Big news in the education sector recently as Tanzania unveils new education overhaul plan. I am of two minds about this, particularly the switch from English as the medium of instruction in secondary school back to Swahili.
One part of me is absolutely strident that all
people should know English if they want to be able to travel abroad,
communicate with many different types of people, and succeed in the
global marketplace. If a Tanzanian, an American, a German, and a Korean
all met up in a bar, the common denominator language-wise would have to
be English. That I happen to be a native English speaker is my good
fortune, but I don't think anyone would argue with my notion of the importance of English language skills in such a situation over say, Urdu.
other part of me, the Toa Nafasi part, thinks that realistically the
majority of kids in public schools in Tanzania will ultimately not be world travelers or
working in the international sector. Unfortunate, but true. And, if we
can bring ourselves to admit this, then English language skills are
much, much, MUCH less important than say, agricultural know-how and
That English is continued to be taught in schools I still consider important, but that it be used as the language of instruction
is indeed crazeballs. Particularly when you consider that the
switchover from Swahili to English in secondary school is sudden and
arbitrary. And furthermore, that the teachers in the majority of these
secondary schools have fairly poor English language skills themselves.
extension of basic education to encompass Form 4 and the abolition of
those nasty standardized exams, I ain't mad at. Both seem like steps in the right direction. But as the author of the Newstime Africa piece below states, such changes are gonna be a long time in the making.
Tanzania announced a new educational overhaul plan, one
that will extend basic education to Form 4, instead of the current
"It's our hope that when students complete this basic education,
which is compulsory up to Form 4, they will be at an age ready to
contribute to the country's development," Sifuni Mchome, the permanent
secretary of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, said.
He added during a televised national ceremony that the new system
would abolish national examinations for primary school leavers.
Mchome noted that students would have their final exams after 11 years in primary and secondary schools.
He said the new system would make primary and secondary education free of charge at state-run schools.
Most important in the new system is that it will ditch English as a
language of instruction at Tanzania's schools, making Kiswahili – the
mother tongue of the people of Tanzania – the instruction language in
English dominated teaching in Tanzania's schools from secondary to tertiary levels for a long time.
"Language studies will then be available to enable students to
communicate in English," Atetaulwa Ngatara, the assistant director for
policy at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, said.
"Communicating in English is something to do with language studies," he added.
Mchome, meanwhile, noted that the new system would also incorporate
vocational education in basic education syllabus to allow students who
do not make it to Form 5 to have skills to contribute to the development
of their country.
"We need a critical mass of skilled labor for the country's development," Mchome said.
"This cannot be achieved within the current policy, which focuses on
filtering and rejecting students without skills through final exams," he
Nevertheless, the new system might take decades to take root, some of
the officials speaking on Saturday said, because extensive preparations
would need to be made for English to be ditched.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said the new system was part of his country's Vision 2025.
He said the system took the global economy, and social and technological changes into account.
"In the next seven years, we will have built the capacity whereby
every child who starts Standard I will reach Form 4," the President
He added that the system would take Tanzania to the next level, where
the nation would have skilled people with both practical and