In 1965, my dad was at Old Moshi Secondary School (O-Level) and got an opportunity to go to Kenya for a study visit that had brought a selection of students (I think they had won essays or something to be selected for that program) from all over the world. When he came back, he wrote a letter to the Minister of Education asking for an exemption to skip A-Levels and join University immediately after finishing O-Level. He got an answer that was not possible. My dad was only 18 years old then and he was in Form IV. In Old Moshi he was among the youngest students yet when he went to the study visit he realized that he was not young and same age students in other parts of the world were far ahead of him. Although my dad’s request to skip A-levels was denied, his idea remained and he implemented it to his kids. My siblings and I all started standard one at either the age of 4 or 5. That was partly possible because my mom was a primary school teacher so she probably could influence the admission acceptance, but it was more because of the vision that my dad had. Similarly, when my sis finished form four (that time the system was that you finish form 4 in November and wait to join A-levels in July the following year), she didn’t wait for the results, my dad enrolled her to Form 5 in January, so by the time her fellow students were joining form 5, she was going to form 6. She saved a whole year. In that way, we all were very graced to finish university education at young age. I completed my PhD at the age of 28 despite 2 full straight years of working experience prior to starting my PhD. I finished my first degree just before I turned 21.
I gave the story above to highlight my joy of the new education policy in Tanzania launched in Feb. 2015. I have read the whole policy and reflected on it. I may also mention that from June to September 2014, I worked as a research consultant at the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP)/UNESCO, Paris, and I learnt so much on education planning and learning issues. The academic and semi-academic literature that I had to engage with for my work enlightened me to the issues of education at global level in a comparative way. I was immersed in what has been termed as ‘global learning crisis’. So, in confession, I’ve read this report not in vacuum…but within the context of an understanding of education issues at the global level.
The policy makers/writers have done a very good job. The context/situation analysis of education situation in Tanzania is thoroughly done and an honest self-reflection to where Tanzania stands in education. This is a good spirit emerging in the country. A spirit of sitting back and looking into what’s wrong, get honest, and look for ways to change towards a better direction. When students did so bad in 2013, I blogged about the need for revolution in our education system and used Tariq Ramadan’s terms of “intellectual jihad” to emphasis the need to change. I am happy to say that the new policy is part of that revolution that I had wished to see.
In addition to the shortening of school years, the policy has many other impressive and progressive areas. Abolishing of school feels in ‘elimumsingi’ is an appropriate move towards reducing poverty by ensuring access to many citizens. Reading that was a consolation that different voices are heard in Tanzania policy-making tables towards a better utilization of enormous resources we have. It also reminded me of 2010 Chadema manifesto that called for abolition of school fees and prolonged primary education. Although there’s lots of messing up in our opposition parties, it is evident that they are contributing towards change when they make ‘noises’.
The emphasis of Kiswahili as the language of instruction (in addition to properly teaching English) is a wise move highlighting the true spirit of Tanzania and correlates with the underscored importance of educating people for peace. Research and literature has it that language of instruction should be what is spoken at home – in our case it’s Kiswahili. Teaching our kids in Kiswahili will improve learning to the masses in Tanzania.
Other areas in the new policy that need a raise of glass are the thinking and expression of the need to change education management structure. I did an analysis of Political Economy of Education in Tanzania in 2013, and one of the challenges I saw was that education system in Tanzania is being managed by different institutions that at times create confusion and incoherence. So it’s a good thing that the policy has addressed this issue. Furthermore, the policy is also result oriented as it has clearly underscored the importance of monitoring and evaluation as well as inspections at all levels and from all levels starting from parents to the ministry level.
The emphasis of youths, especially the vocational training and skills, is on the same vein in the ongoing trend and demographic in the country where youths are majority. Also the Global Monitoring Report for Education (UNESCO, 2012) puts emphasis on vocational skills for youths.
The policy is unique in a way that its vision and mission allows for the emphasis on “attitudes” of learning, which is very important. A good education is that which produces citizens with a right attitude. This is also relating to self-reliance education applicable to the 21st century. In the learning literature, it is called ‘soft skills’. It has also looked at the security issues in the eyes, of what in IR is called, ‘New Security Agenda’.
Mention may also be made that the policy is detailed in that it has cared for issues such as book production and distribution, and cross-cutting issues such as gender, HIV/AIDS, and environment.
Special needs education has been touched especially in the language of instruction, but I felt a lot was left on the special needs education. Although the school environment and equipment have been covered, I didn’t see the mentioning of ‘accessibility’ facilities in schools. We have different special needs children and all of them have to be covered.
Other areas that I felt the policy didn’t cover are such as home environment. Education and learning literature has it that home environment in terms of parental education, parental expectation, emphasis on learning at home, etc is crucial (at times more than school environment) in achieving learning. So I had thought the policy would mention something of the sort. In connection to that, learning is also facilitated by learning environment in the community…there was a mention on public libraries but nothing else. There is a need to re invent our public libraries towards better use for every one and for 21st century world.
I think what was also not covered well is financing for education. There were some highlights of students’ loans, fees, etc…but more is needed. Education is an expensive product and someone has to bear the cost. I even thought of how could government partner with parastatals such as NSSF, NHC, etc in financing education or something…this is shout out thought that I will need to put further thinking and discussions with other education-loving people in the country.
Ok, I have lots of things to say regarding the policy, but I think it’s getting a little bit too descriptive here and also long for a blog entry….but I hope and really hope that Action Plan will swiftly be put in place so as implementation of this policy to start asap.
My last sentence is…this crucial policy has been launched in the year of election…it can be a liability or asset!! BUT as education planners know…politics must not interfere education. It is unfortunate that reforming education is the most political thing in the government system (believe me or not…but you can ask Tony Blair, if you want to know the real answer), but as Tanzanians please and please let’s avoid politics in this and just work towards educating our children…so as to achieve Vision 2025!
God bless Tanzania, my beautiful country….education is the means through which we can sustainably eradicated poverty and liberate every Tanzania.
To my dear President Kikwete, reforming education is the biggest legacy that you can leave us with as you are leaving the office. The policy is already a very big step towards that legacy and many congratulations. But please make sure there’s an action plan on the table to implement this policy before you hand in the leadership stick to our next president.
For my previous entries on Education, see here.