Reforming the education system

The Finnish education system is regarded as one of the best in the world, with its government attributing its success to an investment in teacher qualifications, vocational training, e-learning and a focus on group participation from an early age; hence, Namibia could learn a few lessons.

05 November 2019 | Education

Justicia Shipena



Under the theme 'Education - key to a nation's success' the embassy of Finland hosted an education conference at Droombos, Klein Farmlands in Windhoek last Tuesday.

The conference was aimed at reviewing the education sector from various perspectives, with special weight given to the present success stories of Finnish-Namibian cooperation.

Windhoek-based Dololo Namibia co-founder and CEO Tim Wucher believes Namibia can learn from Finland in the area of the academic practice teaching.

Dololo Namibia is an organisation that specialises in the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem and offers workshops to develop entrepreneurs, including an entrepreneurial culture among start-ups at primary education level.

"For the last two years we have been trying to learn from some of the successes of the Finnish education system and adopt them, as well as localise that so we can use them and make them valuable in the Namibian or Southern African context to develop sustainable and saleable solutions," he said.

Wucher said they have had a lot of active engagements with the public sector.

"I see better opportunities, a more lean approach and faster experimentation and results in the ‘how we teach' opportunities and that is something that we are excited about scaling," he said of the Finnish education system and how its lessons can assist Namibia.

Finnish ambassador to Namibia, Pirkko-Liisa Kyostila, said in August they gathered with over 120 Namibian youth to talk about democracy, freedom of speech and the importance of being accepted in society as an individual.

She said she was impressed by the wisdom and critical thinking of Namibian youth.

"It got me to realise how well-educated the youth are and how well they are taken care of in Namibia. Education and lifelong learning are the basis for prosperity in Namibia and Finland," said Kyostila.

She said one the greatest strengths of education in Finland is that it offers everyone equal opportunities to study, regardless of their social and financial background.

She said though the Finnish education system continues to be successful, there are also challenges; hence, everyone working in education is certainly pondering how to keep abreast of socio-economic changes and the growing number of pupils with special needs.

"In Finland inclusion is dividing opinions. Every pupil has the right to have education at the closest school, but if the resources for addressing special needs are not in place, the situation can be very demanding for teachers and students," she said.

According to Kyostila, next year marks 150 years of the partnership between the people of Namibia and Finland and the embassy's key task is to maintain this relationship and deepen it further.

"Education is one of the cornerstones of our society. We are happy to share our model and explain about our philosophy. Organising events like this is one of our embassy's core functions."

She added that one of their strengths is high-quality teacher education.

Finnish teachers are motivated and competent and the teaching profession is highly respected. Recently 49 Namibians finished their teacher training at Finnish universities.

According to Edda Bohn, the director of programmes and quality assurance in the education ministry, they reformed the education system with major changes, through the introduction of a learner-centred approach after independence.

This is based on the social constructionist paradigm, where knowledge is built collaboratively with the learner. The learners, with the teacher as a facilitator, learn in a collaborative way.

"One year of compulsory pre-primary education under the leadership of the ministry was reintroduced as of 2008, and about 50% of all eligible learners attend pre-primary as part of the junior primary phase, which is seen as the years of pre-primary to grade 3. The senior primary phase comprises of grades 4 to 7," she said.

Bohn added enrolment rates are high for grade 1 - up to 98% - but according to the 15th school day statistics, which is a snapshot at a particular instant in the year, a significant drop was revealed, as enrolment for the grades up to senior secondary was just below 60%.

This is also substantiated by EMIS data, which is published every year after the annual education census in August.

She further explained that the recent review of secondary education has phased out the Junior Secondary Certificate (JSC), which was awarded at the end of grade 10.

Grade 10 and 11 now cover the localised National Senior Secondary Certificate Ordinary (NSSCO) Level learning content.

She said the grade 12 year builds on the NSSCO and offers advanced subsidiary learning content, of which learners should chose at least three subjects, which they would have had passed with a symbol C at NSSCO Level.

"With regard to the challenges in terms of curriculum attainment and academic performance of learners at the NSSCO Level, it reveals a less desirable picture, when analysing the NSSCO Level results over the past five years. It shows that more learners obtain a D symbol and below, then what the targets aspired to."

According to the public expenditure review report of 2017, the ministry is allocated a fair share of the national budget.

However, the majority of these resources pay the salary of teachers and leave very little for infrastructure development, learning materials and support in terms of teacher training and development.

Bohn explained that policies such as the national standards and performance indicators for schools, implemented for improved school governance and safer schools, fully recognises that education is a shared responsibility.

"This means that communities, parents, guardians, leaners, teachers and the school leadership jointly carry the responsibility for a successful education, which needs to unlock the hidden potential of all learners to be able to make their contribution to economic development and the social upliftment of themselves and the nation at large," she added.

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