By Elarm Chalusa
I have valuable thoughts regarding the very important subject of progression at various levels of our education system.
In this article, progression will be used in the context of transition from one academic level to the next as follows:
- Primary to Secondary
- Junior Secondary to Senior Secondary and
- Senior Secondary to Tertiary
I have noticed that our progression rates of 64.5%, 46.2% and completion rate of 30.% for primary, junior and senior secondary schools respectively have been particularly low.
Quality Education – Key to Human Capital Development
Education is central to the attainment of human capital development and this is reflected prominently in the last three National Development Plans (NDPs). A study of the 7NDP shows an acknowledgement of low progression and poor quality of education and offers a wide range of interventions/strategies including increasing investments in the education sector, expansion of infrastructure by building more classes, schools, increased teacher recruitment and upgrading of teacher competences among others. These interventions are quantitative rather than qualitative – save for upgrading of teacher competencies.
Pupil Teacher Ratio and Quality of Education
After studying relationships between Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs) for various nations including Liechtenstein , Georgia, Rwanda, Central African Republic among others, the author observed that most countries with the lowest PTR had the highest progression rates – that’s Liechtenstein and Georgia. Although there were instances where this pattern did not hold, it did so in the majority of cases. This trend prompted this author to suspect that PTR is a factor to academic progression.
Furthermore, this view is born out of the author’s opinion that PTR is a contributing factor towards the quality of education – the lower the PTR, the higher the quality of education afforded to each learner owing to maximised amount of attention a teacher can afford an individual learner and simultaneously increases an individual learner’s chance of having their problems being attended to adequately by a teacher.
Low quality education has been cited as one of the factors affecting transition [World Bank, 2005; Abdelmann, 2001; Levy and Murname, 2001].
What Constitutes Quality Education?
Among other things, quality education equips learners with:
- capability to self empowerment
- ability to contribute positively to shape the present and future for the advancement of self and others
- providing relevant alternatives to present and future problems
How can this be achieved in the Zambian context?
- While not neglecting the numerical increase espoused by the government (in building new schools, more classes, recruiting more teachers), there is need to augment focus on the the quality of education taking place in the classroom.
- Reduce PTR across all levels where this may impede the learning processes or disadvantage masses if unchecked.
Increasing Progression at All Levels
In order to ensure that we “accelerate development efforts towards the Vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”, let us consider the merits of the following propositions:
- Abolish Grade 7 Examinations which hitherto have served as a pre-requisite for progression to Grade 8 (Secondary education).
- Abolish Grade 9 Examinations which hitherto have served as pre-requisite for progression to Grade 10 (Senior Secondary).
The two interventions above would inevitably help us get closer to achieving universal basic education. Removing these barriers in the form of examination would enhance education of our masses in unprecedented proportions.
- Extend provision of Student Loans to all State and Selected Private institutions meeting certain criteria in collaboration with Private Firms such as Banks, Construction Companies, Parastatals – because all of these get employees (graduates) from our institutions and will continue to get graduates from the same institutions.
- Allow pupils to take subjects, which are relevant to their chosen career paths instead of continuing with the current curricula which imposes subjects some learners may neither require for their advanced learning or chosen career paths. However, in exceptional instances, pupils may still be required to take or at least participate in one form or another (without the need for examination) certain subjects on account of national needs. For in instance, Agricultural Science might be compulsory from time to time to foster the agro sector and hence food security and diversification. This author is of the view that the lack interest coupled with the perceived lack of purpose for certain subjects may be deemed a waste of time and might serve as a reason for dropping out of school since little effort will be dedicated towards passing such subjects.
- Decrease pupil teacher ratios at all levels to suitable values gradually. The author is persuaded that a blotted class in and of itself is tantamount to denial of a full learning experience required to tap into a learner’s abilities and help them develop their full potential.