User:Motlhale/Quality of Education in Botswana

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Quality of Education in Botswana


David Motlhale Ratsatsi

17th January 2005


The issue of quality of education has been discussed in many fora in Botswana and the media is on the forefront especially with regards the achievement of the country vision called Vision 2016, which envisions “an educated and informed nation” by 2016. The quality is under scrutiny based on the unemployment of the education system graduates, which has of late been observed even at the level of University Degree. However, quality of education is an illusive concept which is very difficult to clearly define. It can be likened to terms like democracy and justice which also seem to elude simple definitions. However, scholars have made attempts to put a definition to educational quality as a point of departure for discussions, which we are not going to go into in this paper. Botswana is currently implementing an education policy called the Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE) of 1994. This policy has acknowledged that the expansion of schools has had an adverse effect on the quality of education and stated that “However, although not by design, the success in quantitative development of the school system has not been adequately matched by qualitative improvements” The Dakar Framework has also highlighted quality of education in most of its goals especially goals 2, 5 and 6. Goal 6 specifically dwells on quality of education and states that “Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.” It is within the framework of the above that quality has become an issue in the country and needs to be addressed with urgency. Therefore, based of the above introductory framework and using it as a point of departure, the obstacles to achieving quality education in Botswana will be highlighted and discussed.


Botswana, like other countries is confronted with many challenges as efforts are made in an attempt to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) and a quality education for all as prescribed by EFA. These challenges are: Teacher attrition mainly due to HIV/AIDS, Pre-primary education, In-service training, Teacher salaries (benefits) and motivation, School heads as instructional leaders and support providers for teachers, Quality of the teacher and Quality of pre-service training. However, for purposes of this discussion, three issues have been singled out which are pertinent to the improvement of quality education in the country. These are Teacher Salaries and Motivation, Teacher Quality and In-service, School Leadership and Supervision.

Teacher Salaries and Motivation – The last two years have seen mass action by teachers at both primary and secondary schools. In certain instances, they have targeted times when their action would make the most impact e.g. during examinations when they are supposed to be invigilating. An article in the Government Paper, the Botswana Daily News (08 October 2002) said “Teachers have begun bracing themselves for a strike action to pressure government into releasing their long awaited separate pay structure. Teachers organisations, such as Botswana Federation of Secondary School Teachers (BOFESETE), the Botswana Primary Teachers Association (BOPRITA), the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and the Association of Botswana Tertiary Lecturers (ABOTEL) have re-affirmed their resolve to go on strike planned for next Monday to Wednesday”.

Teacher Quality and In-service - A small proportion (8.8 percent) of teachers at primary level in 2003 were untrained and these were mostly found in the remote rural areas. These are the areas that normally get very low results in the national examinations. Teachers in the 70’s where recruited either after 7 years of primary to go and teach at lower primary level i.e. standard 1 – 4, while teachers for upper primary (standard 5-7) were recruited after Junior Certificate (end of 10 years schooling). These teachers were given a two year course at Primary Teacher Colleges and awarded a Primary Teachers Certificate (PTC). There are also a few teachers who have received other qualification which are lower than the PTC. The chart below shows the distribution of teachers by qualification.

Chart of Teachers by Qualification at Primary Level Year Trained Teachers Total Trained Untrained Teachers Total Number of Teachers Less Than PTC PTC Diploma Degree 2001 829 8381 1759 309 11278 1098 12376 2002 798 8281 2272 398 11749 1203 12952 2003 760 8086 2650 504 12000 1153 13153 Source: Education Statistics 2001, 2002, 2003. CSO

Year Less Than PTC PTC Diploma Degree Total Trained UnTrained Teachers Total Number of Teachers
2001 829 8381 1759 309 11278 1098 12376
2002 798 8281 2272 398 11749 1203 12952
2003 760 8086 2650 504 12000 1153 13153

All these teachers mentioned above find the reformed curriculum a challenge since new concept have been incorporated and the curriculum diversified to provide a broader perspective to the varied ability pupils. Technology oriented subjects have been introduced posing very serious challenges to these cadre of teachers. New methodologies are recommended which the teachers find difficult to adopt since they were trained using the lecture methods. This situation is really causing a decline in the quality of instructional delivery. A lot could be done to assist the teachers to cope but the in-service has not been very strong of late leaving the teachers in limbo and not knowing exactly how to handle the situation.

