If we consider tertiary education in isolation, as distinct from primary and secondary education, we miss the forest for the trees. We miss the link, the connection, the umbilical cord that inextricably joins all elements of education together. We lose the panorama in the drama; we see the drops and yet miss the oceans and the seas sprawling in their sparseness before our eyes. Specificity overwhelms us. In our interest on tertiary education we must consider the issue of education itself and see how it engenders the very problems that confront us at tertiary level. The tertiary crisis is a direct product of primary and secondary education crisis. It was brewed, soaked, fermented and matured in the barrels of elementary education. Remember that for a while now we have been registering between 30% and 40% pass rate. We find ourselves in a most unique situation where education itself isn’t considered a priority area of training.
(At a future time we will revisit the subject of priority areas of training and demonstrate how hopelessly flawed they are because they respond to false challenges).
The larger part of the problem that faces us at the moment is that the Faculty of Education together with that of Humanities have been getting fewer students every year for the past few years. My focus will be on Education and not so much Humanities – the Humanities deserve their own series of articles. We are not training and graduating teachers as we used to. This, as we are told, is because the field of Education is saturated. We have too many teachers – much more than we need. More and more teachers find themselves without employment loitering in the streets. The argument continues: We therefore need to scale down on training teachers for primary and secondary schools, if anything, we must focus on training teachers for preschool level. Therefore the teacher training colleges in Lobatse, Serowe and soon MCE, were closed. The Faculty of Education also had to be rationalised – a euphemism for job losses.
It is not true that we have more teachers than we need. The truth is that we have fewer teachers than we need. This is because we have fewer schools – too few to accommodate students and teachers that need them. One of the major reasons why every year we get very bad results is because of very large classes in our schools as well as the basic training of teachers in our schools. The average class size in our schools ranges from 40 to 55 students in a single class. The class of this size is not conducive for any meaningful learning to occur. Teachers are unable to devote enough time to the proper training of each learner. They are unable to develop learners’ writing, communicative and presentation skills largely because the class size is prohibitive. We therefore progress poor students from standard seven to form one and from form three to form four. As long as school class is still between forty and fifty five we cannot say we have too many teachers. The country is currently providing minimum basic education. We must now guarantee our students quality education. To do this effectively, we must reduce class size from between 40 and 55 to about 25 students per class as The Revised National Policy on Education 1994 (RNPE’94) recommends. Class size has a great bearing on the quality of education a student receives and currently it has a negative effect in government schools. If class size was brought down to 25, teachers roaming the streets would be immediately absorbed into the education system and the issue of their unemployed resolved immediately. Their employment will immediately have a positive impact on the quality of our education. So, I am not compelled that we have too many teachers; the problem isn’t too many teachers, it is fewer schools.
The second problem facing our education is the poor training of teachers. We shouldn’t be decreasing the number of teachers that we are training in the Faculty of Education. We currently have teachers teaching at primary schools whose highest level of training is a certificate. These are not as many as those with diplomas. There are currently hundreds of teachers in primary and secondary schools with diplomas from colleges of education. In the interest of national quality education, these teachers should be trained up to degree level. All teachers in both primary and secondary schools should have a first degree as minimum qualification. There is benefit in this. First, if this were a requirement, then the Faculty of Education would be training teachers to the required level for many years to come. Second, such training would impact positively on the quality of national education since the country would have superior teachers compared to the current state of affairs. So, I am not convinced that we have too many teachers; the many teachers that we have in our schools are poorly trained and need to be trained up to degree level. The problem isn’t that the country has trained too many teachers that are not needed by the education system. The problem is that we have fewer schools that can absorb our well-trained teachers and subsequently improve the quality of our education. The country must focus on quality education and not just minimum basic education.
Instead of arguing that the field of Education is saturated, we should state the true state of affairs, that the country lacks enough schools to meet its educational demands.