Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Too Much Politics"

Hi everybody, hope all is well.  My apologies again for the delay in posting but Carla and Barbara have just left and I needed to take some "me time" to put the house (and my life!) back in order!!

To that end, no original content for today's entry, but an interesting article reprinted from the Daily News titled "Too Much Politics in Education Will Not Do Tanzania and Its People Any Good."


It is written by Dr. Gastor Mapunda, a senior lecturer in the College of Humanities at the University of Dar es Salaam, and I gotta say, he makes a lot of sense.

I can especially relate after last week when some of the wazee (old men) on my Tanzanian Board of Directors tried to say they should be involved in the hiring of Toa Nafasi teachers.  Heck, even I don't hire the teachers; I leave that up to Hyasinta and Mama Mshiu.

Part of the successful running of this organization is knowing when I need to step up and do things myself, and when I can delegate the responsibility to others.  Especially when those others know better than me what is necessary to complete the task at hand!
Is it a coincidence that one of these meddlesome wazee is a diwani (local councilman) and a low-level politician?!  Methinks HAPANA!! (NO!!)

It is generally understandable and acknowledged that the provision of education in any country is necessarily politically motivated and controlled.

It is actually surprising when people keep on saying that politics should not interfere with education - this is outright impossibleThe role of politics is unavoidable in religion, in the army, in the economy, and so in education.  What I do not condone though is too much politics in the aspects of education which are technical.  Those should be left to the professionals, who are the technocrats.

To put my argument in perspective, I will give examples explicating how education should in a way be politically driven and motivated.

During the colonial times in Tanzania, the education provided was meant to train personnel in areas relevant to skills and attitudes necessary to the running of the colonial government, including their economy.

In this regard, both the content and the values inculcated were those that specifically painted colorfully the colonial governments and their homelands as the best on earth.

In the schools, children were made to sing "God bless the Queen;" in the literature classes, children were made to learn the Shakespearean literature; the history which was taught was that glorifying the might of Europe while at the same time denigrating Africa.  But when the political landscape changed after independence, we saw how politics changed the educational outlook.

In the schools, even the songs changed, let alone the language of instruction and the content of some subjects.  Examples of subjects whose contents were either changed or modified include History, Literature, and Geography.

In this regard, the role of politics is seen as that of aligning the education system to the national philosophy, policies, and development goals in the general sense.

The political direction after independence was geared towards decolonizing Tanzania.  In this regard, Nyerere's regime worked hard to undo all the imprints of colonialism in education.

However, more recently Tanzania has witnessed political events in the education sector which negatively affect its proper functioning.

At the onset, my argument in this article is that while politics are unavoidable in education, they should be limited only to the more general levels, particularly regarding administrative levels, but not to the specific ones needing technical and professional attendance.

For example, for some reason, the government decided to make Standard Four and Standard Seven national examinations multiple-choice.

So candidates are expected to only choose the letter of the correct answer.  In some schools, teachers are already seeing incapable pupils excelling in those examinations.

Some of the most serious problems with such examinations are that guesswork and peeping, among other practices, can easily be done.  Teachers teach their learners how to arrive at the correct answers, and not just the answer.

So, within the multiple-choice mode of examinations is a political decision, possibly aimed at covering for the growing number of students against the number of teachers, which is small.

The solution cannot be setting all multiple-choice examinations, but recruiting more teachers.  This kind of decision is an improper political decision in education.

Another inappropriate political decision in the Tanzania's education system, relates to the 2005 change in syllabi, from knowledge-based to the so-called competence-based.

When this syllabus was introduced in 2005 by the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE), the overall reasoning behind the change was that learners were to show ability in applying what they learned in the classroom.

They were expected to be able to apply, not to simply cram and remember details.  They argued that Tanzanian learners should be capable of competing with other learners in other parts of the world.

Generally, I have no problem with this decision; it would actually have been very nice to do so, if chances allowed.

But practically, the change was made prematurely and impressionistically, and Tanzania was not yet ready for the kind of change made.  Such a decision should have involved a sizeable number of technocrats; not just the small sample of teachers involved.

The teachers who were supposed to implement the new syllabi, that is, the competence-based syllabi, were not trained to do so.

Besides, it was realized in a workshop held in Morogoro in 2008 that in some parts of the country, up to that year, that is 2008, some teachers had not yet seen the 2005 syllabi.  This means that in some schools students were still being taught in the old syllabus.

Relatedly, if not, consequently, the year 2012 saw the worst ever performance in the certificate of secondary examinations.  The more intriguing act of politics interfering with education was witnessed when the government handled the 2012 mass failures.  Instead of dealing with the root causes, it decided to politically change the performance, in the guise of standardization.

This was followed by changing the examinations reporting system, from division to grade performance average (GPA), with a view to lowering the different categories.  Superfluously, the use of GPA made Tanzanians believe that things were moving in the right direction.

This was, again a wrong political action regarding education.  I would like to end my article by urging politicians to not jump into technocratic decisions without involving the technocrats.  The consequences of doing so are terribly horrendous on the nation.

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