Editorial Comment: Why a good education system benefits us all
Research around the world confirms that the most important of the criteria to improve quality of education is having good teachers. Equipment, quality of buildings and class size all have some effect, but the quality of the teaching is the most critical: fix that and provide at least the basic minimum for the rest and children will have a better chance.
This is why the Teacher Capacity Development Programme, launched by President Mugabe on Thursday, is a major boost for Zimbabwe’s education.
It is designed to improve the educational skills and qualifications of teachers and will cover the full breadth of education, both the curriculum itself and the educational planning plus the subjects taught and the way they are taught.
While UNICEF provided the bulk of the US$3 million funding, the cash-strapped Government thinks the programme was sufficiently important that it managed to fund 20 percent of the costs.
The President hoped that the programme would address technical and training needs, noting that the Government had paid “lip service” to these in the past.
“As a country we have an obligation to equip our teachers with competencies and pedagogic skills that will enable them to teach sciences and mathematics, and use information and communication technologies in teaching,” he said.
For Zimbabwe to develop, those leaving school had to be more than just job-seekers and instead be able to create employment, especially for themselves, and create wealth.
Self-employment is important.
But obviously many people will not be owning their own businesses and will be working for others, but if a workforce in a factory is made up of those who have an adequate basic technical education, so that they are trainable, and have been educated to think for themselves and so can work together to create new products and systems and boost quality then they are far more valuable employees and will be able to earn more.
This will require regular review of the curriculum in our schools and, as the President noted, the programme will equip teachers with the skills they need to both review the curriculum as well as teach the new subjects or use the new methods the programme brings up.
So far as we understand the concept, the idea is that both the system and the teachers will be upgraded.
The President did deal with other needs of the education system: better pay for teachers, better school infrastructure and full electrification of all schools.
The President also noted that it was important to improve the welfare of teachers for them to perform their duties unreservedly.
This is an on-going process that relies on a growing economy to produce the extra funds, and that in turn relies on a better educational system.
There can be a positive feedback here, so that investing in education, so long as we spend that extra money wisely, will help create the extra wealth that will support and improve education, along with everything else.
Since independence President Mugabe’s governments have made education a centrepiece of State spending; we have some of the best educated people in Africa, yet we have not benefited as much as we hoped economically; we hope, as no doubt the President hopes, that the Teacher Capacity Development Programme will give our teachers that extra edge, ensure that the large sums we spend on education are better spent, and allow our school-leavers to claim a brighter place in the sun as, better prepared, they enter their adult working lives.