Is Zimbabwe’s education system broken?

Tafadzwa examines the relevance of Zimbabwe’s education curricular. Is it time to reform our school system?

Time to reform our education system?

Time to reform our education system?

In my first year of formal education, my teacher sold us dreams. If you listen in class, if you do your classwork and your homework, if you work hard, you will get a good job and you will live happily ever after.

Now, I know what you are going to say. My teacher, wise as she was, could hardly have foreseen, in the mid-90s, the economic disaster that was looming. In an ideal world, my teacher would have been right, every good child in the class would now be happily employed and we would not be having this conversation. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?

We certainly don’t live in an ideal country.

The economy

There is no doubt that the economy is largely responsible for the situation we are currently in: a depressing number of our young people not being in a position to make a living. The question is, how much of a role does the education system play?

I recently came across this Medium post by Seth Godin pointing out some flaws in the US traditional education system. This is the USA. A country that is not in any way in an economic crisis like we are. This brings to mind a quote from a Hosia Chipanga song:

Hove dzemugugwa, kana dzaakuti mvura ishoma ko isu vemuzvikova?

(When the fish in the sea start complaining that there is too little water, what about us in the streams?)

Many in the developed countries recognise that the traditional education models are ill-suited to a future defined by technological advancement. There is a reason some of the most iconic figures globally dropped out of school.

Reforming Zimbabwe’s education

To be fair, there has been widespread recognition in Zimbabwe that our school system needs reform. Government has tried a few half hearted initiatives to patch the system. What I do not see being discussed is which skills exactly we need our young people to have.

When I was in primary school, I learn’t the difference between runner and tufted grass. I also learn’t lots of similarly useless pieces of information. Its probably useful to some people, but I it will never make a difference in my life. At the same time, the school’s computer lab was standing vacant. If you had given me a choice, I would have skipped the tufted grass class and learn’t something useful in the computer lab.

Is our education relevant?

I am not suggesting for a moment that school children should be left to decide which classes to attend and which one to skip. I would doubtless have skipped the algebra class if given the choice, which might have been shooting myself in the foot. On the bright side, I would have skipped long division as well.

As happy as I am with the formal education I got, on reflection there was a lot of useless stuff. I spent an unreasonable amount of time in high school learning about glaciers and desert landforms in the geography class. Just imagine all the useful skills I could have acquired in that time!

I think there is a discussion worth having here. Just how much of the stuff we teach kids is ever likely to serve them in any way? Which useful skills are we not teaching them?