Falling education standards

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 11:12:53 +0000


WE totally agree with the Zambia Catholic University (ZCU) Vice Chancellor Father Patrick Chilambwe when he says that the mushrooming universities in Zambia have compromised the quality of tertiary education.

The high number of registered private universities pose a challenge to the quality of education services that is delivered in the country. Do all registered universities meet the required standards?

Why is it easy for anyone to acquire a trading licence to run a school? Does the Ministry of General and Higher Learning Education consider the capacity of the learning institutions before issuing a licence? How effective is the inspectorate department in these ministries?

With the liberalisation of the education sector, the nation has witnessed an unprecedented number of schools and universities in Zambia. In most instances, particularly in residential areas houses have been turned into nursery and primary schools.

Starting up a school or university in Zambia has become as easy as setting up a kantemba (makeshift shop) for one to start selling salaula (second-hand clothes). The education sector has become so commercialised that money-making is the only motivation there is for venturing into running a school or university and not delivery of quality services which demand compliance with set standards.

This plurality of schools and universities directly brings into question the quality of the standards of education that is offered to the learners as it is blatantly clear that many of these learning institutions operate below the required standards.

Consequently, this status quo indicates a total breakdown in the inspectorate department at the two mother ministries. Certainly, something is terribly wrong.

Are inspectors of standards of schools or universities doing their job? What is the role of organisations like the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia?

We are cognisant of the fact that access to basic education is a right to every person and this is why Government provides free education to pupils in public schools from Grade one to nine.

However, actualising access to education for all does not in itself imply allowing learning institutions, particularly in the private sector, to compromise on the quality of education that is offered.

The need to put in place a regulatory framework to monitor compliance with university standards among private registered learning institutions cannot be overemphasised.

It must be known that compromising on the quality of education is retrogressive as Zambia ends up with students who are half-baked, hence cannot contribute positively to national developmental. This is worrisome!

How can schools and universities produce quality graduates when they do not adhere to set standards? Why is there inertia in addressing this issue?

Probably, the low levels of progressive engagement on matters of national importance, poor research skills and focusing discourse of issues on petty issues are sure consequences of a weak regulatory framework of schools and universities.

Indications by Minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo to downgrade universities that do not meet the required standards is timely. Government ought to urgently address this matter just like it did by downgrading some secondary schools which lacked capacity to primary schools.

As Government strengthens the regulatory policy on standards of higher learning institutions, it is equally important to regularly scrutinise the calibre of lecturers employed in these universities.

Going by acceptable standards, a lecturer must possess higher academic qualifications than the level of the course they are engaged to handle which unfortunately is not adhered to by many universities in Zambia. This is what has significantly contributed to falling education standards.


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