III Teaching and Learning Aid Materials and Facilities
The availability, diversity, quality and distribution of materials and facilities, which are the tools and facilitators of the process of teaching and learning, is also another factor that affects the quality of education. Materials and facilities in this sense are used to refer to proper classroom, libraries, laboratories, text books, stationeries and different teaching and learning aids. The materials and facilities listed above are what make a building and its compound a school. Therefore their quantity, quality, availability to all students and effective management has a colossal effect on the quality of schools and the quality of education.
Classrooms are the actual grounds where most of the teaching and learning process takes place. Thus, having proper classrooms with appropriate desks, blackboards, dusters and chalks is basic. However in addition to these basic requirements classrooms ought to be as comfortable as possible to both students and teachers. The most important factor here is the size of the classroom and the number of students in there. In order to create a favourable condition, not only the size of a classroom and number of students is expected to be proportional but the number of students in a classroom should also be small. As the desirable amount of interaction between teacher and students, depends on it. If teachers are going to be able to pay all the necessary attention and make relevant follow ups on every student the number of students in a classroom shouldn’t be too large.
Libraries and laboratories are also among the most important components of schools. The establishment of libraries and laboratories that are suitable to the levels of the schools inside every single school is rather vital. If our educational system is to provide and encourage an education based on research findings, inventions and innovations at every level, these facilities are among the top priorities. Schools need to have libraries with books that can provide an opportunity of varieties of intensive and extensive reading and reference materials to both the students and teachers. They also need laboratories where students could have all the possible practical demonstrations of what they learn inside their classrooms. Libraries should be equipped with books that have a proven relevance to the curriculum and fields of studies of every level. Schools also need to have laboratories equipped with all the necessary tools and equipments needed to enhance teaching and learning. Furthermore these facilities also need to have an efficient organization and management that would encourage students and teachers to use them as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, beyond the establishment, the persistent improvement of the qualities of these facilities is also very important. Now, it is obvious that it could be a little hard to demand libraries and laboratories of ample qualities immediately in every single school, considering the economy of our country. However it is an issue that has to be given a place among the highest priorities and be addressed without any delay.
The availability of text books with relevant content and efficient presentation up to the highest standard is also an important factor. Text books are considered as the most effective educational tools especially in elementary junior and secondary education. Even in the most developed countries of the world where there is a well diversified and abundant reading materials, text books are still the most important educational tools. In the context of developing countries like Eritrea therefore text books are the most important medium of instruction. In Eritrea the first “Eritrean text books” were prepared with the establishment of the new Eritrean curriculum after independence. Since then text books have been modified parallel to the ongoing reformation of the curriculum. This has played a significant role in improving the quality of the text books which will directly affect the quality of education. Concerning the distribution, it has been the policy of the Ministry of Education to provide one book for every student for free. Students are required only to pay a nominal annual service fee. Except for few setbacks, the overall work that has been done in providing text books throughout the country especially in the remote rural areas is encouraging.
The availability of school stationary both for teachers and students is also another point that could affect the process of teaching and learning. In the developing countries school stationary is among the reasons why children quit school or don’t even start in the first place. Especially in the third world countries where the majority lives below the poverty line and life is from had to mouth, school stationary could be just unaffordable for families. In Eritrea however, the problem has been identified and been dealt with as part the policy fair distribution of the opportunity of education and encouraging the poor in to schools. Throughout the country, school stationary is provided for students in an astonishingly lower price in comparison to the actual price in market. In addition all the necessary stationary is provided for teachers for free.
The task that has been accomplished in Eritrea in ensuring the availability and distribution of text books and school stationeries for students and teachers is really worth admiration and its preservation is urged. However, the issue of libraries and laboratories in schools is far from satisfactory and needs urgent as well as concrete attention and solution. The significance of the accessibility, quality and distribution of all the needed teaching and learning aid materials and facilities is self-evident and doesn’t require any validation. Therefore, their efficient establishment, management and allotment are crucial in the discussion of improving the quality of education. However, an ample school compound with all aid materials and facilities in abundance would not be teaching and learning grounds without teachers. And the issue and significance of teachers in relation to the quality of education is the focus of the fourth part of this article.
