Evaluation of the implementation of the new Zambian High School Geography syllabus in rural high schools : The case of Mkushi District, Zambia

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Muleya, Habowa Godwin
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In the year 2000 the Zambian Ministry of Education, through its Curriculum Development Centre, published and implemented the New Zambian High School Geography Syllabus. This new syllabus was necessitated by the need to improve the quality of education at High School level as stipulated in the National Policy on Education document called " Educating Our Future", (Ministry of Education, 1996). This study was aimed at evaluating the implementation of the New Zambian High School Geography Syllabus in three rural- based high schools found in Mkushi district of Zambia. The study sought to investigate views and experiences of Geography teachers in the three high schools who taught the new syllabus and prepared the first shoot of grade twelve candidates for their 2004 final SC/GCE geography examinations. Through this study, it was hoped that common methods employed by teachers at that time would be established as a way of displaying them for some critical evaluation with respect to achievement of the stated objectives of the new syllabus and the National Policy on education. The study further aimed at bringing out the practical challenges encountered by teachers in the course of implementing this new syllabus. This study also sought to find out from the rural based high school geography teachers their perceptions about the new syllabus, in general, and about the geography field project component, in particular. Finally, the study sought to solicit suggestions from the teacher respondents regarding the kind of teaching /learning resources and in- service professional training they would require if they were to effectively teach the new syllabus. In order to achieve the above stated aims and objectives, ten purposefully sampled geography teachers drawn from three high schools of Mkushi district formed part of the study sample. In addition, thirty-five grade twelve pupils from these three high schools were picked as respondents. A stratified random sampling method was used to arrive at the sampling frame from which a final study sample of 35 pupils was picked using the pick-a-lot random sampling method. From each school, the Head teacher or Deputy Head teacher, as well as one Head of Department (HOD) and one Head of Geography Section were interviewed. The total study sample was 54 beside the key informants from the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) and Dons from the University of Zambia (UNZA) department of Language and Social Sciences Education (LSSE), geography section. Primary information was gathered using separate questionnaires for each of the three groups of respondents namely teachers, pupils and key informants. A Semi-structured interview schedule was used for Head teacher/ Deputy Head teachers and HODs. Questionnaires had open-ended and few closed items, the latter were mostly capturing the Biodata of respondents. In addition, a non- participatory observation method was used to collect information. A qualitative research methodology capturing views and experiences of respondents was employed to gather data while a content analysis method was used to analyse the collected data, which was put under major themes. To some limited extent, the number of responses were presented quantitatively by using percentages, graphs or charts. The study found out that geography teachers from the three high schools of Mkushi district experienced a wide range of challenges in the course of implementing the new syllabus. Teachers were not consulted or oriented about the changes to the syllabus, a factor that could have impeded the attainment of the type of learner and ideals stipulated in "Educating Our Future" (MOE 1996) as well as the goals of high school education in Zambia. With regard to the type of teaching / learning materials used, this study established that teachers had problems of sourcing or innovating alternative sources of material in the absence of a prescribed textbook. It became apparent that teachers relied heavily on the use of textbooks for their teaching as a major source of information and as a teaching method. Few pedagogical methods beyond those dictated by the textbook were in use. The teaching and learning of geography was discovered to be still examination-oriented aimed at ensuring that pupils passed their final examinations. The use of the questioning method as a possible driving force to the attainment of the ideals of "Educating Our Future" was not explored. This study also established that the field project component of the geography syllabus posed serious problems to both teachers and pupils. The majority of the teacher respondents (one hundred percent) expressed the need to have an accredited in-service training in various aspects of the subject, in general, and in particular, on the field project component with its various dimensions. This study brought out the various challenges and opportunities that the implementation of the new syllabus had introduced to high school geography in Zambia and, more especially, to the rural based high schools of Mkushi District. Arising from the findings of this study, various recommendations for consideration have been advanced as possible panacea to the challenges encountered in the course of implementing the new high school geography syllabus in Zambia.
High schools -- Mkushi , Geography -- Study and teaching -- Zambia