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

  1. This is by far the best article you have ever written Garikai! There is so much humour packed in there but there is also a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Can you comment on the current Cambridge syllabus if there is commerce as as subject involved?

    1. Very true. The best I’ve read from him too. If this is what 2015 will look like then I’m sure looking forward to more articles.

  2. Wow,
    Talk about a GAP. This is what happens when we localize certain things. A quick read from page 10 of Shows we have some serious educational issues. This is the one time that I will openly say ZIMSEC please can you do a copy and paste. Because how do we expect students to keep up at international universities if this is the gap?

  3. I am shocked! I remember doing Zimsec Commerce on my own as an additional subject because it was deemed easy, I can understand why now.

  4. Interesting indeed but come to think of it, will the teachers be able to explain fibre, vsat, wimax, mastercard online payment or even how email works? there is need for a total overhaul even the curriculum for teachers.

  5. hahahah Datel, my wife teaches this subject and once was asked this datel thing, i coulnt expalin it coz i dint know that it was. So so outdated

  6. Datel chii? Very beautifully written piece. I wish you had given us a pdf link to this syllabus so we can see for ourselves. Or maybe ZIMSEC still has hard copies of the syllabus typed on a typewritter.

    Develop knowledge and understanding of the importance of commercial communication and
    documentation and the impact of information technology.

  7. Google says Datel is a gaming console, maybe they innovated the technology and crossed sectors.

  8. I dont see anything bad with learning about IOUs and Crossed cheques. As an experienced IT staff for a bank I can tell you that Background knowldege about these things is critical and essential. The other thing is that ignorance on how the banking and financial systems work is essential people have been blind for centuries and now they have this mess of the current financial systems which is heavily structured against them. a further knowldge on how the Digital world meets the old fincial systems is a tool that everyone should have. Do people even know how money is moved from one country to another in the digital world that you so pushing for. So there is much to learn from the old systems so as the appreciate the new ones. My point put simply is that ZIMSEC needs to find a way to combine the two onto one syllabus complete purging of old knowledge from the education systems would not do us any good either

    1. Learning about that is not the problem. The problem is that Commerce is not addressing what is happening on the ground! What is ecocash, telecash, one wallet that mommy and daddy use to pay edgars and water. How people send emails through their smart phones to confirm business decisions and how that poses a danger. What is internet banking etc. that is what commerce is not dealing with

    2. I say do away with all the antique technologies and systems from the syllabus. Commerce is supposed to be upto date as its abt tools, mechanisms and systems that are used in business. I dont see the need for kids to learn abt ancient technologies which are not relevant for today’s commerce. The challenge that needs to be addressed is to continually train the teachers themselves so that they may be upto date with the new technologies. Without this we are always going to be behind other countries. As it is an “A” in commerce is only good on paper and as soon as that kid enters the real world it counts for nothing. I believe we now know why we are trailing other countries despite being “more educated”……

    3. Dude the mess is not coz of the syllabus it bcoz we have lawyers and secretaries running the economy.

    4. …but come to think of it most subjects commence with an introduction where u at taught the “was” then u go into the now.I agree with @fedres that zimsec must blend the syllabus and not kill the old.

  9. i am acommerce teacher and this commerce syllabus is really ridiculous.the recommended text book has datel,confravision post office bags .who uses that staff now

  10. I think there is need to add commercial history within the commerce syllabus that will deal with old commercial systems,this will give students knowledge of old systems and compare with the modern,this will actually broden the subject at the same not destroying the basis of commercial systems as they were in prior years

  11. I teach commerce. indeed its ridiculous you have to teach these old outdated ways of doing business. there is not much you can do. you follow the script – which is the syllabus. the textbooks were first published decades ago.

  12. In a world where technologies are ever changing, I think first challenege is ensuring that all those teachers teaching the subjects such as Commerece are aware and well versed in these emerging technologies, else they can’t teach what they themselves don’t know. It goes back even further to those who setup the syllabuses for our curriculums, do they pay attention to how commerece is evolving eveRday? Workshops, re-training of teaching staff, revamping of the whole curriculum and frequent review and re-evaluation periods are just some of the ways ZIMSEC could and SHOULD be looking into to making sure they are creating a well prepared learner and not jst churning out pupils to get them through the system chete

  13. Point of correction, zimsec does not develop the syllabus. The curriculum development unit under the ministry of education does that. Zimsec job is assessment of students using the curricula provided by the education ministry. So don’t blame the wrong people.

    1. As a matter of fact ZIMSEC are the ones who should get more blame. While the syllabus section on communication is adequately vague as is always the case with such documents to allow for greater discretion ZIMSEC has chosen to stick with the old and familiar (to them) technologies instead of expanding or incorporating new material.

  14. The best article as I always say our educational system is still colonial while we boast in it and failing to develop anything in Zimbabwe. Where is further education and training for those without 5 o levels in order to improve production, and we worry about GDP when people are not equipped to improve it.


  16. Article is highlighting one side of the story. Gari, can you do a follow up that justifies your perception probably against a more modern and revised syllabus, e.g. Cambridge. I think if you can provide a contrasting position to cement your argument it would be much appreciated.

  17. I think it’s clear to see that the syllabus is ridiculously outdated. Whilst content should include some historical tit bits (for context), the bulk of the learning material should focus on the NOW. Detailed history should be rightfully captured in a history course. How is “a Datel” relevant today when no-one (even the all knowing Google) doesn’t know what it is? Is there anyone even using it? Give our kids relevant learning material please. They should leave classrooms ready to face the REAL world.

  18. kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk gegegegeggegegegegeege ahyas. Talk of ZIMSEC.Please visit the local universities and check their content.

  19. ZIMSEC??? outdated??? even NUST is still teaching CDS/ISIS as a library software tool for its student librarians in the dept of Library Information Science in 2015. outdated??? the whole %$#@!*? education system is stoneage

  20. There is a definite difference between”The History of commerce and “Contemporary commerce. Which one does ZIMSEC intend to teach?

  21. The ZIMSEC Commerce Syllabus should NOT be SHOCKING at all . A Syllabus is developed from a political , economic, social, technological, legal, environmental, `PESTLE` … background ; it should have clear, achievable ,relevant, realistic, … objectives . The instructors should be experts ,trained, skilled … to ASSIST the learners to grasp and apply the subject content accordingly. Periodical staff development of teachers is a MUST. Resource Materials i.e textbooks, periodicals, newspapers, … internet are a MUST for both instructors and learners. The examination should be based on the set and distributed syllabus ONLY. To cater for current TRENDS, the syllabus life SPAN should determined and reviewed accordingly.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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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