Happy New Year! I am very excited about this year and the prospects it holds particularly for the education sector and for our young children. A lot of work has been carried out in the last year in order to develop an education sector strategic plan that replaced the Medium Term Plan and also work was carried out to begin the roll out of a new education curriulum by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
The 2016-2020 Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) will focus on phasing in the new curriculum; continual provision of professional upgrading, supervision and other support for the teachers. Increasing access to learning through early identification of children with specific learning needs and more well equipped classrooms for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Information, Communication, Technology) ICT; having the right institutional architecture, great leadership, accountable management, efficient and effective resource utilisation and quality service delivery as well as first class data collection, research and analysis. The Education Act, revised in 2006 and other statutory instruments will need to be reviewed, revised and updated to be consistent with the provisions of the new Constitution. The policy framework will be reviewed, developed or rationalized and the ESSP commits to prepare and implement policy on a) School level financing b) ICT for the education sector c) School feeding d) Inclusive Education e) Assessment for the infant years and review and develop the assessment framework for new areas f) policy and/regulatory framework for Teacher Professional Standards g) Infant/ Early Childhood policy; and finalize and implement the School Health Policy.
Zimbabwe considers access to high quality and relevant education for all children both as a basic right and the foundation that underpins the cultural, social, economic and democratic growth of our nation. The structure of Education is now 2-7-4-2 meaning two years of Early Childhood Development (ECD), 7 years basic primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 2 years of senior secondary schooling. Although the literacy rate of Zimbabwe is 92%, there is need to ensure that new schools are built and equipped particularly in the new resettlement areas. The education sector still faces a challenge of a curriculum that does not match the developmental needs of the country. Zimbabwe has reviewed its curriculum to produce a well-grounded learner, capable of contributing meaningfully to the development of the country while leading a fulfilling and happy life. The curriculum rests on five key pillars namely the legal and regulatory framework, teacher capacity development, teacher professional standards, infrastructure development, and research and innovation.
Zimbabwean children need to be grounded early on in their education, in literacy and numeracy while also being exposed to the fundamental concepts of science and technology through Science, Technology, Engineering,and Mathematics (STEM). The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) grounded in the literature and culture of our nation will develop citizens who are confident to move into the world of work and to sustain their lives. The competency based curriculum which will start implementation in 2017 with ECD A, grade 1, Form 1 and Form 5 currently has 102 syllabuses for ECD, Primary and Secondary classes. The aim of the curriculum being to cherish the pupils’ Zimbabwean identity and values, preparing learners for life and work, and acquiring practical competencies, literacy and numeracy skills. The curriculum promotes inclusivity, lifelong learning, equity and fairness and gender sensitivity. The identified exit profiles are skills, knowledge, national identity, values and attitudinal dispositions.
Early Childhood Development was formally integrated into the education system in 2005 through a Permanent Secretary Circular and was annexed to existing primary schools. The ECD is now bundled together with grades one and two and the four years are known as Infant school, grades 3-7 as junior and forms 1-6 as secondary school. Apart from the various Permanent Secretary and Directors’ circulars and statutory instruments spanning from 2004 to 2014, there is no comprehensive ECD policy in Zimbabwe. The ECD sector is underfunded due to the national weak prevailing economic conditions where the majority of funds for education are allocated to salaries leaving less than 3% for infrastructure and professional development. The ECD sector has about 427 800 learners taught by 4000 teachers with 5800 more qualified teachers required. Only 21.6% of children age 36-59 months are attending an early childhood education program. There is need for building the capacity of existing educational officials to be grounded in ECD philosophy, approaches and methods for them to appreciate value of the sector. The ECD sector has inadequate age appropriate infrastructure and equipment. There are very few learning materials which resonate with the play and learn approach and the culture of the nation. The children in the 0-8 years have 27.6% stunting and 11.3%underweight demanding for school feeding programmes.
The general outlook for the education sector in the country looks promising. Education sector financing is key to ensuring that all these plans are implemented and that children have access to great quality education service provision in Zimbabwe. More work needs to be done to unpack the new curriculum so that it is not only easy for the teachers to digest and implement but also for the parents and stakeholders to look at critically and help shape conversations that move the education sector forward.