Albert Einstein would describe the behaviour of our education system as insane and I am bound to agree. Year in and out we seem to be perplexed by the declining performance of learners across the lower levels of our education system. It is however not surprising at all because there has been deteriorating levels of accountability by Botswana Examination Council (BEC) and in extension by the Government of Botswana.
Good governance in education systems promotes effective delivery of education services based on appropriate standards and incentives which induce high performance from public service providers. The behaviour of BEC in the most recent secondary school results goes against all basic tenets of inducing high performance amongst the ever committed and dedicated teachers. Accountability requires that public servants at all levels have clear responsibilities and are held answerable in exercising those responsibilities, and if they do not, face predetermined sanctions. Without sanctions there cannot be any real accountability. However, the Ministry of Education has continued to confer a deaf ear to the ear-drum blowing cries of mistreatment and mismanagement of teachers by BEC during the critical assessment periods.
It is a disheartening observation but factual that provision of education in this country creates and encourages disparities between social classes. The belief that education matters in emancipating people from poverty and its associated social ills is shared by all. It is common knowledge that nationwide, learners are being requested to purchase academic materials including text books for themselves. How is this possible given the levels of poverty and unemployment especially in rural areas?
Botswana has increased spending on education substantially over the past decade, but the quality of educational outcomes has not matched the investments made. Where is the money going?
Improved education sector performance is one of the means to enhance returns to public investments. Performance entails basic functioning of the education system such that teachers are hired based on merit, adequate numbers of books are made available, funds are budgeted and allocated transparently, incentives are set to promote good performance and corruption is discouraged. Without these basic ingredients, the broader education system objectives cannot be attained.
Quality can never be an outcome in a system where we still see nepotism and bribery of administrators for employment of temporary teachers who themselves give a middle finger to the education system for failure to absorb them permanently. Garbage in – garbage out, period!
If our government really cares about her people and is determined to reverse the tide of poverty as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2036, she really needs to pay particular attention to BEC as a body entrusted to improve education through quality assessment standards. The future of this country is in the hands of children in every corner of this country and that future can only be realised by investing in their education.
Tshiamo R. Keakabetse is a public health consultant currently employed by the Institute of Development Management (IDM). The views expressed here are not representing his employer and/or affiliated institutions.