In the midst of the education crisis in Botswana the Kedikilwe commission also known as The National Commission on Education of 1993 is seen as the the blue print from which Botswana’s current education system is based. Amongst the Kedikilwe Commision’s objectives were to increase access and equity in education, improve general education so as to prepare students more effectively for life, citizenship and the world of work, improve and maintain quality at all levels and enhance the status and performance of the teaching profession. The findings and recommendations of the report culminated in the approval by the National Assembly in April 1994 of the Revised National Policy on Education ( RNPE) , whose intended implementation was classified in the short, medium and long term respectively.
However, twenty-three years down the line, some of these recommendations are yet to be implemented and their lack thereof or poor implementation continues to haunt the education system . An example would be desire to increase access to education while the provision of classroom facilities lagged behind. Obviously this shortage resulted in ballooned class sizes, high teacher student ratio and outside teaching. According to the Commission, part of the reason why quality of primary education was poor then was due to lack of educational inputs, including adequate facilities. “ It is our view that the reason why English Medium Schools have performed consistently better than state schools is not only because they have better qualified teachers but also because they have adequate teaching facilities. The shortage of classrooms does not create the ideal learning environment,” the Commission’s report reads in part.
With regards to class size, the Commission stipulated that the maximum number of students per class should not exceed 45 as it (Commission) had evidence that such large class sizes created difficulties in effective learning. “ The Commission notes that research on the relationship between class size and learning achievement is mixed. In developed countries where learning achievements is high, class sizes are low ranging between 15 and 25. In developing countries, class sizes are generally high and learning achievement comparatively lower than in developed countries,” it reads, adding that in developed countries, teachers are better trained, schools have better facilities as well as instructional aids, all of which contribute to higher learning achievement.
Thus, Recommendation 22 was such that in the long term the norm of class size should be 30, but in the short term the maximum should be reduced from 45 to 40.
Another issue which has been fingered as a contributing factor to the declining school results is automatic progression. The challenge with automatic progression over the 10 year basic education has been that despite failing at lower grades, students proceed to higher grades without having grasped the basics. Recently parliament adopted , after it was recommended by the Commission two decades ago, a motion that government shouldimplement recommendation 23 of RNPE which abolished automatic promotion and replace it with assessed progression in schools. According to the Commission, guidelines for assessed progression are; repetition up to 12.5% in each class and continuous assessment system implemented on a national basis in progression at primary schools.
Debating the motion recently, Minister of Education Unity Dow said although the revised policy recommended assessed progression and not automatic progression, over the years, by default, schools adopted the latter in the 10 year basic education system. “ Overtime, the pressure in schools did not allow for assessed progression in schools as many students were then left to repeat,” she said at the time, explaining that availability of resources especially classrooms to accommodate those who repeated became a challenge.
Tabling the motion, MP for Mogoditshane Sedirwa Kgoroba said the current education system where students are allowed to proceed to higher grades when they have failed lower grades, eroded the quality of education.
He said with the 10 year basic education promotion system, which allows for more students to go through the basic years of education, students no longer see the need to strive to obtain better grades as they know that they will still be promoted to the next grade. Such he said does not only affect and discourage top performing students but also affects the quality of work that the students give. “ Failure in schools today is encouraged by lack of competition between students. To have excellence and progress as a nation, we need competition. But how will we have excellence when the students do not see the urge to work hard in competition with others. Government should bring back the system that was used back in the days where students were made to repeat if they had failed,” Kgoroba explained.
It is evident from the few of the discussed points above that lack of facilities and an environment not conducive for both learning and teaching are the biggest challenges in the system. It was again during parliament that former minister of Education Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi suggested that in trying to amend the fundamental aspects of the education system which have been overlooked , it was important that some projects be forgone from the budget in order to increase facilities like classrooms.