Mediocrity has laid siege on us. Like a leopard which has a firm grip on its prey, mediocrity is haunting us all, regardless of who allowed it to settle amidst us. It has come to us slowly in our dozing state; establishing its roots and become part of our culture which is deep rooted in our veins now. As a country, we have embraced mediocrity as part of our daily endeavors. The worst victim and culprit simultaneously is the education sector where many look up to for solutions which are not forth coming.
Education is failing to tame mediocrity that it has vicariously adopted it to be part of its own system. Mediocrity has just been institutionalized for fear of being labeled failures hence reducing our standards in order to suit the standards of the mediocre; in the end we have become the failures we are being afraid to be.
How have we befriended mediocrity? It is not that we don’t teach in our schools, because we teach the way we taught yesterday and fail to relate the content with the reality on the ground. It is not that we don’t have the knowledge, because we do; though we cling to abstract and obsolete knowledge most of the times which will never help us develop our country. It is not that we don’t have the technology, because we can have if our political leaders stop being selfish and start to invest heavily in our education system so that quality and relevance become our priority.
It is not that we do not have books in our libraries, because we have outdated books which are not even enough to cater for the existing demand. More mundanely, caught up as we are in our post-one party fantasies; we simply couldn’t wake up from the slumber and realize that each problem is unique and needs a different approach. We have been forced to lower our standards or embracing no standards to suit the politician’s wish of appeasing the masses.
Furthermore the mediocrity has been adopted not because the industry is not lamenting about the irrelevance and obsoleteness of our curriculum; and the low quality of our university graduates. No. the industry is crying all the time. But the industry has detached itself from the institutions of education in all aspects as one of the stakeholders of education; a thing which has created a knowledge gap of what the industry wants and expect from higher education institutions.
Each and every day the industry keeps on undergoing a metamorphosis a thing our education system fail to cope up with rapidly. This is not because the education sector cannot; it can, but the industry thinks it can absorb the graduates who underwent a chaotic curriculum without adequate and quality teaching and learning resources for hands-on learning and expect the same graduates to be of the caliber the same industry is looking for.
The industry fails to update the education sector of any new development which can be embraced in our curriculum; leaving the education sector to guess all the time. The industry fails to partner our universities in research and development, a thing that makes us all failing to develop new solutions for our existing problems. The detachment of the industry and the education sector is a sure sign of institutionalizing mediocrity.
Broadly speaking, we are content with our model of banking-education concept where a learner is forced to memorize obsolete facts which have no meaning at all; and regurgitate everything during examination for a pass, which translate into nothing in real life situation; and thereafter forget everything they learnt in school. We have just accepted the rising mediocrity as an acceptable price to pay for electing political leaders who have no idea of what it means to invest in quality and relevant education.
The mediocrity is not institutionalized because we do not have quality teachers in our secondary schools; because we do. Only that we are failing to provide enough resources to our schools and we are failing to demand quality teaching from them. This is coupled with the fact that most of the learners we are enrolling have literary failed in standard eight; but they proceed hoping to turn the tables at junior certificate examinations and we seem to allow that as a system.
Even at junior certificate, the trend is to lower the passing mark so that at least one too many should pass. Those who failed are free to enroll in form three with the knowledge of their parents and some school administrations provided they are able to pay school fees. No system is in place to check whether they have J.C. or not. Result is finishing school with or without any national qualification.
We have embraced mediocrity not that there are no classrooms and textbooks in our schools and colleges, because there is. Only that the numbers in classrooms and the available resources do not tally. This makes learning superficial without internalizing the concepts needed and failure to transfer knowledge in real life situations. Result is output which reduces efficiency. This is not that there is no funding. It is there but, funding of education system is problematic. No one seems to care if poor investment yields poor yields. The economics of education seems to be aligned towards saving a lot of money for future solutions resulting from poor investments instead of investing today to curtail the likely future problems.
Institutionalized mediocrity is known with, but not limited to:-
- When one tries as hard as possible to establish new institutions—which is a welcome development; but tries hard at the same time trying suffocating the existing institutions, systematically by not taking care of them and failure to maintain and manage them both financially and in kind.
- When a graduate forgets everything he has learnt at the university and even the education is a sure sign of mediocrity.
- When teaching and learning resources are a luxury in all levels of education and not a necessity because government and all concerned stakeholders are failing to budget for the necessary resources.
- When teachers are failing to be creative in their jobs because there are no standards on which to work on.
- When universities are failing to provide solutions for the day to day problems we face as a country; yet we produce graduates purposively trained for the very same problems we are facing
- When a country is losing billions to appease political cronies and leave a primary school child learning under a tree subjected to so many distractions and coupled with unavailability of text books.
- When a university student has never seen a test tube or beaker in his science lessons because money meant for that were plundered at Capitol Hill and equally zillions of other cash are feeding the president and his cronies because the student is not in government plans.
- When a university student knows when they start their programme of study but not as sure as to when they will finish/graduate.
The way forward? We all have to share responsibility. Let us all demand accountability from the state, the industry, the education sector and more importantly from the politicians; because if the education sector fails, we all fail.
*The author Mcdonald Mnelemba is an educator and researcher
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