Zimbabwe’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres have started teaching all subjects using local languages, including vernacular languages.
The languages listed and recognised as official in Zimbabwe are English, Shona, Ndebele, Sign Language, Ndau, Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Shangani, Shona, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa.
Most of these languages are common to specific geographic regions and are adopted as the local language component for learners in those areas. With this latest adoption, this is now being extended to ECD instruction of all
With this latest adoption, this is now being extended to ECD instruction of all learning objectives which include Languages, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education, Mass Displays, Mathematics, Science, Family and Heritage, and ICT.
According to a report in the Sunday Mail, the new approach was adopted at the beginning of 2017. It falls under the new curriculum which has been the motivation of a number of changes in Zimbabwe’s primary and secondary education delivery such as subject limits at Ordinary Level and the adoption of new compulsory subjects like Agriculture and Mass Display.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Lazarus Dokora has justified the use of local languages for instruction highlighting how the medium of communication or instruction for infants and ECD is meant to be in the mother language. This is supposed to ensure the pupils are comfortable and that they freely express themselves.
Controversies and challenges with implementation
As has been the case with other aspects of the new curriculum, there have been concerns raised about the implementation of the new model for ECD instruction.
While some observers that include groups like Progressive Teachers’ Association of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) have applauded the noble nature of the new curriculum they have raised concerns about its chaotic implementation.
Issues like the distribution of resources for the new learning models as well as the training of teachers to adapt to the new approach have to be addressed if the model is to work.
Subjects like Mathematics and computers which have all of the locally approved material in English require a wave of translations, some of the content is also hard to express in local languages and the teachers have to be trained in the adoption of such methods.
All this is tied to the mobilisation of resources, something that the cash-strapped Zimbabwean government has had challenges with in the past considering the workarounds around teacher recruitment.
The new model will also have an implication on how these learning outcomes are adopted in later stages of education, something that the Ministry of Education will also have to plan for.
For now, it remains to be seen how the government will solve theses issues as it tries to reposition the Zimbabwean education system.