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A holistic approach will improve results

EDUCATION Minister ’Makabelo Mosothoane is an unhappy woman after this year’s Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) results showed a worrying trend of decline across the board.
Out of the 13 739 students who sat for the school-leaving exams, only 7 616 managed to get a School Certificate.
This was a 1.4 percent decline compared to last year’s figures.
The number of students who attained first and third class divisions also slumped to worrying levels as compared to last year’s figures.
These are indeed worrying results from a national perspective.
These results are symptomatic of an education system in crisis.
We would like to believe that such a candid admission will be the first step in a candid post-mortem to find a solution to the crisis.
As we have argued in previous editorials, Lesotho’s education system is in urgent need of a shake-up.
We are happy that there are already moves to dump the COSC syllabi, which has been in use since 1961, in favour of a localised Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE).
While we have not had an opportunity to browse the new syllabus, we have noted the noises from the education ministry which has touted the new syllabus as the panacea to Lesotho’s education crisis.
The ministry believes the new syllabus is tailored to suit Lesotho’s modern economic challenges.
We are also happy that the government is planning to introduce Advanced Level studies as the qualification that gives students a ticket to enter university.
Lesotho can only benefit from such a move.
But the minister also raised a few issues which we thought need further interrogation. Mosothoane laid the blame for the poor results on incompetent school principals.
She is right, up to a point.
She says she is concerned that while some school principals have been on the job for years, their schools were still churning out shoddy results.
She said government is now mulling introducing performance-based contracts for school principals.
“Contracts will be renewed based on the school’s performance. The quality of education is deteriorating,” she moaned.
We share her exasperation.
However, we believe the problem is much deeper.
The lazy and incompetent principal is only part of the problem.
A performance-based system can only work when all schools have access to the same resources, which we doubt is the case for some schools in the back of beyond in Lesotho.
Such a performance-based assessment can only work effectively when schools have equal access to libraries stocked with relevant books, schools that have functional labs, equipment, electricity and computers.
We also doubt that all schools are manned by qualified personnel especially in remote districts.
To deal with this crisis, the government should consider a proposal to give a “sweetener”, in the form of a “hardship allowance” to entice qualified teachers to work in remote rural schools.
Of course we are not downplaying the current efforts by school inspectors.
Some of them are indeed a patriotic, hard-working lot.
But as the minister noted, the appointment of regional managers to supervise the school inspectors is probably the key in ensuring teachers get paid to do the work they were employed to do.
Such a holistic approach, we believe, could help drive results up, come next January.

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