ZIO MWALE, SHAKANDA KAWANGA
THE quality of education in Zambia is said to have improved tremendously over the years, but not so with mathematics, science and Information Communications Technology (ICT) subjects.
Educational outcomes of these subjects are generally poor in many schools, compelling think tanks to link the below par performance of pupils to the quality of teaching.
Are the tutors ill-equipped to teach these subjects? Apparently, indicators say so.
Well, this is the reason why the Zambia government and its partners in the education sector are trying to improve the quality of teaching mathematics, sciences and ICTs subjects in order to improve the quality of education.
Zambia is actually among other African countries that are working towards improving the quality of mathematics, science and ICT subjects in primary schools through to tertiary education.
To achieve this, the country has partnered with the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA), a key ally in the development of the education sector.
Dating back to 1981, when JICA support started in Zambia, a number of educational projects have been implemented to improve the quality of education and outcomes in mathematics, science sand ICT in the country.
JICA has been assisting Zambia’s educational development for 37 years now through technical co-operation, grant aid and other activities targeting the grassroots.
To this end, JICA, the Ministry of General Education and Science Education in Africa (SMASE-Africa) has opened the third Knowledge Co-Creation Programme (KCCP), a one-month training course in Lusaka that has attracted academicians from a number of African countries.
The KCCP programme has revealed that the poor performance of pupils in sciences, mathematics and ICT subjects is a common challenge in Africa.
Participating countries in the training programme for teachers include Zambia, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Botswana, Ethiopia and Uganda.
The course that is running from June 4 to 29th aims at honing the skills of teachers, with the hope of improving classroom performance of pupils in mathematics, science and ICT subjects.
Ministry of General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe says there is need for the country to develop policies and better practices to improve learner performance in science, mathematics and ICTs.
Mr Tukombe said that this year marks the third time Zambia is hosting the KCCP, with preliminary course being in 2016.
He shared that the training has two courses – the basic one themed ‘Enhancing teacher professional growth through the practice of lesson study’, and the advanced course whose theme is ‘Improvement of pedagogical content knowledge of mathematics and science education through lesson study.’
“This KCCP is one of JICA’s fundamental technical co-operation activities for developing countries, it is therefore gratifying to note that Zambia is one of the countries taking part in the training,” Mr Tukombe said.
Mr Tukombe said for a long time now, teachers and learners have been facing challenges in subjects like mathematics, science and ICT’s.
“We need to do more in terms of research so that we look at how best to address challenges in delivering science, mathematics and technology lessons,” he said.
Notwithstanding the setbacks, Zambia has made notable progress in training mathematics and science teachers.
Mr Tukombe observed that the development of human capital in ICT and sciences has opened up opportunities for Zambian teachers to work abroad as expatriates.
JICA resident representative Hanai Junichi said that his organisation is happy to support the government of Zambia’s efforts in ensuring that pupils experience effective teaching and learning of sciences.
“Science and mathematics are important subjects and if we improve education quality in these subjects, Africa can develop a lot in terms of technology,” he said.
He said that in aligning with Zambia’s development policies and programmes, JICA will continue to prioritise science and mathematics education as this would accelerate the overall social and economic development of the country.
“We as JICA, are very happy to see this improvement, what we want to see is that every African child receives education from a well-equipped teacher,” Mr Hanai said.
He said the objective of the programme is to develop teaching methods that will motivate learners.
“With this move, I strongly believe that 20 years from now, African countries will be advanced due to the empowerment pupils will receive in mathematics and science,” he said.
And Teaching Service Commission vice-chairperson Ireen Angasishe said the conference will build capacity among teachers and in turn improve their output in class.
She shared that the commission is working on improving teaching services in Zambia by incorporating Japan’s ‘lesson study’ model.
Lesson Study is a research-based teaching method development by a group of teachers to facilitate a particular training need of students.
The teaching model is designed to address an identified education need of students.
And Ministry of General Education’s director of National Science Centre Benson Banda said research shows that science, mathematics and ICT are poorly performed subjects in Africa.
“The two programme activities aim at providing opportunities for teacher educators and explore alternative, innovative and promising classroom practices,” Mr Banda said.
Mr Banda hopes the training will also allow for the exchange of knowledge in science, mathematics and ICT subjects among the participating teachers.
ZIO MWALE, SHAKANDA KAWANGA