The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) introduced a new secondary school curriculum in junior classes on September 7.
The curriculum replaces one that was in use for over a decade.
This change was necessary considering several emerging issues which were either excluded or partly included.
The new curriculum comprises contemporary and emerging knowledge for learners’ survival and national development.
For instance, the inclusion of chemistry and physics is vital because scientific knowledge, skills and instruments are not only changing, but also widely used in the production and delivery of goods and services.
The curriculum was designed to match with the ones recently introduced in primary schools curriculum and tertiary education.
If successfully implemented, it will facilitate smooth transition of pupils from primary school to secondary school—all the way to higher learning institutions.
We are told the new curriculum is up to international standards.
This will somehow put our secondary education at the same footing with other countries on the continent and overseas.
For successful implementation, the ministry oriented teachers and stakeholders and distributed relevant textbooks to public secondary schools.
It is appreciable that government is also constructing laboratories in few schools for effective teaching and learning of science subjects.
Some schools have received mobile laboratories (MBs) which they share with neighbouring learning institutions.
However, some schools are not benefitting from the mobile labs because they cannot afford fuel or officers’ allowances.
Other excluded schools are located in geographically tricky terrains where roads are almost impassable.
The sharing of these mobile facilities affects teaching and learning when it comes to experiments because the MBs are not in the schools permanently.
There is also shortage of qualified science teachers in many rural schools.
In some cases, specialists in languages or humanities end up teaching sciences.
This situation compromises effective teaching and learning of sciences.
Failure to provide science apparatuses and qualified teachers in needy schools may lead to the flopping of the new curriculum.
This will only vindicate critics who feel the ministry is not ready for the fresh curriculum.
Besides, the abolishment of Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations was ill-timed as it came the same year, the new curriculum was implemented.
The new system requires students to sit national examinations when they reach Form Four.
In between, the learners will be assessed from the work they are learning from Form One to the day they sit Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
The new curriculum for the junior section has more workload and that it is deep in scope.
It has some of the content which used to be done at the senior level before the old curriculum was abolished.
JCE could have been a good tool of assessing learners’ acquisitions of concepts and upgrading them to senior level.
Some sectors argue that the junior-level curriculum does not match with the students’ levels of understanding.
The use of cluster examinations for continuous assessment and upgrading learners is very good.
Sadly, few clusters are administering these examinations because doing so is expensive. Without JCE, the cluster-based system can be a viable substitute for national examinations.
The ministry should put in place policies and guidelines for these cluster examinations.
With government planning to introduce the new curriculum in senior classes by September, MoEST should ensure the senior students do not have to suffer the gaps being faced by their junior counterparts.
A repeat of this situation will affect the outcome of the new curriculum and MSCE results.
This will further draw criticism from some sectors which feel the ministry is struggling to cope with change. n