Overcrowding and challenges with curriculum cause of high failure rate

Niël Terblanché

Namibia’s education system is under scrutiny following a report that highlights a series of challenges leading to an alarming 85% failure rate among learners in 2023.

The report, issued by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Science, ICT, and Youth Development alongside the National Council, sheds light on the dire situation of overcrowded classrooms, slow adoption of a revised curriculum, and overworked teachers as primary factors contributing to the high failure rates witnessed among Grade 11 and Grade 12 students.

The investigation was initiated in response to public outcry over the dismal academic performance of students who sat for the NSSCO and NSSCAS examinations.

Through a comprehensive review, including public hearings and interviews with stakeholders across the country, the Committee aimed to pinpoint the root causes of the failure crisis.

A crucial part of their research involved a study visit to Finland, renowned for its world-class education system, from October 22nd to 29th, 2023, to garner insights into effective educational strategies.

Olivia Hanghuwo, Chairperson of the Committee, indicated that while the high failure rates are most apparent at the secondary level, the issues plaguing the education system begin much earlier.

The lack of a solid educational foundation from the pre-primary level onwards has set the stage for academic struggles that become evident in the higher grades.

This revelation shifts the narrative from focusing solely on the exit levels to recognizing the importance of nurturing a strong foundation from the onset of a child’s educational journey.

A critical finding of the report is the non-enforcement of staffing norms that recommend a teacher-to-learner ratio of 30:1. Instead, the Committee found classrooms bursting at the seams, with numbers ranging from 40 to 70 students per class.

Overcrowding hampers the ability of teachers to provide the individual attention necessary for effective learning, directly impacting student success rates.

To address these challenges, the Ministry has secured funding from the European Union to construct about 150 new classrooms, primarily targeting primary schools.

These developments are expected to alleviate some of the overcrowding issues and are a step towards providing a more conducive learning environment.

The report also highlights significant flaws in the implementation of the revised curriculum.

According to Hanghuwo, the rollout was marred by poor planning, insufficient consultation, and a lack of resources, leaving teachers ill-prepared to deliver the curriculum effectively.

The Committee calls for the Ministry to prioritize the training of teachers and to ensure schools are adequately equipped with necessary teaching materials and functional laboratories.

Namibia’s education crisis, as outlined in the report, calls for immediate and decisive action to rectify the systemic issues that have led to such high failure rates.

The findings emphasize the need for a holistic approach to educational reform, starting from the foundational levels up through to secondary education.

As the country seeks solutions, the lessons learned from Finland’s education system, alongside the Committee’s recommendations, could provide a blueprint for turning around Namibia’s education system.

The future of the nation’s youth and the overall development of Namibia hinge on the effective implementation of these reforms.

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