Friday, September 25, 2020

Botswana education system going through a difficult transformation

The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Council, Patrick Molotsi, says the admission of grade “Ds” from primary school into secondary education is undermining the quality of the products that ultimately make it to tertiary education.

A few years ago in its endeavours to enhance prospects of achieving universal education at secondary school level, Government took a deliberate decision to broaden admissions by admitting Standard 7 grade “Ds”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Dr Molotsi said the Standard 7 grade “Ds” are negatively affecting the whole education system.

The “Ds” from primary school filter into secondary schools where, according to Dr. Molotsi they manifest in the inability of O’level students’ to write or communicate.
“Many of them survive Form 5 because it is multiple choice. Analytically, they are in the dark,” said Botswana’s tertiary education chief when elaborating the extent to which grade “D” contaminates Botswana’s education system.

The problem, said Molotsi, is also compounded by what he calls the “crisis of teachers”.
He says quality has gone down, as has passion and commitment.

The problem, he said, is that many teachers of today are in the “wrong places,” teaching not because they enjoy their job, but simply because they have no choice.
To fix the problem would require addressing the root causes, including by way of revising the pre-school curricular.

Despite all these systemic problems, Dr. Molotsi is of the view that overall tertiary education in Botswana is showing signs of improvement.

The infrastructure, especially in privately operated colleges and universities has gone up.
Teaching and learning facilities like libraries, laboratories and computers are available.
Lecturer qualifications have significantly gone up.

On the governance front, the private colleges have opened up significantly.
While in the past such colleges were run as fiefdoms of the owners, nowadays students and staff are involved in the governance structures.

Molotsi says not so long ago private colleges in Botswana were effectively household companies, with owners insisting on doubling as Vice Chancellors even as they did not possess rightful educational qualifications.

“These schools are now forced to open up and owners are required to cede control. They wouldn’t have improved unless we demanded so,” he said.

That said, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially on the aspect of corporate governance as there is still too much overlapping between control and management.
On curriculum content, Molotsi says TEC has insisted on a review of programmes presided over by independent external panels that come up with reports recommending what areas each college has to focus on in order to reform and improve for the better.

Going back to the quality of teachers Molotsi says there is a vicious circle which has to be broken if the quality of teachers in Botswana has to improve.
One of the problems, he says, is that at present there is no professional body which sifts and selects teachers.

“In other countries, teachers are required to register just like nurses. In Botswana, people have run into teaching because it was the only thing available.”

He adds that the teacher profile, especially in the rural areas, shows that the profession is manned by people who are older who also happen to have given up on their prospects in life.
“It is these teachers who don’t quarrel about their poor working conditions who consistently produce the worst results.”

Research has proved that the high number of such despondent teachers is concentrated in the North West District and the western belts of the country where schools’ results are traditionally terrible.

“Of course, this is not peculiar to teachers and it is not meant to criticise anyone. In Botswana, we have nurses who are not nurses, police officers who are not officers and the like.”
Molotsi says schools have to contend with teachers who are forever drunk, who are always absent because of sickness and the like.

“May be teachers need to be re-invited to reapply and allow for modern testing to apply.”
He says student pregnancies, which are for the most part a result of relationships with teachers, serve to show that many teachers do not have a “teacher character”.

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