Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tanzanian Education: A Piece of Junk?

I knew it was just a matter of time before someone said something about the pathetic state of Tanzanian education. Apparently graduate students from various colleges and universities in Tanzania have the view that the Tanzania education system is unable to prepare competent graduates capable of doing practical work in a dynamic labor market.

Check out this article for yourself.

Well, that is sad, but true.

Though I didn’t get my degree in Tanzania, I experienced the elementary and secondary education there. As such, I would not categorize the Tanzania education as useless completely. As a matter of fact, I believe that the Tanzania education has some really solid contents. In the post primary education, I “specialized” in business education. I can tell you that we truly went deep into book-keeping, commerce and all other subjects. However, that was it.

The biggest problem with the Tanzanian education system, as already alluded to, is that it lacks the ability to empower and transform. And to me, the education system that produces citizens who can’t critically think is junk.

Given that most Tanzania students I know perform extremely well in Western schools, the problem is not with Tanzanian students. I strongly believe the problem is the inability of the government – which sets up the educational philosophy – to create transforming education system. That is, the government has failed to determine whether the Tanzanian education should focus on revolutionizing the Tanzania experience or merely a tool to communicate already established experiences, values and expectations.

Think I am kidding? Just read the Ministry of Education’s vision: “To have a Tanzanian who is well educated, knowledgeable, skilled, and culturally mature to handle national and international challenges in various political and social-economic fields by 2025.” Just think with me. Is the MOE’s vision going to change post 2025? Isn’t education supposed to be a life changing experience not focused on a limited timeframe?

Based on my own observation, the Tanzania education is set up to maintain certain expectations that are stale and do not align well with the current state of affairs. The worst part is that most of the current decision-makers in Tanzania do not know the alternative. That is because they went through the same educational system.

As it is, we shouldn’t expect anything to change, unless competition between higher learning institutions in Tanzania causes flexibility and innovation in the delivery of education.

So how bad is the situation? Just read this excerpt from the above referenced Guardian article:
“…it was established previously that people who even graduated with First Class were not able to perform well once employed and it was difficult for them to learn fast while training on the job”. If we have graduates who can’t perform in the labor market, what constitutes a “well educated” Tanzanian?

Don’t you think it is a little odd that a seemingly super intelligent student cannot comprehend job training instructions? Well, I am not surprised. The problem circles back to the root, which is the emphasis on rote learning as opposed to critical thinking, communication and other soft skills that empower and equip students to be well rounded. And that is why foreign companies in Tanzania like to hire and pay higher salaries to employees educated in the UK or the USA compared to locally educated counterparts.

And this quote from this very article, solidifies my argument: “It is discouraging to find degree holders in low-standard jobs. If you are a graduate, then you should secure a job that is commensurate to what have studied”.

Well, well, didn’t I say that the Tanzania education is set up to maintain certain expectations that are stale and do not align well with the current state of affairs? Let’s be practical. Who said that all graduates should be formally employed? What about graduates being able to create new things through an entrepreneural spirit?Furthermore, in a free market environment, shouldn’t the labor market determine how much a UDSM graduate in accounting, for instance, is worth? Who says that pay rate is based on education alone and not other unique skills that an employee brings to the employer?

As depressing as it could sound, the reality is that if a UDSM graduate is being paid peanuts, it could be that the Tanzanian labor market has determined that the UDSM graduate is worth peanuts.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the above quote from Ms Sylvia Ngemela reflects what the Tanzanian education has failed to provide – empowerment of students to critically think.

If you believe in the “junk in, junk out” thing, then I am convinced Tanzanian education system is an epitome of that.
Photo Credit: Unknown


Anonymous said...

I went to college in TZ - MU, I also went to college in the USA. I do not feel now, neither Did ever felt my Tz education is Piece of junk.

Is there any perfect education system in the world? NO, can we improve our education system TZ in way or another? You bet?

Jaduong Metty said...

It is obvious that the notion of "quality" is subjective, so one man's junk could as well be one's man treasure. It is your right to regard the Tanzanian education highly.

I am glad, however, that you pointed out that the Tanzanian education could use some tweaking. The question then, which you didn't answer is this: what ingredient is missing? Why is the current system not adequate?

Furthermore, what would you say about Tanzanian "academic geniuses" who can't perform in the workplace?

I believe the main objective of education is to tranform and equip. If ain't transformed and equipped, your diploma is a piece of junk.