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Reliance on school curriculum limits students' knowledge

19 Jan 2016 at 13:16hrs | Views
Zimbabwe is credited with one of the best education systems in Africa - producing some of the brightest minds on the globe - and similarly prides itself with the highest literacy rate on the continent.

But we can do better!

Just as with anything else in this world - no matter how good it is - there is always room for improvement.

Although, recently there have been very commendable moves to improve the school curriculum, the role of parents in their children's education has been largely ignored.

Parents play a pivotal role in their children's education - beyond just the paying of fees, buying stationery, and helping with homework.

In fact, the greatest and most influential part of the child's educational growth lies with the parents - such that, if they renege on that responsibility, they would have done their children a huge disservice.

I know that over the decades - if not centuries - the issue of a child's educational growth has been entirely left to the schools, and parents have generally taken a backseat, expecting teachers to carry the task.

However, parents have to understand that the school curriculum is limited in its knowledge base, and it is up to them to help their children acquire much of the deficit knowledge.

The school curriculum is designed with a large group of pupils in mind, and as such formulated in such a way as to be understood by the majority of pupils, thus limiting the knowledge content.

Just to give as a practical illustration, in grade one, during the first term, pupils are taught how to count from 0 to 9.

They may spend weeks learning that, in order to ensure that the generality of the pupils understand.

However, I know for a fact that a child as young as four years old can be taught the principles of counting - by simply using counters, such as stones, or bottle caps - such that they can count up to over a hundred.

All they need is the assistance of the parent, who would be present to help them.

For instance, when they get stuck at 20 and do not know what the next number is, the parent can then tell them that it is just a matter of repeating the same sequence of 0 to 9, but this time with the 2 in front, that is, 21, 22, 23, and so forth.

I have personally witnessed this, and when the child finally commenced grade one, she could count to a thousand.

However, when she started grade one she was reduced to just counting from 0 to 9.

This clearly demonstrates that if parents do not play a very active part in their children's education, they are limiting them.

The knowledge in school textbooks is far from being enough, and it was never intended to be enough - for it an impossible task.

One of the stories that personally inspire me the most is that of Dr. Benjamin Carson, a United States (US) renowned world-class neurosurgeon - and former director of paediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and currently one of the presidential hopefuls for the Republican party.

His achievements are just too many to mention, as they need a book of their own - and numerous have already been written.

However, some of the most notable ones include, his innovation in conducting hemispherectomies (the removal of half of the brain to prevent untreatable severe seizures, such as those caused by Rasmussen's encephalitis).

He developed several major surgical innovations, including better ways of controlling bleeding and infection, as well as an innovative system of incrementally removing specific brain parts as units rather than in whole sections.

Another innovation was the development of new techniques used for conjoined twin separation.

The list is endless.

For all his efforts, Dr. Carson was awarded the highest civil honour in the US - the Presidential Medal of Freedom- as well as the Spingarn Medal, and the Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medal.

He was named by CNN and Time as one of the nation's top 20 physicians and scientist.

He has well over 120 major scientific publications in peer reviewed journals.

He has published over 35 books and book chapters, and has been conferred 51 honorary doctorates.

How did he manage to achieve all this and much more?

He was raised by his mother, Sonya, who only had a grade three education and was a domestic worker.

She encouraged him to love vigorous studying and have a thirst for knowledge.

She limited his television watching and leisure time - only allowing him to watch a certain number of TV programmes per week - and only programmes that she would have personally chosen.

She would insist that Benjamin and his brother rather spend their time at the local library reading at least three educational books every week.

Ben graduated with honours from high school, and proceeded to acquire degrees in psychology and medicine at the Universities of Yale and Michigan.

At 33 years old, he became the youngest head of a major division at the Johns Hopkins hospital.

He attributes all his immense success to his mother and how she mentored him through her strict regiment.

I believe that is the same approach that parents have to have towards their children.

Instead of leaving our children to watch TV and play video games all day long, we should limit what they watch, allowing them to watch only that which is edifying.

Secondly, parents should encourage children to engage in serious research and practical investigation starting from a very young age.

Little children naturally have a thirst for knowledge. That is why they ask all manner of questions and if left unchecked can even break that TV set because they want to see where those people they watch on TV are coming from.

As such, parents need to simply encourage that inquisitiveness to flourish in a more constructive manner.

This will enable children to spend most of their time accumulating knowledge, be it at the library, googling on mom or dad's phone, or through practical experiments.

They should be encouraged to ask those questions, and not to be discouraged by saying, 'iwe unonetsa iwe. Enda unotambira panze', but be encouraged to find out the answers themselves by providing them with the platform.

Encouraging them not only to research using books, but also through practical experiments.

Believe it or not, but children as young as five - given the right environment - can figure out how a mechanical clock works.

Allow and encourage them break it apart, and they can try to reassemble it till it works again.

As such, if a child shows an interest in biology, parents should provide them with the opportunity to spend their 'spare' time dissecting frogs, for instance, and learning all their can about its different organs using reference books from the library or google on the parents' phone.

If they are interested in baking, arrange for them to spend weekends at the local bakery.

The parents themselves do not have to spoonfeed their children with the knowledge, as this does not encourage independent research and thinking.

Remember, Dr. Carson's mother only had a grade three education, but she managed to encourage her son to engage in vigorous study and have a strong thirst for knowledge.

As the children start to reap the rewards for their amazing knowledge, they will become self-driven to achieve even more, and will need minimal prodding by the parents.

As the children grow older, this will lead them to be innovative in whatever field they are involved in.

Independent inquiry, accumulation of knowledge through research and practical investigation, as well as problem solving, are exactly the type of characteristics of the modern day youth.

With today's congested job market, what the nation needs are innovators, independent thinkers and researchers who will become world leaders in their fields.

All the best inventors and innovators should come from this great nation of Zimbabwe - placing us firmly as a world leader.

As such, let us encourage our children to go beyond the school textbook, as the knowledge contained there is very limited and basic.

It does not matter what level of education it is, be it early childhood development (ECD), primary, high school, or university, if students depend mostly on their academic material, they are limiting themselves in this competitive global village.

They will never become unique, as each student (or graduate) possesses no knowledge that is different from the next student (or graduate).

Every student should thrive to have that X-factor - that something that makes them different and shine out from the rest.

However, merely relying on the same source of knowledge as the next person simply produces academic clones - and the nation can not afford such people.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes and appreciates feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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