The educational debate has partly been stimulated by the relative concern for academic standards and quality in education, which has been simmering for some time. Poor performance, particularly why students maximally attain less in terms of examinations, is a major issue in the Botswana Education system. An educational system that has many more losers than winners is likely to cause widespread resentment.
Perhaps majority of students fail because they are often tested about unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways. The examination system involves a little more than a random mix of memory – work, some comprehension and usually, ability with the written word. It hardly allows for an adequate expression and assessment of such important qualities, as for instance, interest in, and commitment to the subject. The education system is more silent on the fate of pupils when they leave school. Most children do not reach anything approaching their full educational potential and, therefore, get jobs below their capacity. In essence they are ideologically persuaded to fit into boring and relatively unrewarding roles, because the educational system carries a substantial risk to suppress the inherent talents and skills of arts and sport, thereby limiting occupational prospects of many pupils. Moreover, the job – market value of qualifications has become substantially less now that there is chronic over-qualification in many areas of service related jobs. This brings about a challenge to the syllabus that it should go beyond the production of generally literate and numerate population and take on the much needed technological and socio-economic development.
The education in Botswana contributes to the continuance of inequality and in particular, it reproduces a labour force which is socialized to accept its ‘failure’ and has in any case no adequate alternative means of survival.
The majority of children from poor families who ‘fail’ tend to accept their ‘failure’ and the success of most middle class as legitimate. In a sense, these matters become ‘facts of life’ for the families of the poor community, whether they benefit from the educational system or not. The relative under – achievement of many children is that of wasted potential. The existing educational system is cheap, and easy to administer and those who currently run it seems to have a vested interest in keeping it as it is.
The critique of the educational system must be married to an analysis of the socio-economic system. Access to a wide range of skills and knowledge is the key to real education. Educational change will not occur unless a wider social transformation takes place, including a restructuring of the development planning of government of production to involve students more meaningfully in areas like mining, tourism, arts, agriculture and civil and electrical engineering. Educational system ought to be more closely directed to serve the needs of the economy.
At present schools systematically fail to provide this. The educational system tends to mirror the British colonial attitude on education by still concentrating in service related professions like health, teaching, security and social sciences. The students are so cut off from socio-economic planning and so organized around academic subject
specialisms, that many students lack basic practical skills. The constraints of academic teaching mean that many teachers are unable to respond to children`s need for daily information and advice about, say, career expectations.
Botswana like other nations requires a highly educated citizenry, particularly in the areas of scientific and technological research. The education system must produce graduates who have acquired the learning and capability to solve the country`s problems like supply of adequate electricity, and effective reticulation of water.
Japan is one such example of its ‘economic miracle’ which would not have been possible without the efficiency of its educational system. The social relationships in the educational system should echo those of the economic system and thus prepare children for working life. The country`s economy should be dependent on the government`s knowing in advance the number, quality and variety of skills of the country`s labour force. The education system that Botswana needs is one that can identify what each child`s talent is, early in life and by the time they reach high school they start to focus on their strengths. It is unacceptable not to know what pupils strength are by the time they turn 18.
Pupil performance on educational achievement has also to be associated with support in early childhood. A child`s cognitive development is very strongly influenced by the provision of pre – schooling, social status and educational level of parents. So it is ludicrous to put blame on the parents without taking into consideration the economic background and literacy levels of Botswana parents. The provision of free pre – schooling which must factor in the usage of indigenous language during the formative years for all children is of decisive importance for achieving desirable results in our education system. Such a provision helps to expose to children of economically and culturally deprived families the same cognitive stimulation as children from socially privileged backgrounds. Until the issues of pre-schooling have been fairly and sensitively accommodated, there can be no serious talk of higher educational expectations.
Schools also need a atmosphere that is secure and purposeful and in which effective work could take place and good relationships prosper. A certain school ethos of sound teaching and professional behavior is the key note.
Teachers who are punctual, well-organised, patient, encourage pupils, and can inspire by example, are likely to get the best from pupils. The ability, experience and commitment of the individual teacher is a crucial variable.
The parents should support school performance with regard to their children`s attendance, academic achievement, behavior in school and the rate of delinquency. The dominant social attitude of teachers during Parents – Teachers Meetings needs to be changed to allow for mutual advantage of stakeholders interaction.
Teachers don’t come to the school – community meetings as equal partners to the parents, they facilitate a monologue over a dialogue discussion so as to surpass parents suggestions. This depicts PTAs to be a skewed type of relationship. Students` representatives must also be included during the PTA meetings to express their sentiments about their school environment. It should be a three – side engagement; Parents Teachers Students Associations (PTSA) for progressive school performance.