As I continue to write about education reforms in Tanzania. Chapter 2 will not be complete without a mention of a monumental and most progressive education policy released in February of 2015. Here, instead of writing descriptively about the policy itself and what it contains, I will highlight the issues I thought were great. In addition, I will also talk briefly about the areas that were raised but there is lack of detailed information about them and/or the issues that were completely left out or not addressed by the document.
I read the entire document with much enthusiasm. In fact, the document is well written and covers a lot of ground on issues of education in Tanzania. The writers have honestly, thoughtfully, and thoroughly digested the situation and represented key areas to address the problems or weaknesses in the system. Thus, in my analysis or reflections, I will analyze the document against a backdrop of the so called “global education crisis” since it is not only Tanzania that is experiencing stagnation in its education system. Many countries across the global are facing the same problems and many are working hard to find ways to improve their education systems.
The High Points Raised
The document advocate for free education in primary education. This is a significant and progressive point. In my humble opinion, school fees especially for primary education was hindrance to many as evidenced by high enrolment in primary schools across the country this year. This suggests that there were many children that did not attend primary school because of lack of school fees in the past. This is a great move for the country. Education is the single most factor in reducing poverty for any community and especially for poor communities. Hopefully, the government will do a better job of anticipating these higher enrolment numbers so that resources will be made available in the schools next year.
The use of Kiswahili in teaching and learning is an essential part of teaching and learning in Tanzania. I am all for using Kiswahili as a medium of instruction. There are many pros for using mother tongue languages to educate students. The literature supports the use of native language in teaching and learning as it helps student to comprehend well what they are learning. I will, however argue that, we also need a robust language instruction for the English language to go hand in hand with Swahili as the language of instruction. Without a robust English language instruction, the country will suffer tremendously from lack of players in the global economy.
Currently, Tanzania uses Kiswahili as the language of instruction in primary schools. The evidence from Standard Seven National Examination does not entirely support the use of Swahili as a language of instruction. The failure rates in Kiswahili are quite as high as those in English. Thus, just changing the language of instruction may not solve the problems related to lower educational outcomes in Tanzania.
The document has emphasized vocational skills and education which I applaud. As we need more teachers, doctors, astronauts, and engineers on one hand, we do also need on the other hand, plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, carpenters and so forth. The needs for certificated individuals in many areas of our lives cannot be underestimated. I am really impressed with the new education policy in Tanzania for realizing this need for the country. Vocational schools are also important for creating a pool of people who can become entrepreneurs hence reducing pressure to the government from youth that will need to be employed in the near future.
In addition, the document also emphasizes education that will “impart soft skills” to our youth. This yet another high point from the new policy. The writers of the document have recognized that many of our college graduate suffers from a lack of soft skills. Today’s employers perceive a lack of “soft skills among recent graduate” (Citizen Newspaper, 2016). Soft skills are sometimes referred to as “key skills, core skills, key competencies, or employable skills, are those desirable qualities that apply across a variety of jobs and life situations–traits as integrity, commination, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism, flexibility, and team work” (Kings, 2012). Our education system need to do more in these areas.
Lastly, the document emphasizes a robust evaluation and accountability system to make sure that there exists checks and balances in the entire system. This move is commendable. A system of checks and balances is crucial to the smooth and efficient running of any progressive program such as this one. Too many times in the past, the system lacked a check and balance to ensure a smooth progression of the education system. In addition to a robust evaluation and monitoring system, the document also emphasizes changes to the education management structure. There are too many bodies in charge of the system. Thus, reducing the number of actors in education management is the best way forward. Having a stream-lined management structure will reduce confusion and increase efficiency.
The Low Points
I completely support the new policy and the direction is taking the education system in Tanzania. However, there also few points that I feel were not well addressed or not mentioned at all. Thus, in the spirit of looking back and reflecting honestly about issues important to this country, I will briefly touch on those points. I believe special education needs to be given more emphasis in our education system. The issues of accessibility, learning, and teaching aids for special education students were not well addressed in this document. I am not really sure of the numbers of special education students in the country, however, I believe there are many and will be helped by a policy that specifically address their learning needs.
The literature regarding parental involvement and education achievement is beyond refute. Thus, for a document as important as this one not to mention or set priorities for parental involvement in their children education does not sound well to me. The research is clear on this–parents who are involved in the process of educating their children such as participating in school activities, doing homework with their children, and who participate in the day to day running of a school– creates a better learning environment for the students, teachers, and students— which translates to better education outcomes for the children. I would have hoped to see this document to have set guidelines for parental involvements in schools. My worries are, parents, especially those from poor backgrounds will otherwise not fully participate in the process of educating their children.
Other issues not completely discussed in the document are financing, action plan to implement the policy, and lack of public libraries especially in rural areas. Running a free education system costs money. As they say here “nothing is free.” The question I have is: who is going to pay for all this? Perhaps some detailed financial analysis was need to make sure that all possible angles were covered. It is all well and good to say, education will be free. Will this free education affect quality? Furthermore, very little is mentioned in the document on how this policy will be implemented? When is the action plan? And Finally, learning well requires good books and access to them. Thus, an initiative to have public libraries in schools or neighborhood across the country is needed. Learning, as we know, it does not happen only in schools. Communities needs to support and augment what is learned at school through experiential learning activities.
In summary, chapter two was a descriptive presentation of all the major reforms of education in Tanzania. There are many reforms that took place during this time period that I found to be not that important and thus, did not include them here. All in all, politics and societal changes have had an impact on the education system. The single part system in early years, oversaw an adoption of self-reliance education, followed by universal primary education reforms, and the economic and political difficulties of the 1980s that lead to the cost sharing reforms for the education system in Tanzania. During the multi-party era we have seen voices not only from politicians, but also, from civil society organizations pushing the governments to reform the country’s education system to meet the needs of students and employers in the 21st century. Due to these voices, the government of Tanzania in 2015 release yet another education policy. The last education policy was more inclusive of voices from many stakeholders in education across the country.