Zambia explores a new educational focus! 'Life Skills'
Ambassador Kabwe, assisted by First Secretary (Trade) Mr. Namabanda Mundia Mubukwanu and First Secretary (Economic) Mr. Chris C. Mbewe, gave a well prepared and well presented briefing to His Excellency Irving Levance of the Intergovernmental Organization EDU.
Like their Head of Mission, the two First Secretaries displayed great professionalism and contributed throughout the meeting with accurate, detailed, statistical notes and razor sharp observations and comments.
Ambassador Kabwe represents the Republic of Zambia to the BENELUX countries and the European Union.
The Secretary-General was fascinated to learn that Zambia has adopted a new a policy of prioritizing non-university education: skills development, life skills, vocational training and apprenticeships. These are designed to empower ordinary citizens to be independent, productive, self reliant and able to make their own living.
Very much in keeping with EDU aims and policies, the Government of Zambia is seeking to certify traditional skills and capacities as valid rather than simply transplanting a western curriculum which may be of limited application to ordinary people.
Certification, verification, validation and accreditation are considered essential to the fulfilment of this aim and the Ambassador and her team recognized great synergy between these needs and EDU capabilities.
The complexities of cross border education were demonstrated in the need for Zambians - who live and are educated in a country where the official language is English and all education is conducted in English - to be subjected to the IELTS – International English Language Testing System, in order to be permitted to study at institutions in the UK and other western countries.
ZAMBIAN QUALIFICATIONS AND VERIFICATION
Similarly, the Ambassador pointed out, the current validation and verification processes of Zambian qualifications, being mail based rather than the sort of online database approach advocated by EDU, is costly, slow and inefficient.
In education terms, Zambia is considered to be ‘on the right track’ in targeting literacy rates and addressing the gender gap.
Because more than half of Zambians are 16 years old or younger, the country's educational system is extremely overburdened, making allocation of resources a serious challenge. Lack of infrastructure, insufficient teacher training, and resource imbalances between rural and urban schools are consistent challenges, and as a result nearly 260,000 children ages 7-13 are not enrolled in school.
Literacy rates in the country have slightly improved over the past 20 years, but the gender gap is wide—with only 64% of Zambian women able to read and write.
In 1996, the Zambian Government made a commitment to improving access to education, which included the establishment of educational goals and the elimination of school fees for grades one through seven. Though the commitment was a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in Zambia before quality education can become a reality for all children.
'ROOM TO READ'
“Room to Read - Zambia”, a non profit NGO, was founded in 2007 with an initial focus on improving infrastructure and access to resources through its School Library program. It has since begun to address quality of materials and instruction through its Book Publishing and Reading & Writing Instruction programs.
To address Zambia's wide gender gap in education, “Room to Read Zambia” introduced its Girls' Education program, with particular focus on the acquisition of life skills among secondary school girls.
The Government of Zambia is very interested in preserving, protecting and validating traditional intellectual property so that the local people who currently possess this knowledge can benefit from it, should it be commercially exploited in the developed world.
COOPERATION WITH EDU
First Secretary (Trade) Mr. Namabanda Mundia Mubukwanu was particularly interested in pursuing further cooperation with the Intergovernmental Organization EDU for assistance in this area and the Secretary-General undertook to study this as a future project.
Zambia is interested, in future cooperation with EDU, in the adoption of an accreditation system and curriculum which addresses Zambia’s vocational needs rather than blithely adopting a western curriculum. This has led to Zambia exporting workers to the West, which has benefitted the economy slightly through expatriate remittances, but that contribution does not compensate for the ‘brain drain’ of educated talent being lost from the country.
Ambassador Kabwe assured the Secretary General that she will act as initial point of contact in negotiations with Zambian government for formal participation in the Intergovernmental Organization, EDU.