Important because it is important for learners to master research skills in this 21st century education and to make their learning captivating and practical; that cannot be disputed… important also because this is where the child’s 30 percent marks must come from (70 percent from summative assessment-examination) . . . but a terrible nuisance because the teachers do not have an idea how to teach children the best way of going about these tasks. And workplaces are already fed up with disruptions caused by disorganised individual students and teams nagging, pestering and bothering them every day of the week!
First and foremost the five tasks, may be even three, are too many for children and the teachers. There are one hundred and one other things that the updated curriculum demands. Sizeable learning avoids boredom, mental and physical fatigue. How many could make a reasonable number of tasks per child is certainly debatable, but that five tasks are too many is not useless noise. Whoever suggested that five tasks per child were reasonable was certainly not very reasonable.
Dokora must have realized this. We already know that the new Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Paul Mavima has realised this unreasonableness and promised to quickly do something about it. Perfect news indeed! I am told he is a hands-on reformist, very observant, pragmatic and calculating. . . and also believes in hitting the ground running.
We are not his supervisors. We don’t intend to be. We will never be. But we are anxious . . . very anxious. Where do we head, do we go, from Dokora?
Have the children been taught the protocols to observe when they approach companies or work places? Have they been taught the public relations and courtesies to observe? The answer is NO! Many have already been a nuisance because they have had no special times of visiting workplaces agreed between school and station managers.
They flooded workplaces and ‘demanded’ to see what companies do, their books and production processes, most of which is confidential company information. Can we blame them? Certainly not! They have not been taught or guided.
Jesus did not just say to his disciples when he went back to his Father in Heaven, ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. . . .Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded[taught] you . . .”(Matthew 28 vs 19-20) You see! He taught them, tutored them, illustrated to them, guided them how to do things. He did not only say ‘Go!’
The curriculum seems to have just selfishly demanded work on tasks to be done without considering the interests of business men and women . . . without crafting and arranging best practices that are not a disruptive nuisance; without even setting down method(s), rules and regulations to follow.
There was supposed to be mutual agreements taking cognizance of the interests of the visitors and the visited, namely the researching learners’ interests and those of the companies targeted. Because the schools and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education saw their side of interests at the peril or cost of the workplaces, the obvious chaos and nuisance this task-business has become is not surprising.
We hope Prof Mavima has also already realised this aspect of the task-business and will soon address it before these tasks are another famous disaster reminding everybody of the notorious Dokora days.
The sooner Prof Mavima cleans this mess, the sooner teachers and learners forget about the days in Egypt under Lazarus Dokora.
Prof Mavima, please encourage and facilitate the training of teachers who will teach learners research skills. Examples of these are, how do you collect the data required? What do you need the data to answer? What is the problem and how do you state (the problem statement)? What method do you use to get the data and how do you record it? How do you present a research-write-up? These are specific and specialised skills, aren’t they?
Do the teachers know these skills themselves? How do they guide the learners without telling them what to do? How do they moderate these projects? The 30 percent task marks are now very critical in the new system, no doubt about that. Candidates must score high in the continuous assessment course.
The days of whizzkids who read for examinations are gone. You will recall these exam-stars used to burn the mid-night candle from both ends and score 80s and 90 percents. Now it is impossible. You can only get 60 percent from the examination and another 30 percent comes from these tasks. That is how important they are.
Tasks are now critical determiners of the learners’ fate. Have the teachers been trained to manage this task-business with the skills and professional competence they deserve? The answer is obviously “no” or “not yet!”
Has there been enough thought put in the relevance or suitability, applicability, of these tasks? Can children in Muzarabani and rustic parts of Binga and Mabee near Mozambique for example tackle the same tasks with children in the CBDs of Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo? Do these tasks adequately take cognizance of the learners’ demographic peculiarities, their backgrounds, environments and experiences?
While we all agree that all other sectors of development need to hit the ground running, it is my opinion and hope that Prof Mavima will run more carefully than others and obviously more steadily.
Many observers hope that he will run more carefully than the previous minister who obviously was digging the ground flying to the finishing line but failing to see the damage he was causing to the turf.
One area of the beautiful curriculum that needs very careful rethinking and adjusting is clearly the tasks area. There is a lot that was overlooked. The sticking areas were only realized or discovered during implementation. Our hope to ease the nut in the bolt is none other than Prof Mavima.
- Remember, the views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of The Manica Post. Mr Morris Mtisi writes in his capacity as an independent education analyst informed by the voiceless; people who need journalistic representation to be heard, and of course his own knowledge and experience as an educationist. ENJOY!