A call for schools curriculums reform

By Angelo Achuil

“Math is still held in such a high regard, but they are teaching stuff 99% of students will never use in their work career, or in life for that matter. Geometry, trigonometry, linear algebra… really? What about teaching high scholars how to read a financial statement? Or managing finances?” Russo

After taking a long and hard look at life and years spent in school trying to make sense out of it all, one is bound to share what seems to work and what does not. If there is anything that totally baffled me for decades, it is the academic curriculum from primary school to higher education all the world over. I have been to many countries in Africa, Asia, America and the Caribbean. If there is anything out there so consistent for children and adults, it is the kind of public education being rendered in schools. It is the kind of education that probably was useful for life in the ages past but has now been mostly negligible and badly need to be reformed in our days. For anything so demanding like education, we must weigh its total cost compared with its ultimate yield.

I studied in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, USA and a bit in Jordan and these school curriculums and their students are like parachute-cladded divers with 50/50 chances of opening during jump-off. We were trained on how to calculate a long function trail of X and Y; memorizing irrelevant and also difficult literatures like Shakespeare and what not; or a long list of chemicals we never got to see what they looked or felt like or why we must learn about them to begin with; speculating the extraterrestrial or intra-galaxial or oceanic dynamics and hundreds of frustrating lessons without real life examples of how all those will become useful in our lives.

A school curriculum is important and its sole objective needs to be preparing young people for a better life instead of being a mere academic map totally disconnected from life pressing issues. A school curriculum ought to teach people how to be productive and not just be consumers (sellers and not always be the customers); how to be job creators and be employers instead of ever being the applicants and employees.

Life can be difficult for a person who did not go to school but it is a grievous thing for a person to spend many years attending thousands of school lessons only to later turn out as a failure in life. It is a terrible thing to refuse schooling when able but it is a tragedy to spend so much time, energy and resources for years to turn out as a total disappointment for oneself, family, teachers and the nation!

While in school, we were taught how to look for a job, write CVs and apply for employment; they even had the time to talk about what to wear, how to sit or speak during interviews. Then there were all the “Hows” to work for somebody else company and efficiently achieve their goal except your own. We were urged how to ever read and understand policies of the potential employers and what they will like to hear us say. Some of us had to abandon learning our own languages and toiled to learn languages teachers preferred – we would even change the voice, tone when badly needed – undergoing through carefully selected orientation videos or movies. We were nicely taught how to promote, sell and protect the products made by others; seek promotion at work and endless list of how one can build a nice career in somebody else’s company. We were not taught how we can be company owners (employers) ourselves but to ever look to others to invent things for us. It is like being trained on desert life and wound up living at sea or vice versa.

Imagine what will happen if we at least have one different subject from primary one all the way to 4th year in university? That instead of being taught about the characteristic of sodium chloride which somebody else made from far, we get to make it ourselves; instead of how to write CV and apply for jobs, we instead get trained on how to create small jobs like the making of toothpick or brick-making ourselves.

That instead of being told to go around begging for money to buy pens and notebooks, we could have been trained to be self-reliant, sell cakes and buy them ourselves. That instead of expecting gifts from elders all the time, we could have designed small gifts ourselves even if it was out of drawings, carvings, songs, poems, skits or small dramas of their heroic works in our lives. O how we could have learned to be producers a long time ago! It is not a laughing matter. The contents of a curriculum can either develop (mass-produce) or paralyze (un-productive) the nation for generations through classrooms.         

The nation needs to introduce at least one subject called self-reliance, productivity or whatever people would have it called (I can help find people to design the contents free). The goal is to make students learn productivity in an early stage. By the time they are old (in universities), they will have known how to easily create jobs and help themselves when nobody is there to help them. And within few generations, all the output of million students combined will add to our national GDP – gross domestic product which will greatly help our failing economy and cut down on joblessness or idleness of our youth. 

It is heartbreaking to have BA or MA (or worse yet PhD) and one is jobless – sitting idle and increasingly bitter while waiting for someone to come from somewhere and somehow create a job for him/her? But the higher one goes in academics the greater the positive impact ought to be for oneself and the community. Is not education ought to educate, enable, equip and facilitate us for better life? But our education system is in bad shape and needs to be reviewed. It might be late for my generation to be so productive since all we were taught was how to wait on someone else to give us jobs and fix our country; but it needs not to remain so, for our children after us. We do not want them to be like us again running around brandishing academic papers whose value calls our pride and the whole educational system into question.

The solution is introduction of a new subject that must be taught from the bottom up. Most of what is taught in schools around the world is mostly copy and paste among nations and if South Sudan takes the lead in this step, many other nations may at least inherit one positive move from us.                                  

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