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

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siemens_telex
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.

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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.

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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.

zimbabwe-5-cents-coin
image credit: delcampe.net

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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38 thoughts on “The shocking ZIMSEC Commerce syllabus: Here’s what our children are learning

  1. As someone who to teaches business subjects l find the similarities of the zimsec situation and mine a bit similar.

    l work in a place where the resources, technology and basically everything else is up to date. l mean in theory l should have the best at my disposal. Most of the time that is true except with the course material for my subjects. However, l have to make do with old books when l say old, l mean 2004! lt is interesting the powers that be have felt it necessary to continue in this fashion despite continued complaints about how outdated our material was.

    l recall the beginning of the last term in a moment of sheer inspiration the very same powers decreed we were to abandon the ancient manuscripts we were using in favour of the internet, essentially we were to get everything from the net. What was quite annoying of this we had been asked to order books from a catalogue which were current and when the new term began we were expecting to get the new books but we were wrong.

    Fortunately for my students and myself l am also a self studier and thankfully with most if not all my subjects there is a lot of overlap between what l am studying and what l do teach therefore l am covered in that regard. Nonetheless it is a lot of work to create notes from your books and it is particularly galling to have to use personal resources for work purposes especially when you know the kids do pay a book fee. Between the general ambivalence to the need for new books on the part of the admin and a suspected money making scheme between one of the higher ups and the publishers, somewhere in there lies the real reason why we use the archaic bookd

    Anyway there is merit in turning to the net for material but l believe it should be as a secondary option not the primary option.

    Well at least Zimsec’s situation is slightly different they may have the will but they lack the means, in my case the means are there but the will is absent, so it is quite different. Having said that l guess l may not be in such a bad situation considering my books are about 10 years past their use by date. l wonder how ancient that syllabus is which was referred to by the writer.

    Talking of the place of the ancient technology in the role of today’s teaching, in ideal situation it may be taught as a topic in a modern text, e.g. charting the change in the business environment say in the past thirty or so years. Or it could be a separate subject altogether.

    ln high school one of my teachers who was then on ‘Vacation’ at the UZ, being a former pupil came to instruct us in history. l recall the headmaster announcing he was studying something called ‘economic history’. To this day l think he is the only person l ever met who was studying that particular degree and l have wondered ever since what it actually was all about. Maybe this could be the title of the subject.

    As for that particular teacher, what l do remember was he made the occasional foray into our class but seemed to be more comfortable in the prefect’s lounge as a former prefect, so we never really got to know him.

    Anyway those are just my thoughts on this topic.

  2. I once worked on this machine some 30 years ago when Telone was PTC. So I think ZIMSEC guys are still living in that era.

  3. i am a university student, and yes old content is still being lectured, but as a tertiary student you have to look deeper and lead yourself out of the old system, was told to think like someone in Dubai, and indeed you begin to see that you are lagging behind. Yes, they are basics, dot matrics printers to compliers, at least we know the past and how its evolving but i want to know the knew stuuf, which i have to dig for myself. I study for my degree at the same time doing professional courses and certifications like CCNA and comptia+, it actually gives value to my degree in that i know the current technologies and and its use in commerce.

  4. as a commerce teacher i do agree with you Garikai. In the classroom i am suposed to bring in learning aids and in this day and age where can i get a cheque book in zimbabwe, a stamp. which bank still offers pups. Zimbabwe is a way backward. how many homes still own landlines, do our kids know what a postman looks like. food for thot

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