The increasing educational failure rates in schools and other learning institutions can be a sure way of raising a cadre of workers whose performance in socio-cultural, economic, political, legal and technological development processes of this country can be below par if such a trend is not checked.
The Press reports on the performance of grade nine and 12 pupils make one wonder how the future workers will be performing in their various fields to develop this country if they can fail at such rates.
Education Minister, John Phiri said out of 285, 696 pupils who sat for grade nine examinations in 2013, only 110,739 passed to grade 10. This shows that less than half of grade nine pupils who sat for examinations last year passed to grade 10.
Similarly, out of 104, 809 pupils who sat for grade 12 examinations last year, only 63, 104 passed. The number of pupils who passed grade 12 examination is slightly above half of the total number of pupils who sat for grade 12 examinations last year. This is worrying to any enlightened citizens as this can have negative effects on national development processes of our country.
And if one was drawing graphs of how our children and some youths were performing in schools and in other training institutions, one could discover that actually the graphs are falling at increasing rates. Similarly, if one was drawing the graphs of educational performance and work culture and performance, one could also realise that educational performance is directly proportional to work culture and performance.
Does this explain why most of the graduates these days cannot perform as expected and have high poor work culture despite graduating with distinctions in their respective field? Does this also explain why we have high unemployment and high poverty levels in our country?
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that there might be a relationship between educational performance, work culture, work performance and national development. Is this case, there is need to worry about the falling educational performance in schools and other learning institutions. Consequently, we should apply holistic and concerted efforts to address such a trend as soon as possible in our country.
As a country, through the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders, it is important to appeal to all stakeholders and higher authorities to address negative trends in the education sectors as soon as possible.
Such an appeal to all stakeholders and to every citizen is made despite this writer being aware that most of the citizens these days argue that no one is interested in developing this country; except developing oneself.
People have associated such an argument to how most politicians and public workers conduct themselves when they are voted or appointed into public offices respectively. Patriotism and commitment to work by most public workers and political leaders is almost negligible.
But it is said that a long journey starts with the first step. If you and me can start changing our mindset; and become genuinely patriotic to our country, much more can change for the better within a short time in our country.
The issue of poor educational performance in schools and other learning institutions seems to be a complex one now. This is why former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “An issue ignored; is a crisis ensured.” Zambia seems to have reached a crisis in educational management because issues relating to education have been ignored for a long time now.
Critical issues that have led to such levels of poor education performance relate to educational infrastructure, teaching facilities and aids, teacher-pupil ratio, teachers’ morale, attitude towards work and work culture. Other factors include poor policies on education, delays in curriculum reviews and development, wholesale adoption of foreign concepts like rights of a child and economic hardships most teachers and parents are facing in their daily lives.
But there is also an argument that this year’s grade nine and 12 results should not be blamed to be poor because this is the best performance our education system can have with reduced examination leakages and malpractices. But some people have argued that in some remote parts of the country, there were high examination leakages and malpractices; meaning that last year’s grade 9 and 12 results would have been worse if such examinations leakages and malpractices were not there.
Does it mean that in our country improved education performance can only be achieved through examination leakages and malpractices? How were pupils and students passing with high grades in the past before high levels of examination leakages and malpractices? This writer remembers former Chadiza Secondary School pupils like Samuel Kasanka, Frederick Finch, George Malekani, Duncan Chinjoka Tembo, Anthony Kabaghe and others getting better grades both at grade nine and 12 without any examination leakages or malpractices. Why should most educational better results be achieved only through examination leakages and malpractices now?
Whatever the case may be, the same arguments prove that something is seriously wrong with our education system now; and that all stakeholders have reasons to worry about the same; and therefore should urgently address factors causing such negative effects on our education system and standards.
It is not the duty of this article to dwell on all these factors to show how they negatively affect poor educational performance in schools and other training institutions. But this article wants to remind each one of us, stakeholders and policy-makers that, for a long time now, many negative factors have been engulfing and eroding our educational standards; and that there is urgent need to address educational failure rates if the current infrastructure developments that President Sata and the Patriotic Front government are doing are to bear fruits for a better Zambia.
This point is critical because infrastructure development in any sector is just one out of many factors for that sector to contribute effective to national development. And many development experts, locally and abroad, have said that education is key to national development.
However, improved education performance is a product of many factors. One of them being that the mere fact that most youths cannot find jobs when they finish the secondary education might frustrate them to work hard at school. This is why one learns that in some cases; especially in Northern and Luapula provinces some children go to gather caterpillars (vinkhuwala/ vinkhubala) during learning time. Such can negative affect educational performance.
Analytically, one should investigate whether the low educational performance in schools, colleges and universities has any bearing on work performance, work culture and national development processes.
This is critical because it is becoming increasingly visible that despite Zambia being endowed with many rich natural resources; including human capital, Zambia is still facing many socio-cultural and economic challenges with unemployment and poverty levels being unnecessarily high. Are such negative socio-cultural and economic challenges a product of poor performances in schools and in training institutions?
When did such poor performances in schools and in training institutions start to have such a growing effect on work performance and economic development of a country?
While one is answering such questions, one should not only think about the past and the present, but should also think about the future. What caliber of Zambians are we nursing and developing to take over the socio-cultural, economic, political, legal and technological management processes of our country?
With such failure rates in schools and other training institutions, one wonders whether future workers will be hard working and highly productive with positive work culture or poor work culture and low productive will continue; if not worsen in this country.
But the pointer shows that if such a trends continues, work culture, work performance and sustainable national development might continue suffering negatively despite all the natural resources around us.
Therefore, let’s establish and develop unity of purpose in improving our education systems, and performances which should culminate in improved work culture, high productivity and sustainable national development processes for our Mother Zambia.
•The author is Trainer and Career Coach. For comments and ideas, contact: Cell: 0967/0977 450151. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org