The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach nor the Namibia Ministry of Education, but rather my personal views.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whose Standards?

Namibian newspapers over the past few weeks have been filled with stories about education. There’s one theme of stories that center on overcrowded schools and enrolment dilemmas. And there’s another theme of stories around the standardized test scores results and the abysmal performances throughout the country.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, learners in grades 10 and 12 are required to pass nationally-standardized tests in order to move forward. Less than half of the learners actually make the mark. In my town of Khorixas, there are two schools with grade 10 learners. Of the cumulative 135 grade 10 learners, only 27 scored high enough to be passed to grade 11.

The computer centre can also attest to the fact that many learners are seriously struggling, at least in mathematics. Of around 400 learners in grades 5 -12 that have taken an adaptive mathematics assessment/placement test in Khorixas, 95% have scored on a grade 2 level, according to international standards. While some of the issues may relate to language and contextual challenges, an observation of the learners’ responses to some basic mathematics questions confirms that they simply do not have a firm grasp of the fundamentals.

The case for standardization is strong but when less than half the population actually meet the standard, a full and comprehensive reform is necessary. The curriculum, teacher training, teachers, school administrators, parents, regional and national Ministry leaders, and learner attitude all need attention. The upside is that Namibia as a functioning democracy-for-all is merely 20 years old (March 2010) and is developing rapidly. The school system is still an evolutionary work. It should be interesting to see how this new nation and its children are performing in the next ten(10) years.

See the Namibian Institute for Educational Development (NiED) website (www.nied.edu.na) for more information.

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