School Leadership and Supervision - The school leadership plays a very important and significant role in making the environment within the school conducive to learning. The relationship between the leadership, the teachers and the learners need to be a cordial and professional one to encourage dialogue and learning by all. This challenge is mainly the responsibility of the school head, to provide leadership through, not only supervision, but also through guidance and mentoring. The school heads are finding this role difficult especially of providing professional guidance pertaining to pedagogy. This is because of the legacy of supervision being provided by mainly the inspectorate for control, and also because the school heads are just trained teachers who have been promoted mainly based on experience. The role of school head as instructional leaders has not been part of their training. Supervision by the inspectorate has also been mainly on inspection rather than on providing guidance to teachers.


Teacher Salaries and Motivation - In the RNPE of 1994, the government agreed that there were problems within the teachers’ benefits and committed itself to addressing the situation through a statement as follows: “Government intends to embark on a number of measures aimed at raising the status and morale of teachers so that they can perform their tasks more effectively. Such measures will include both improved pre-service and in-service training, a package of incentives and improvements in the conditions of service”. Prior to this Policy statement, teachers were not very apprehensive about their conditions of work as the reality of the situation is that teachers are paid the same as their counterparts in other vocations. They are also given institutional housing at subsidized rates, enjoy holidays when the schools are closed and do not work very rigid long hours like in the civic service. A commission, Tsa badiri Consultancy was appointed to look at the best strategy to resolve the issue. The recommendation there of were not implemented, thus causing mass action by teachers. The morale is now at its lowest in the history of education in Botswana. There was a 20 percent increase in salaries for all public service employees in 2003 and this has seemingly reduced the dissatisfaction, but there is need to work hard on rejuvenating the teaching force.

Teacher Quality and In-service- The issue of teacher quality is being addressed, as reflected in the table above, through upgrading of primary school teachers’ qualifications to diploma and bachelor degree through full time courses at the University of Botswana and through distance learning through the Centre for Continuing Education of the University of Botswana. Teacher in-service, through the Teacher Training and Development Department is lacking behind. Recommendations made by the RNPE to address the in-service component which were really central to the success of the curriculum reform and the improvement of the quality of education have not being wholly implemented. Some of these recommendations are: “remedial teaching techniques should be given more emphasis in pre-service and in-service training programmes” “With respect to pre-vocational preparation in junior secondary education, the Commission recommends that: in-service for all teachers is provided on introducing and sustaining this approach to the curriculum and co-curriculum activities. Special in-service training should be provided to Careers Guidance teachers, including increased exposure to commerce and industry.” “all senior secondary school teachers should acquire computer literacy and the schools should be allocated enough computers to enable all students to develop computer skills.”

School Leadership and Supervision - The RNPE has made a number of recommendations which are being implemented in terms of improving the school leadership and supervision. One of the recommendations state that “On school management and teacher development, . . . . the Ministry of Education should develop guidelines for head teachers, clearly defining their roles both as instructional leaders and administrators of the schools”. This strategy is aimed at addressing the prevailing situation where the school heads control the teachers and the school, to an atmosphere of tranquillity where the school heads facilitates and plays an advisory role to the teachers. The guidelines alone would therefore not be helpful without a change of mindset through the institution of a well structured and probably modularised in-service training for the school heads. Further more, recommendations were also made to address inspection of school in general stating that: “the inspection of schools should be under one Department of Inspection formed from an enhanced amalgamation of the existing departmental inspectorates. The work of ensuring and maintaining quality will include the following: (ii) providing support and advice for schools with problems. (v) monitoring the effectiveness of teacher training, including teachers on probation. (vi) monitoring the effect and effectiveness of testing and examinations. (vii) identifying in-service development priorities and monitoring the effectiveness of related training. The implementation of the above would have gone a long way in revamping the ineffective supervision that prevails in the schools. This could have also assisted in ensuring that the in-service was challenged to perform their role in a more active manner with the realisation that their programmes are being monitored by their colleagues.


Teacher Salaries and Motivation – The reason why government is unable to keep to their earlier commitment is because of huge financial resource implications. Whether the strategy involves increase in salaries as is implied by a separate pay structure, or the provision of other incentives, it all has financial implications which are not easy to fulfil given the number of serving teachers at all levels from primary to tertiary education.

