Botswana youth need diverse skills for a changing world

25 Oct 2018

Thousands of miles in the classrooms of Japan, children are being taught how to be shrewd problem solvers. In Finland they encourage expression, whilst in Singapore children are being trained critical and inventive thinking. How much has Botswana achieved?Asks The Telegraph Reporter.

Many countries across the world are taking a proactive approach to equip and channel more resources into identifying the skills, behaviours and new knowledge the youth need to effectively navigate the 21st century life and work. Proactive governments around the world are finally realising that while attaining and keeping knowledge is an essentiality, this is just one of many areas of competency the youth need to make it in this fast moving century where the shelf life of skills is short and has to be updated regularly.

Pauline Mokgethi a former senior researcher at Africa Excel which was responsible for conducting country to country analysis in Africa on education needs from 2005 to 2010 revealed to The Telegraph that Botswana as much as the rest of Africa lags behind other continents on capabilities which are regarded as vital to contemporary schooling.

“For Botswana to catch up with the rest of the world and have youth that thrive in the 21st century workforce, then policymakers have to think ahead and come up with comprehensive curriculum reforms.

Most of these competencies were vital in the past, but now their importance has increased substantially. Whilst these competencies might not be new, they are important and vital,” says Mokgethi.

She also says she has noticed that policymakers pay lip service to educational reforms but do nothing when it comes to the actual execution of those plans.

“It is not enough just to teach children the basics such as literacy and numeracy. Across the world, curriculum reform is taking place and most countries are placing much emphasis on diverse skills. Of course these skills sometimes depend on geopolitical circumstances and the needs of the workforce,” she says.

It is common knowledge that Botswana is undergoing a transition to a knowledge based economy where new knowledge is seen as adding new value. Knowledge based economy means that technological advances are becoming rapid and this is why Botswana is focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

However Mokgethi says whilst there is a general global consensus about the kind of skills that today’s youth need in order to make it in this century, almost all countries differ in the way they implement new educational approaches.

Explaining why Botswana’s approach to education is not doing well as expected she says “Botswana is more focused on having youth that are numerate and literate whilst paying little attention to the need to have youth that are digitally literate, innovative, agile, and global thinkers.”

Botswana also needs to broaden its scope to evaluate other areas which include collaborative problem solving, social and emotional skills and even creative thinking.

“Botswana must try and integrate these skills into its national curricula because there are substantial implications for teaching, learning and assessment,” says Mokgethi.

She also says some of these skills go beyond the traditional academic skills of numeracy and literacy and require mastery of diverse kinds of facts to multifaceted analyses. Botswana government must show the same commitment as shown in other countries to guarantee the overdue vision for curriculum reform is fulfilled.

“Botswana youth deserve nothing less,” she says.

Japan did not adopt the “Zest for Life” reform because it is trendy. Finland is not prioritising seven competencies in its new curriculum to further boost its status. Singapore and Canada have not adopted the central 21st Century Competencies Framework and changed their curricula just to be noticed. These are stories of sustained excellence enhanced through well-balanced education based on cooperation.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals recognizes this shift in the focus of education toward a broader approach. Of particular interest for skills for a Changing World, Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls for skills beyond literacy and numeracy—including readiness for primary education, technical and vocational skills as well as skills needed to promote sustainable development.

These are essential as they focus on the critical skills needed to prepare the youth for the 21st century life.

Japan did not adopt the “Zest for Life” reform because it is trendy. Finland is not prioritising seven competencies in its new curriculum to further boost its status. Singapore and Canada have not adopted the central 21st Century Competencies Framework and changed their curricula just to be noticed. Botswana must understand that these are stories of sustained excellence enhanced through well-balanced education based on cooperation.