Zambia Teacher education in a mess

By Eros Ilunga
I am a keen follower of developments in our education system. I would like to comment on recent developments in our teacher education system particularly at primary teacher training level.
In a quest to provide quality teacher education, the Government declared that by 2015 the minimum qualifications for teachers would be a diploma. As a result of this teacher training colleges began to phase out the two-year certificate programme called ZATEC and introduced the three-year Primary Teachers’ Diploma underwritten by the University of Zambia. This meant that primary teachers began obtaining a university diploma. This was a great move as it helped to assure quality in the provision teacher training.
However, this year the Ministry of Education instructed all teacher training colleges to discontinue with the UNZA programme and begin to implement the so-called new curriculum. As though that was not enough, all first year students have been registered with the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ). This means that from now on primary school teachers will graduate with an ECZ diploma!
First of all this is a retrogressive move and one wonders what is going on in the minds of the technocrats at teacher education. How can our officials at teacher education feel proud that their teachers will no longer receive a university diploma but one offered by ECZ? Yet the same officers are proud that they are graduates of UNZA but are now denying our trainee teachers this opportunity.
It is sad that while most colleges in Zambia are affiliates of the university, teacher education has decided to go the opposite direction. Note that Evelyn Hone College, Nkumbi International College, NRDC, all Zambia colleges of agriculture are affiliates of UNZA through respective schools. Further, the Ministry of Health is also moving towards affiliating its nursing schools to UNZA through the School of Medicine. What is wrong with the Ministry of Education?
Another fact teacher education should not ignore is that it is disadvantaging its own teachers. First they will have an inferior paper but more seriously our teachers who will be graduating with the ECZ paper may never go to the university. At the moment because of the partnership with UNZA teachers can enrol with UNZA just with the diploma. Meaning UNZA only considers the diploma and not their Grade 12 certificate. But with this retrogressive arrangement, teachers will have difficulties upgrading as they will have to compete with school leavers.
It should also be noted that under the current arrangement ECZ does not have the capacity to handle examinations for teacher training colleges. There are only two officers at ECZ responsible for teacher education. How shall the two officers supervise examinations and assure quality in the assessment of students? From my interactions with colleagues in colleges there is already panic because ECZ examinations will be administered soon but papers have not yet been distributed maybe not even printed.
There is also a cost implication to the new arrangement. Students will be required to pay K960 examination fees yearly to ECZ in addition to college fees.
I believe it is the technocrats misleading government on this one. The new minister of General Education Dr John Phiri under whom colleges fall should try to address this matter and save our education system. What will be good for the country will be to continue with the old arrangement, but colleges should have a common curriculum which should be coordinated by teacher education in conjunction with the University of Zambia.

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