THE Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, has successfully launched the new education curriculum design dubbed Education 5.0 to distinguish it from the old system, Education 3.0 which Zimbabwe inherited from the colonial era and perpetuated over the entire 40-year period of independence.
Old habits die hard and there will be many who will defend the status quo and resist change.
In this first part of the series, we shall highlight some of the characteristics and shortcomings of Education 3.0. We shall try to show that Education 3.0 has contributed to bring us where we are; a highly ‘educated and literate population’ with, however, little to show in terms of economic development!
Later in this series of articles, we shall interrogate the proposed new design Education 5.0 to identify its merits as well as the strategies for its successful implementation.
In the Education 3.0 design, schooling, all the way up to university, concentrated on three aspects: teaching, research and community service. All of us are products of this three-phased approach.
Teachers and lecturers, alike, spend most of the time ‘imparting knowledge’ to students.
This is called ‘teaching’.
The process includes very little practical applications or problem-solving activities.
Many parents resent having their children engaging in physical work, what we used to call ‘mubato wamavoko’ or ‘hand work’.
The result has been school/college graduates with few or no practical skills to generate goods and services for earning a living.
They roam the streets looking for non-existent jobs. Some will quickly blame their governments!
Yes, because these new black governments were content to continue with the colonial system of education that prepares workers, not entrepreneurs.
For Zimbabwe, the reality check came when Western businesses closed or down-scaled their business operations in protest at the land reform where the Africans took back land stolen from them during the colonial land grab by the British.
Following the colonial curriculum of Education 3.0, schools have continued to churn out graduates who are literate but practically incompetent to manipulate the environment around them for material gain.
They are looking for someone to tell or show them what and how to do.
On the other hand, the historical narrative has been carefully edited of any and all reference to great achievements by Africans.
All African students grow up admiring whites like Winston Churchill, Napoleon and George Washington.
The great black civilisations of Egypt, Ghana, Songhai, Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe are largely missing from history syllabi of black children of Africa.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt, built by black Pharaohs, demonstrate the engineering genius of black Africans but their significance and origin are carefully masked to the extent most Africans do not know that the Egyptians who built all the great monuments were black Africans!
Such is Education 3.0 content.
Knowledge about the world has been subdivided into various subject areas for ease of handling in learning institutions.
The textbooks are carefully edited to show that Africa and black people are always at the bottom of the social pile.
Masses of factual material are drilled into the heads of learners. Learning largely consists of memorising the various facts and figures.
But they say education is what is left after you have forgotten most of what they taught you at school. Most of us forget the memorised theory within months of leaving formal schooling. What then are we left with to face the challenges of life?
The second aspect of Education 3.0 is research.
Even though research is meant to discover new things and advance knowledge as well as ways of generating goods and services, the latter aspects have not been part of the menu.
Free thinking is strongly discouraged.
A phenomenon that has persisted to date is one where students have to read various writings by mostly Western authors in the all-important ‘Literature Review’ phase of the research process.
Mastering the thoughts and ideas of non-Africans under the guise of ‘literature review’ has made African ‘scholars’ non-thinkers as they are always studying the tail-end of knowledge.
This author still remembers how, as a teacher trainee, he scored a grade ‘F’ in a Sociology of Education assignment where the lecturer commented:
“Very good ideas presented BUT you FAILED to cite your sources (references); this amounts to plagiarism. Score: F.”
I approached the lecturer concerned and pleaded that all what I wrote were my own ideas; none of them came from books.
The lecturer would not listen.
The ‘F’ grade stood.
It turned out that this was the very first assignment in my first year of teacher training.
I was still unfamiliar with the college library or the techniques of searching the literature so I had not consulted any books.
The ‘good ideas’ were my original outputs and I was being punished for thinking.
I should have copied a foreign writer’s ideas.
After more than three decades in higher education, I now appreciate that the research component of Education 3.0 was never meant to advance the economic interests of Africans, but just to keep them occupied.
The reader can appreciate why our colonially designed Education 3.0 did not produce ‘thinkers’ and problem solvers but ‘followers’.
Today, it is almost gospel truth: the ‘Literature Review’ looms larger than life in every college thesis; it often dominates the entire document. There is very little demand for the student to proffer new ideas.
Instead they write copious notes citing foreign authors who support their ideas.
They meekly write: “Further research is required to show if these results are widely applicable,” even where the data is solid and the conclusions sound.
There is no follow up and the good ideas remain on the shelf whereas elsewhere (not in Africa), the researchers will be seeking to register patents or Intellectual Property Rights.
So the ‘Research’ under Education 3.0 can be viewed as cosmetic.
The motivation to apply the knowledge from research is never there! There is no innovation (no new things tried out).
This remains the case to date (2019) in the majority of higher learning institutions.
Under the old Education 3.0 design, graduates with brilliant ideas from their thesis research leave college to look for employment.
In other jurisdictions, they pursue their research results to turn them into marketable goods and services.
That is the new direction of Education 5.0 where innovation and industrialisation are the additional pillars of the education system.
One can understand the Zimbabwean (African) syndrome that ‘we do not have to re-invent the wheel’.
The assumption is that we will search the literature to find someone who has ‘solved’ the problem.
The common language used is that we do a literature review in order to identify the ‘gaps’ in knowledge.
But the question is: Can you make your own wheel, even given that the wheel has already been invented by someone else? Why do we spend millions in foreign currency importing things that have already been invented?
Because we lack the ‘knowhow to make the wheel’. Education 3.0 brought us where we are.
Our graduates wait to be told how to make the wheel or google to find where ‘wheels’ can be imported from.
The catch is: Where is the foreign currency to import goods and services?
We must earn it by exporting goods and services but Education 3.0 does not prepare us for that!
The third leg of Education 3.0 is referred to as ‘Community Service’. At best it may involve academics visiting with members of local communities to collect information, sometimes to propel a certain idea or technology.
The exercise is also referred to as ‘Outreach’.
The impact of outreach programmes are limited to communities visited and can hardly be considered as major interventions that transform livelihoods.
Some workshops and seminars will also satisfy the requirement for ‘Outreach’ when university academics are assessed under this category.
We have shown in this discussion that Education 3.0, as practiced in Zimbabwe, does not advance knowledge and its application to solve problems and to generate goods and services.
We have given readers some insight into why our country’s economy is where it is now, with thousands of incompetent Education 3.0 graduates looking for non-existent jobs.
The next episode will further explore the challenges with Education 3.0 and point the way towards an education designed to produce graduates with competencies for transforming the economy.
We are our own liberators!