Sunday, February 18, 2018

Examination leakages: No book-based animals, please!

Dr Peter Kwaira
Recurring examination cheating in Zimbabwe requires establishment of a watertight system.
The entire episode involving English Language Paper 2 turned out to be a disgrace where a tragic path was cut with far-reaching consequences on the education system’s dignity.
Damage has been done; what remains is to pick the pieces and make repairs as soon as the dust settles.
There is no glory in winning court cases when we have a lost generation!
The unfolding events bemused many.
In the academic world, several questions emerged and went unanswered. Who or what is the core problem? What motives were at play? What was the situation before the problem was detected last year?
What was the situation with other subject areas? Were responsible persons turning a blind eye to the problem?
Examination cheating is no small issue.
It is not an end in itself.
It is going to have downstream effects at various levels within the education system. The most frightening thought is of future professionals coming out of such a system.
Think of our future teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, pilots, journalists, police officers, legislators and even Heads of State.
What kind of country would we have then, run by cheats and corrupt people?
Such a state of affairs would result in a rotten country.
Those in responsible positions involved in corruption should imagine themselves, many years from now, confined to the care of nonchalant social welfare officers.
Will they really be safe in the hands of such characters, characters they will have helped create along the way?
A typical boomerang effect will emerge, what we sow today will spring into fruit tomorrow.
Let us, for a moment, examine issues around the education curriculum.
What does it really mean to have a curriculum and why do governments the world over invest in education?
What is the real purpose of teaching and learning?
These are the lingering questions.
According to Ornstein, A.C. and Hunkins, F.P. (2004) in “Curriculum foundations, principles, and issues”, curriculum development is central to nation-building and national development.
In any progressive country, education plays a vital role in politico-socio-economic development.
All countries that have made it economically have done so through their curricula.
One can only suspect that those doing badly could possibly have problems in their curricula and related assessment mechanisms.
This is exactly why all progressive nations are grappling with “curriculum change and innovation”, trying to make their curricula relevant and appropriate to their given contexts and situations.
One sees the vitality we have always witnessed in the continuous search for excellence by progressive institutions around the world; from early childhood up to university level.
In this regard, education in general and the curriculum in particular is about that, which is tangible within the context of reality.
Effectively, education is about problem-solving.
That said, the burning question is: With so much cheating at various levels of our education system, can we see ourselves addressing real problems for which tangible solutions could be created to the benefit of our nation?
Without realistic solutions to our national problems, our education system becomes a wasteful and dangerous joke indeed!
For many years, Zimbabwe’s education system has enjoyed a lot of respect; regionally and internationally.
It is now that respect and dignity appear to be at risk.
Therefore, the challenge is for the nation to restore the legacy of our education system – respect, dignity and credibility.
A possible solution would be to revisit the entire system with a view to improving the curriculum qualitatively.
It is no longer time to keep adding subjects for the sake of it.
The best opportunity is now, within the context of debate on the updated curriculum.
There is need to infuse elements of Chivanhu/Hunhu/Ubuntu across the full spectrum of subjects and learning areas.
This would help produce “a whole person”, instead of just a book-based animal.
What we now need are academics and technocrats with a human touch laced with what could best be referred to as soft skills.
It is time our education became an effective instrument designed to produce individuals of conscience; the kind of people who are truly and faithfully responsible.
Obviously, such people would have a sense of belonging and would be proud to be Zimbabwean at heart.
With this orientation, such people would most likely be the last to get involved in anything they know would harm the dignity and well-being of their country. In many ways, this suggests a strong drive towards education for liberation and responsible citizenship.
In systems where this form of education has worked, such people do not behave well because they are policed, but because their conscience is their own master.
This could be food for thought for Zimbabwe if we are to really build and cast our nation from a firm foundation.
Dr Peter Kwaira is the Chairperson of the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Technical Education.