Offering quality education that will ensure that graduates have a smooth transition into the workforce, and are globally competent, remains the greatest challenge to the development system of not only Botswana, but its other African counterparts.
While the spotlight remains on education pass rates that continue to decline and a poorly skilled and educated youth graduate population, African countries are forced to work together to find practical solutions to these challenges.
The chairperson of Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) managing committee Angelina Motshekga, paid a courtesy call on Education and Skills Development minister, Dr. Unity Dow in Gaborone recently where they exchanged notes on key information of 16 governments, which could be used for research, benchmarking, policy development and budgetary purposes.
Dow noted that, “Without research, you cannot budget; you cannot know if your curriculum needs review or whether you need policy and legislative review.” The hosting of the SACMEQ conference consolidates a four-year period of capacity-building programmes in educational planning undertaken, as co-operative activities by the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) and Ministries of Education and Culture in Southern Africa.
The role of SACMEQ is to provide policy advice to key decision makers on educational quality issues considered as high priority by their respective ministries of education. The project is mainly designed to provide opportunities for educational planners in southern Africa to work together, as well as share expertise and experiences.
Elizabeth Henning, an education expert and researcher based at the University of Johannesburg, suggested in a report released in 2013 that it was critical for educators to be researchers as well.
Henning was among the educators tasked with applying a test project of the Finnish school system in Soweto, South Africa. The Finnish system is considered the best in the world, with countries like Korea and China also following suit. The education system focuses with specifics on the holistic development of the learner, smaller classrooms, quality over quantity (students taught for lesser hours and allowed to rest and play, but there is depth to what they are taught), an improved and simplified school curriculum, access to learning tools and resources, and practical training and improved status and working conditions for teachers.
According to the report, if education is not based on research and evidence, it runs the risk of being dogged by dogma, theory, ideology and prejudice. It noted that education should serve to liberate, and promote democracy and equality of opportunity, and that similarly, following an ideological route restricts choice, which is the opposite to the real purpose of education. The SACMEQ assembly, which will be held later in the month, will attract ministers and education experts from the 16 member countries: Botswana, Angola, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The SACMEQ offices were moved to Botswana earlier this year.