New curriculum brings challenges

21 December 2018 | Education

When 2020 rolls around, the number of grade 11 learners in Namibian schools will almost double.

However, with high schools that are forced to cope with free education and limitations to fundraising, in accordance with regulations, coupled with the current economic climate, there have been mixed reactions to the curriculum changes.

According to Patrick Simalumba of the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), this is the biggest curriculum change since grade 11 learners started with the Cambridge HIGSCE and IGSCE courses in 1994.

The planned changes to the curriculum began in 2012, following the 2011 National Conference on Education.

The grade 10 results released on Wednesday indicate that 20 000 learners will not be promoted to grade 11, but in 2020 these learners could, based on the results of internal examinations, be promoted.

According to available documents on the new curriculum, the pass mark for grade 10 will be 40% or an E in five subjects, including English. This is higher than the current requirements. Learners will potentially be held back in both grades 8 and 9, and once more in grade 10. Pressure in those classes will increase greatly if large numbers of learners are held back in grade 10.


Simalumba admits there are challenges. “It is an inevitable valley of pain we must walk through; we must take hands for a better future.”

According to him, the transition period will take some time, but the lack of classroom space, staff and resources are worrisome.

Moreover, more than 100 junior secondary schools across the country will have to take in grade 11 learners in 2020.

Currently, the available figures for these schools, per region, are as follows: Erongo five, Hardap five, Kavango East four, Kavango West seven, //Karas four, Khomas three, Kunene seven, Omaheke two, Omusati 19, Oshana 15, Oshikoto 31, Otjozondjupa six and Zambezi seven.

This implies that extra classrooms and teachers will be needed.

According to a principal some construction and preparation has begun at certain schools, but the scope of this work is still unknown.

Simalumba said that in areas where schools are near each other, they will work together to fill the gaps and meet the needs of the learners.

“To secure qualified teachers for the fields of study is a challenge,” he said, adding that it was one that could last for several years.

At the announcement of the grade 10 results this week, education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said everyone should embrace the changes as a positive challenge.

Why the changes?

According to both Simalumba and Clementine Garises, the director of examinations and evaluation, the current NSSCH or higher level qualification for grade 12 is no longer coupled to the Cambridge system and this brings challenges when it comes to admission to international universities.

Garises added that the changes also bring an internationally recognised qualification to those who leave school after grade 10.

“Our syllabi must adhere to international standards,” Simalumba said.

“We are part of the global community, so all the stakeholders will have to work harder and redouble their efforts.”


According to a Windhoek principal, his teachers are already trained for the new NSSCO syllabus. Training for vocational subjects will take place in January and February.

According to Simalumba, 595 facilitators have been trained by NIED in order to train 4 232 teachers in the regions.

One teacher per subject and school is already trained and they have been instructed to share their knowledge with their colleagues.

During October and November, 80 principals and inspectors were trained and they will train others in their respective regions.

Refresher courses will take place once the results of a needs study are available and the first academic results of 2020 are published.

There is a budget for training teachers who are appointed in 2019.

Textbooks have already been ordered and one principal said he was sure the stock and supply would be adequate.

The education ministry has also announced that its budget would be sufficient to meet the requirements of the new syllabus.

New higher level

To pass to grade 11 on the advanced subsidiary level of NSSCAS, a learner must have a C in at least three of the NSSCO subjects.

A sample taken of the current available data indicates that by 2021 there will be 12 000 grade 12s. This year there were almost 17 000 fulltime candidates.

Certain schools in each region will act as a hub for the NSSCAS, but the list is not yet available.

Grade 12s will be able to take three to five subjects in their final year. Simalumba says that globally, according to Cambridge, only 0.00002% of learners can complete six subjects on the advanced level.


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