The quality of the course of study of academic knowledge and skill is embedded in the curricu-lum. The quality and relevance of the knowledge and skill and the way they are delivered to the stu¬dents determines the quality of a given curriculum. In addition, a pertinent curriculum ought to pos¬sess multidimensional richness and depth. Such a curriculum incorpo¬rates elements of unifying force that would cultivate students with a common set of social, econom¬ic, political and cultural values of their country. In order to assess the contemporary Eritrean curriculum first, it is important to have a suffi¬cient awareness about its historical background. The Italian coloniza¬tion is responsible for the estab¬lishment of modern school mean¬ing modern curriculum for the first time. However, this curriculum was set up only to serve the nar¬row interests of the colonizers in the first place. Therefore, it didn’t reflect on the needs and realities of the Eritrean people. The lessons that were just limited to grade four were only meant to teach reading and writing to few Eritreans so they could work as civil servants in the colonial offices. This cur-riculum that used the Italian lan¬guage as a medium of instruction was stuffed with lessons of Italian history geography culture, etc. The curriculum was basically directed to contain, should it fail to kill, the sense of Eritrean national dignity and pride. It was directed to sub¬stantiate the claimed “superiority” of Italians and the submission of Eritreans. It focused on giving Eri¬treans a subsistent training without awakening their cultural and na¬tional pride.
The British Military Administra¬tion was relatively better in terms of range of the provision of education and advancing the limit of grades. The BMA opened quiet few middle schools and even a Teachers Train¬ing Institution. It also abolished the Italian language from schools and introduced Tigrigna and Arabic as mediums of instructions. However, the curriculum of the BMA was also primarily intended to weaken the sense of Eritrean national iden¬tity and promote the division of Er¬itrea between Sudan and Ethiopia.
During federation the progress that had been seen during the BMA in education was mostly maintained. The use of the English language as a medium of instruc¬tion, which had started in the end the BMA, from grade seven on¬wards was also preserved. In addi¬tion high schools and a couple of certificate level vocational train¬ing schools were opened. All in all, the curriculum during the fed¬eration for the first time integrated some level of higher education to Eritreans. After the annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia the Eritrean curriculum was merged in to the Ethiopian system. Amharic was imposed as a medium of instruc¬tion in elementary schools and as a subject in junior and high schools. From Eritrea’s perspective, the Ethiopian curriculum was not any different from the Italian and Brit¬ish curriculum regarding its ulti¬mate goal. It was meant to ensure the superiority of the Amharic language and culture over the di¬versity of the Eritrean culture and languages.
After independence the estab¬lishment of a new Eritrean cur¬riculum that is based on the new demands and realities of the coun¬try was eminent. Therefore a new curriculum that reflects upon the national realities of Eritrea that allowed the use of mother tongue as an instructional media in el¬ementary schools was formulated. Given to the dynamic nature the curriculum the Eritrean curriculum has been through several changes and reformations ever since its es-tablishment. The reformation of the curriculum is subjected to the improvement of the quality of edu¬cation. A standard educational sys¬tem should be able to produce indi¬viduals that have the heist degree of acceptability and opportunity of employment in the national and international arena. The content of the curriculum should keep a studi¬ous balance between the theoreti¬cal knowledge and practical skills. Especially from secondary level onwards the curriculum should in¬clude sufficient courses and train¬ings in practical skills of agricultural technology, health science, home eco¬nomics, science and technology, fam¬ily science and com¬merce. A curriculum also needs to have multidimensional richness in promot¬ing national social political and cultural consciousness. It should be able to in¬troduce and familiar¬ize the students with their geographical and historical reali¬ties. The curriculum needs to build a realistic sense of self pride and national dignity in order to avoid the paralyzing pace of brain drain. Therefore, it should somehow bridge the social divides of clan, ethnicity, religion and class, and strengthen the sense of harmonized national identity. In comparison to the extraordinary task undertaken in building educational infrastruc¬ture in order to ensure the diver¬sity and opportunity of education there is still a long way to go in improving the quality of education by designing and implementing a system that produces citizens with multidimensional and competent knowledge and skill.
It is clear that building a harmo¬nized prosperous nation take the balanced development of all sec-tors together. Nevertheless educa¬tion goes beyond from being just one of the sectors. It plays a fun¬damental role in improving all the other sectors without any excep¬tion. Therefore being a prerequisite for the development of the other sectors it should be given the high¬est priority. Consequently, govern¬ments give a great deal of attention to the distribution and quality of their education. Therefore, they try to improve the structure of their educational institutions from the early and elementary schools to the highest research and invention in¬stitutions. In order to catch up with the ever changing and booming world and build strong and pros¬perous nation developing countries need to establish the highest qual¬ity of educational system as soon as possible. As part of the develop¬ing world Eritrea has similar issue regarding the improvement of the quality of education. In compari¬son to the encouraging growth and proportional distribution, the qual¬ity of education in Eritrea has still a long way to go to be satisfactory. Therefore the improvement of the quality of education in this country of ours deservedly ought to have the top precedence.
By: Solomon Mengisteab