You can’t beat knowledge into children; invest in them instead
Saturday February 25 2023
How does one “fix” Tanzanian education? By aggressively believing in, selling, and practising child-centred, student-centred education. If one keeps this in mind when answering the million questions that arise in designing a public school system, one might just make it work.
Simple. Obvious. Radical. I chose Finland and Singapore last week to highlight that if they can achieve such enviable economic and welfare standards with five million people, well then, what can 60 million Tanzanians do?
My favourite public advocate for human potential and education is the late Sir Ken Robinson of YouTube fame. He was good at connecting the dots for folks on why it is important to focus on creating enabling environments for students to flourish. Education has always existed in some form or another, and it is a lifelong thing endeavour. But in the formal system, at least as we practise it here, there is a glaring problem: Us.
I suspect that the government and many adults dislike children and youth. You can hear it in our double-speak. We praise the potential of our young people and immediately warn of the dangers of their unfettered nature. We say they are wonderful while blaming them for failing at a failed school system.
Now that we have figured out we have massive paedophilia we need to police adults around children? We are banning school books and blaming minors for moral laxity. This is why it is radical to suggest we put children and their welfare at the centre of our education system.
On paper, I suspect all of the elements to support the Tanzanian child are there. I have heard of efforts to bolster nutrition through school feeding, mechanisms for the involvement of communities in their local schools, initiatives to incentivise teachers who teach well, etc.
Anecdotes and outliers
And yet, somehow, they always end up being anecdotes and outliers, not the norm. Child-friendly practices will not take flight unless we run our investment towards them rather the outcomes of standardised testing.
What does child-centred education look like in Tanzania? We could start with the end of corporal punishment, making children safe from physical assault by adults. You can’t beat knowledge into children, brutality only breeds more violence and ultimately saddles society with the consequences of abuse.
And if we really love our children as we purport to, a significant portion of our tax money should be dedicated to school-feeding programmes. I’d happily sacrifice several thousand tertiary education scholarships in service to this.
Teacher-student ratios, curricula, desks: These will not be fixed overnight with one magical formula. The bean counters and politicians would have us believe that, which is why they are constantly massaging numbers and lowering pass marks in a bid to throw the baby out with the bath water.
How does one justify teaching coding in Tanzanian schools? Easily. Like every other form of knowledge, it is best grown in healthy people whose creativity and potential has not been crushed by a rigid and hostile system. The kinds of minds that child-centred education philosophies have a good chance of producing. Win-win.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]