AS Tanzania envisions becoming a middle income country by 2015, education experts have called for the government and development partners to reflect on the kind of education and delivery systems that are required to realize a vibrant and sustainable industrial economy the nation aspires to be.
Speaking at the 11th Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival 2019 organized recently by the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).
The experts observed that the nation should ensure education prepares learners to acquire skilled knowledge and become drivers of the industrialisation agenda aimed at enabling the country to attain a middle income status by 2025.
They said underlying any successful industrial policy of any particular country requires skilled knowledge, starting from primary, secondary and above.
Executive Director of HakiElimu, Dr John Kalage in his opening remarks at the festival, told the audience that many challenges continue to face the country’s education system, and thus the need to reflect on the kind of delivery system in education.
“In fact, there is rising overt and sometimes not so overt discontent with the overall performance of formal education at all levels, as many challenges continue to face our education system,” he said.
Quoting the words once said by the late Mwalimu Nyerere, Dr Kalage said that education should enable the learner to explore his /her environment and enable him/ her to cope with modern challenges.
He pointed out that as the nation continues to reflect on the relevance of education in Tanzania’s efforts of becoming an industrial economy, the government and its partners should engage their minds on seeing whether the current curricula meets the needs of individual learners and society at large.
He said that other fascinating questions scholars and the state should engage in is whether graduates are getting the right skills required by the labor market and how valid, relevant and reliable is the current assessment practice at all levels of our education system, and to what extent is the current assessment reflecting actual pupil/student performance.
“According to Mwalimu Nyerere, ‘Productive work should become an integral part of the school curriculum and provide meaningful learning experience through the integration of theory and practice.
The importance of examinations should be downgraded,” he said. Dr Kalage pointed out other questions as whether teachers are technically wellequipped, motivated and committed to fulfill their professional obligations, as well as the kind of support currently provided to enable teachers to support students to develop essential competences.
“So many issues to consider and many questions to ask, but these questions and many others will help us re-assess and rethink whether we have the right education system to deliver our ambitious plan to become a medium income country by 2025,” he said.
Other experts asked the government to overhaul the East African national school curriculum for public primary and secondary schools to help support the country’s ambitious industrialization drive.
A Professor of Education at St Augustine University of Tanzania, Kalafunjo Osaki said the curriculum should be designed in such a way that they provide three important things that are essential for industrialization, mentioning them as general knowledge, individual development and social skills.
“It is very important to give students room for doing what they think they are best at instead of assuming that everyone is destined to be a professor or degree holder,” he said, adding that schools were supposed to be interpreters of the government’s industrial policy.
A lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, College of Education, Subirego Kejo, said there were several competencies which were crucial in building an industrial economy that should be reflected from both primary and sec ondary education curriculum.
He said these include improving the quality of science education, enhancing information and communication technology skills and promoting creativity and problem- solving.
He mentioned other competencies as promotion of a culture of saving and investment, promotion of a culture of hardworking, entrepreneurship, self-development, responsibility, discipline, selfconfidence and innovation.
“These are the qualities that we aspire to instill in our people. However, all these should start being built from early stages of education,” he added.
On the part of the government, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Professor, Joyce Ndalichako told participants that the main challenge the government is currently addressing is quality of education.
She said that the country is still constrained by limited capacity to provide the necessary inputs for effective teaching and learning in the country’s institutions, adding that there is need for expansion and modernization of training institutions to match with the requirements of the current technology, and an urgent need to re-balance both the number and skill relevance at all levels of education.
Findings from Tanzania Enterprise Survey 2013 show that about 40 percent of all firms involved in the survey identified an inadequately skilled workforce as a major constraint to productivity in many sectors.
Work ethics, communication and problem solving skills were among the skills reported to be highly inadequate. On the other hand, an even higher number of failed firms reported skills constraints as one of their main challenge.
The survey shows that 63 percent of failed firms indicated that shortage of workers with the right skills profile was a contributing factor of above average.
However, the minister said that the country’s education sector has witnessed impressive increase of school enrollments at all levels. For example, she said for the past five years, more than 90 per cent of primary school-age children (age 7–13) are enrolled in school (BEST, 2017).
The introduction of free basic education has led to a massive increase in the number of children in primary schools from 8,298,282 in 2015 to 9,639,202 in 2016.
The transition rate to secondary school has increased from 21.7 per cent in 2000 to 70.6 in 2015 (BEST, 2017). Enrollment in higher learning institutions has increased from 44,715 in 2012/13 to 69,539 in 2016/17.
The festival, an annual event named after the country’s founding president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, brought together scholars from various fields to discuss the country’s social, political and economic issues, and finding solutions to them under the theme “Pan- Africanism and the Quest for Unity, Democratisation and Development: The State, Markets and Knowledge Society”.