Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
IMPROVING the quality of education at all levels is crucial in empowering citizens with knowledge and skills that are needed for their positive contribution towards socio-economic development.
Several factors must be considered to ensure that quality teaching and learning is sustained starting from the lowest level of the education system to tertiary institutions.
But what does quality mean in the context of education?
To answer this question, we will look at the general consensus that exists around the basic dimensions of all learning which is considered to be efficient and effective (as suggested by UNICEF at the International Working Group on Education, Italy, 2000).
According to Adams (1993), efficiency, effectiveness and quality have often been used synonymously.
Firstly, the rights of the learner – to survival, protection, development and participation – should be at the centre of the education system.
“This means that the focus is on learning which strengthens the capacities of [learners] to act progressively on their own behalf through the acquisition of relevant knowledge, useful skills and appropriate attitudes” (Bernard, 1999).
The health of a student is crucial to attaining quality education. Whether in a boarding or day school, a child should be healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate in school activities with the support of the family and the community.
Environments in which the learner spends most of his or her time – home as well as school – are expected to be healthy, safe, gender-sensitive, and must offer students all necessary resources and facilities for them to easily acquire knowledge and skills offered.
Curricula that place emphasis on literacy as the foundation on which everything else is developed will go a long way in helping individuals to build various skills for life.
It is also upon this basis that knowledge acquired is effectively utilised in all areas of life, including health, gender, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and sustenance of peace in society, among others.
If schools, particularly public ones, stopped over-enrolling and tried to balance the pupil-teacher ratios, like what most private schools do, educators would be helped in terms of attaining high levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
But with a class of 60 students, a mathematics or biology teacher will surely achieve very little, as quality is obviously compromised.
Small classes offer trained teachers a great opportunity to use learner-centred teaching methods.
This helps them in involving everyone in planned activities, impart knowledge and skills to their learners, and easily carry out assessments in form of exercises and tests, thereby facilitating learning and reducing disparities among students.
In addition, highly motivated teachers and other staff within the school are likely to produce great results in their work.
Their conditions of service are closely related to other school quality issues, such as enough instructional materials and textbooks (with well-stocked libraries), use of computer technologies, and well-established school buildings, including sanitary facilities.
The location of schools also matters a lot as far as provision of quality education is concerned. Unless it’s a boarding school, parents may find it difficult to send their children, especially girls, to an institution that is too far away from home. Distance from school also affects a learner’s participation.
Therefore, this may affect quality as well.
“Order, constructive discipline and reinforcement of positive behaviour communicate a seriousness of purpose to students” (Craig, Kraft & du Plessis, 1998).
The above basic dimensions and others can surely help us attain the much-needed quality education that should enable us to equip ourselves and our children with relevant skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, and respect for human rights, as well as competencies for innovation and employment opportunities.