The shocking ZIMSEC Commerce syllabus: Here’s what our children are learning

A Siemens Telex one of the technologies which according to ZIMSEC’s Commerce syllabus is quite popular today. Image via Wikipedia

In a world where every other examination body is busy updating their syllabus so as to stay relevant in an ever changing  business world, ZIMSEC would be best advised to do the same especially when it comes to their Ordinary Level Commerce Syllabus which fortuitously ended in 2014.

The express purpose of ZIMSEC‘s Ordinary Level Commerce is:

to develop the pupils’ awareness of the industrial and commercial community in which they live. It provides a study of the structure of the world of commerce with the main emphasis on the commercial activities in the Zimbabwean home trade. It provides a foundation for a career in the field of business and it also provides a basis for further studies in related disciplines. The syllabus also introduces pupils to the various basic concepts necessary to be self reliant in their own day-to-day personal transactions and in running a business.


Though not necessarily a fault of its own, the subject has continued to neglect the technological advances that have taken place in the business world even though said technologies are now part and parcel of the prevailing business world.

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For example while trying to teach pupils on the day-to-day business and personal transactions students are continual examined on things like crossed cheques (when was the last time anyone wrote or accepted a cheque in a business let alone personal transaction?), registered letters ( how many of us know what those are?), Postal Orders, IOUs (good luck having anyone accept that when people are actually refusing government issued bond coins) and the prescribed books even have cheerful pictures of our old money I mean the good old fashioned 5 cent coins with a picture of the happy rabbit on it: the whole nine yards.

No talk of EcoCash, Telecash or OneWallet the preferred methods of transactions that have become a mainstay of both formal and informal businesses. I don’t have the stats but I can bet you my grandmother’s solitary tooth that these have had way more impact in today’s business transactions than cheques, postal orders and registered letters ever did.

What is a Datel? There is shame in not knowing because cursory Googling won’t make you the wiser either. Wikipedia  does not know what it really is: they think it is a UK based technology company. According to the good folks at ZIMSEC, a Datel is used extensively in the forex trading markets today. It uses a modem and a computer to communicate computerised accounts information?

There is also crazy talk under the communication topic of ‘radio paging’ being extensively used as an internal form of communication using these devices that one can hire from the Post Office! I mean, when was the last time anyone walked into a Post Office for anything at all, never mind to hire radio pagers. Email, according to some of the course material is done only (implied) using telephone circuits and computers and each subscriber has a secret code (not a password) that they use. There is other looney talk of Telemessages, Prestels (and I don’t mean Pretzels here) and for all I know telepathy and aliens somewhere.

There is no talk of Broadband and how it is changing the way we do business. No talk of WiMax, VSAT or Fibre. There is no mention of 3G/4G/LTE/ or websites. There is no mention of tablets and smartphones and how they have revolutionised business. Why the people who wrote the book seem to think that Email is not part of the internet.

Online payments, Visa/MasterCard, Paynow, vPayments or PayPal did not get onto the list, no Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and how businesses are using them to market their brands even though everyone is doing it either. No Whatsapp or any other instant messaging means of communication are mentioned even though they are used extensively both as business and individuals in today’s world. No online banking, no mention of the cloud nothing.

It seems when the syllabus was made: the Dodo was not just alive and well but thriving. Albert Einstein was a genius and he is the one who said: Education is what remains after what one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

I wonder how much education Commerce students are receiving considering how much they will have to not just forget but unlearn in order to fit in their lives out of the classroom?

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