Universities sceptical about new curriculum

The new curriculum for secondary education may produce more NSSCO school leavers, but their suitability for university courses has been questioned.

03 January 2019 | Education

By 2021, the number of first-year students at local universities may increase drastically because of the new curriculum for senior secondary education.

Theoretically, by 2020, the number of school leavers with a Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate ordinary level (NSSCO) could double.

This year's grade 10s will be the first group that will follow the new two-year curriculum and they will be able to attend university in 2021 if they do not want to follow the Namibia Secondary School Certificate Advanced Subsidiary (NSSCAS) curriculum.

One school principal has his doubts as to whether these learners, who will be about 17 years old, will be ready for university.

However, according to Dr Patrick Simalumba of the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), tertiary institutions formed part of the discussions surrounding the curriculum change.

“They are excited, more so because the new curriculum will create a larger number of graduates,” he said.

Simalumba added that extra bridging courses at university would not be necessary and would only lead to increased costs.

This excitement is not shared by Dr Tjama Tjivikua, vice-chancellor of the Namibian University of Science and Technology (Nust).

“Change is always good but it brings with it its own challenges. The main question to be asked is how we are going to handle it and if we are ready. Often, policy is changed without us being prepared and ready,” he said.

The weak performance of the 2018 grade 10s is also cold comfort for Tjivikua.

“The picture is no different to that which we are used to. It is a nightmare and every year it is the same. There is no marked improvement in the output,” he said.

According to him, he cannot see that the new NSSCO curriculum for grades 10 and 11 will bring noteworthy change.

“There is still a gap. English remains a problem and very few school leavers are able to achieve a C symbol for English and maths. This is the foundation for a good university and society.”

The grade 12s who pass struggle with precisely this at university, he said.

“I expect it to remain the same. We are not necessarily going to get more or better students.”

For Tjivikua, an important aspect of the new curriculum is that more school leavers should enter into vocational training.

“Whether these resources or facilities are available I do not know, but I don't think so,” he said.

Moreover, a larger number of students will require state funding.

“Money has always been a problem, even with a limited number of students. We simply to not receive the correct funding and this is a stubborn problem which limits our growth as a university.

“And it does not look like this is a matter which will be addressed soon. It is all about priorities and everything cannot carry equal weight.”

An increase in students will also place added pressure on the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF).

A well-placed source knowledgeable about the model on which NSFAF is based explained: “The sustainability of the fund is based on projections of the intake of students. Any change in this must be taken into account but it will rely on affordability and the government budget. It will have to be handled in the medium-term budget.”

The current medium-term budget is applicable to 2020/21 and does not provide for any significant changes to the subsidies of Nust or Unam. Unam receives roughly N$1 billion per year from the state coffers, while Nust receives N$600 million.

NSFAF's current budgetary support stands at N$1.45 billion but it will be reduced to N$929 million and then, in 2020, to N$987 million.

The budget for vocational training stands at N$105 million but will be increased to N$486 million and then to N$477 million in 2020. The Namibia Training Authority receives the lion's share of this amount.


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