Teacher Quality and In-service - The resource implications for in-service training with regard to teacher quality is already within the plans of the ministry and thus should not require any additional resources, except for technical assistance or support. The in-service staff might themselves benefit from some in-service courses to enable them to carryout their role. Comprehensive plans must be developed so as to determine the magnitude of the intervention and cost implications. These plans can only be informed by specific and targeted research on the different issues which have to be addressed through in-service. The existing education centres, which are strategically distributed throughout the country, must be upgraded to deal with this challenge and provided with relevant professionals to provide immediate assistance to teachers, even those on distance learning courses. On the upgrading of teachers, providing teachers with full-time courses of 3 to 4 years is an expensive undertaking as additional teachers are required on temporary bases while the substantive post holders are away on study leave. Given the number of teachers and the compromise on quality through untrained teachers, this strategy is not sustainable even though it might benefit the system in the long run. The distance education strategy to upgrade teachers has been found to be more cost effective. The teachers are present in the schools and providing service. They are released during vacations to attend lessons at the University. This however, poses challenges to the participants as they need much assistance on the instructions which they can not readily get in their various locations.

School Leadership and Supervision - The strengthening of the school leadership and supervision would require some restructuring and reorganisation of the existing departments into one which will have a more focussed role. Additional staff will be required for frequent monitoring especially of those schools which are having problems. From the SACMEQ survey, teachers have indicated that they get 4.9 inspection visitations in three years. In the same survey, 26.5 percent of teachers indicated that they have never been visited by in-service officers.


The provision of universal pre-primary education really has been neglected, but the country stands to benefit if it was implemented. Reasons being that it will reduce some of the disparities already existing between the rural and urban areas. It will also reduce dropout rate which is highest at standard one and increase the completion rate. The reason for not giving this strategy sufficient attention was that Government resources were already committed for other areas of support. The other strategy not given sufficient attention is that of in-service provision outlined above. The problem emanates from within the Ministry of Education and not from Government. Vast resources have been allocated for this purpose, but the machinery within the responsible department seems not to be moving fast enough. There is need for a complete overhaul of the in-service.


Examination - The examination results are published every year to enable schools to reflect on their performance in relation to other schools especially those in similar situations. Specific subject reports are also prepared by the chief examiners on all items to provide feedback to the teachers. This has been found to be very useful in that teachers can rethink their teaching strategies and also helps to enrich their content. SACMEQ - These achievement tests which are not the same as high stake examination have assisted in monitoring not only academic achievements, but other very important components of quality education e.g. equity, absenteeism, school environment, school head characteristic and other very pertinent issues related to quality. Inspectorate - Even though the inspectorate are seen as controlling rather than supporting the teachers, their reports still highlight some challenges that need to be addressed. They look at issues of the school environment, textbooks, furniture, class size and other very important issues which are very closely related to a conducive teaching/learning environment. In-service - In-service, though sporadic, where it is done, a difference is noted as teachers become motivated. This is because “As different experiences in several countries have shown it is when teachers feel that all support efforts converge towards the improvement of their pedagogical practice, and that they themselves are actors in their own training, that these efforts have the greatest chances of success.” The salary in this case does not become that much of an issue. Research - Some action research is carried out by the teachers and presented at the biennial National Conference on Teacher Education. The University has also been carrying out research to inform strategies which are implemented from time to time. This has assisted greatly in so far as taking corrective measures for some of the strategies implemented.

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In summary i'd like to say...


The improvement of quality of education in Botswana is of paramount importance and all players must act as one in order to achieve a coherent way forward. The strategies stipulated by the RNPE, if followed up and implemented, will go a long way in achieving this task and also come closer to achieving Education for All as outlined by the Dakar Framework. The value of pre-primary must be looked at with a different lens as it stands to contribute much to the improvement of quality of education. However, all strategies employed must involve the teachers from the onset as they are the ones in contact with the learners and it is through them that we can make a difference. In-service must therefore be strengthened to provide the needed support in light of curriculum reforms undertaken to enable teachers to be in control and have the required confidence in their instructional delivery. Their welfare therefore has to be amicably resolved to enable a school environment that will promote and encourage learning. It is only then that marked improvements will be made in the functioning of schools. Autonomy should also be given to school heads so that they become accountable to the performance of their schools. As indicated, they should be empowered to supervise as well as provide pedagogical advice to their subordinates. The HIV/AIDS pandemic can also not be overlooked as it has undermined a lot of progress previously made and strategies to address this should be continued with vigour to ensure success.


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