions of SADC member-states in signing a treaty that would compel all of its members to harmonise and standardise their education systems, this remains a dream 18 years later. The corollary that follows shows that development of the region would suffer heavy socioeconomic blows, as synergy had not yet been achieved. Lack of attention to the protocol’s objectives has led to poor coordination throughout the region.
The consequences of failing to implement SADC-PET are continued poverty, gender imbalances, social inequality, and economic dependence on other nations for survival. Indeed, this study outlines how nearly half of SADC member-states lack a national policy to guide the effective implementation of this protocol.

Contributing to the failure of implementing this protocol, is the lack of uniform education management information systems (EMIS). These systems provide data to ministries that enable them to monitor and evaluate the implementation of national and international policies, as well as plans and framework.

Although all SADC countries have EMIS units in place for basic education reporting, only eight had national EMIS policies by 2010. During the 2010 meeting of ministers in charge of SADC education held in Kinshasa, DRC, an official report indicated that, with the exception of Mozambique, Namibia, RSA, Tanzania, and Zambia, no other member-states had EMIS for higher education, technical and vocational education (TVET), and non-formal education.

Furthermore, effective evaluation of the protocol’s implementation requires sufficient EMIS personnel, yet roughly 60% of SADC countries don’t have enough professionals to efficiently perform EMIS functions. Consequently, this non-standardisation and fragmentation of EMIS functions have further exacerbated efforts to fully implement SADC-PET across the region.

It is therefore imperative to understand, identify and analyse the nature and extent of SADC-PET issues, particularly those of Namibia and Zimbabwe, in order to adequately formulate and recommend appropriate solutions to overcome the issues that threaten to thwart future plans for the effective implementation of the protocol.

Dr. David Namwandi is a PhD holder in Business Administration from Asia University, Malaysia. He is the Founder of IUM and a former Minister of Education.

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