The Minister of Education and Skills Development, Jacob Nkate, has revealed that Botswana has registered modest qualitative achievements in education since independence.
Speaking in Tonota last week, Nkate revealed that a recent Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which gives feedback on international competitiveness of Botswana learners’ achievement levels in science and maths has revealed a poor performance by Botswana students as compared to their counterparts from around the world.
Nkate said that his ministry is faced with the daunting challenge of improving the quality of education in the schools and initiatives are already underway to raise the quality of passes at primary and secondary schools.
“We are introducing subject specialization at upper primary school level (Standard 5-7) to ensure that subjects like maths and science get better attention and focus from the best qualified teachers,” he said.
The minister also revealed that the strengthening of mathematics and science in secondary education is another initiative that is meant to improve quality at secondary schools. In the program, maths and science teachers will be trained on interactive teaching methodologies.
Since independence, the government has invested heavily in the development of education. First, primary education was rapidly expanded to a point where, by 1998, there was universal access to primary education. The second stage was to ensure that all children who finish primary education proceed to the three-year junior certificate, and plans are underway to expand access to secondary and tertiary levels.
Nkate’s utterances came during the unveiling of Tati Nickel Mine’s P950 000 maths and science results improvement program at Shashe River School last week.
The minister said that science and technology are major economic drivers in today’s knowledge society and any nation that wants to be competitive in today’s global economy has to be a producer and exporter of high value goods and services, which are technology driven.
“That is why as a nation we are investing in a second university of science and technology. The BIUST will have an enrollment of ten thousand students when fully developed and we need to have top grade students in science and mathematics to fill this university,” he said.
When making comments at the event, Tati Nickel General Manager, Peet Kotze, said that Botswana has a shortage of skills in the area of science and technology.
“The diversification of our economy relies very heavily on our skills base, and availability of skills in any country is one factor that contributes to the attraction of foreign direct investment,” he said.
Nkate cautioned that the time was ripe for Botswana to make concerted efforts to develop skills in science and technology to avoid continuing to import skills from outside, which always comes at a cost. He added that projects sometimes stall because companies cannot afford the cost of importing skills from outside the country and this has a negative bearing on the national economy.
“Currently, there is a shortage of engineers in the country and there is an urgent need to accelerate the supply of local engineers in the market. There must be constant supply of quality trainees to vocational and academic institutions for this to happen,” he said.
With a view to facilitating a rapid increase in the number of students venturing into science and technology, Tati Nickel Mine last week undertook the responsibility of promoting maths and science subjects in Botswana schools.