Quality education is a basic need for the development of any country, this is an undeniable fact. Tanzania, as a country vying for an industrial middle-income economy, is of no exception. In this ever-changing world, pupils need to acquire the essential competences that can turn the country’s vision 2025 into a reality.
In order for that to happen, stakeholders in the education sector have been continuously and tirelessly highlighting, and teaching materials that meet the social, national and international needs, which are of paramount importance.
Motivated to help
This is the motivation behind the Oxford University Press (OUP), Tanzania’s publication of a new series of books that will be helpful to both teachers and pupils of primary schools in the country as part of the university’s efforts of furthering excellence of education in the country. The publications were made in partnership with local authors and researchers.
The launch of the brand new series was written for the new syllabus, the updated English language Syllabus for English Medium Primary Schools, and aimed at meeting the needs of English medium schools.
Top in, a name of the new series of books, is designed to improve the reading and writing capability of learners, from standard one to four and is written by a team of experienced teachers and language specialists. Subjects in the series currently include Reading, Writing, Mathematics, English and Kiswahili.
“We are committed to enriching and developing young minds and future leaders who are the driving force behind our operations,” speaks Fatma Shangazi, a country manager for Tanzania with the world’s largest university press with the widest global presence, OUP.
The Oxford University Press, familiar to millions through a diverse publishing program that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, published the competence-based series as a part of Oxford Regional Business in Africa-ORBIA.
“ORBIA is essentially a home of local curriculum publishing that we are doing in various countries in the continent,” says Marion De Vries, OUP’s Marketing Coordinator. This, Vries expounds, is a part and parcel of the publisher’s continuous commitment to “the growth of Africa and its people through the provision of excellent educational materials and support.”
A golden anniversary
The Top in series launch took place on Tuesday last week at the National Museum of Tanzania in a coincidence with the department of the Oxford University’s 50th anniversary since it set up office in the country’s commercial capital more than five decades ago.
Shangazi describes the celebration as “golden anniversary” and that she feels “privileged to have touched the lives of millions of Tanzanian learners” through the publisher’s local publications.
OUP Tanzania has been operating in the country since 1967 and has published locally created high quality education materials when it started publishing local curriculum more than 25 years ago, according to Shangazi. It started as a distribution office for other OUP’s products, like dictionary.
There’s a total of 250, 000 Tanzanian titles approved for the use in primary and secondary schools so far according to the available statistics at the publisher, both in paperback and digital formats.
“We are committed to supporting the government’s efforts of improving education through provision of well researched teaching and learning materials and teacher developments programs,” she adds. Since the technological changes are in stake, Shangazi offers, the publisher will be doing a lot of digital-based materials.
By Tanzanians, for Tanzanians
Lindsay Norman, a lead publisher at OUP South Africa, describes the new series as “developed by Tanzanians for Tanzanians” and that it will help a child to be top in English, mathematics and Kiswahili, thus the name Top in.
“We were very determined to make the series appropriate to the country’s diversity in terms of culture and values,” she shares.
Norman, familiar with the country and its education system, says that when they were developing the books, they took into consideration that children learn best when actively engaged and made creative along the way.
“One of the things I noticed in many schools which I visited here was the level of energy in the class rooms,” says Norman, showing an excitement of the country’s education system while singing a song she remembers hearing in one of the schools she visited. “I absolutely loved it, you walk into a classroom and there isn’t silence but a lot of noise and laughter, pupils chanting and singing, something of which I don’t see in South African schools and I wish they would do. So we have tried to reflect that in the books.”
Responding to the century’s needs
Speaking of the updated English language Syllabus for English Medium Primary Schools in the country, Wendy Walton, a lead author with the OUP South Africa, says that it was designed to coincide with the 21st century research studies which have shown that every child has a potential for learning once there’s a participatory environment along the way.
“In this kind of learning, the learners become the centres of the learning process and that the teacher assumes the role as a facilitator instead of being a source of knowledge,” she shares.
Ms Walton, who has never been in the country and impressed with the traffic jams saying that they let her ‘absorb the country’s familiarity,’ points out that the content and methodologies used in the books reflect the objectives and competence of the new designed curriculum.
“So skills like problem solving, communication, interactive learning, and learning in contexts are all embedded in the content and methodology in the books,” she says confidently highlighting in the PowerPoint slides of how the skills have been featured in the books.
Freddy Schizia, a retired teacher and a co-author of Top in Mathematics standard one and two says that they spent a total of eight months preparing and writing the books in partnerships with the OUP Tanzania.
What they strongly considered during the preparation of the publication, Schizia says in an interview with Success, is that the book’s applicability with Tanzania’s environment and make sure that they meet all demands stipulated in the new curriculum.
“They are books that a child can enjoy using and learn in practice,” he describes the series.
Purity Mbiti, a primary school teacher with the Hope and Joy Secondary School in Dar es Salaam shares her appreciation of the new syllabus saying it is helpful in the learning and teaching process as it describes in steps how a child can be helped with the ability to read, write and do arithmetic.
“Once I started using this book my experience improved and have really simplified the teaching and learning exercise,” explains Ms Mbiti who co-authored the Top in English with excitement. “There were pupils who found it so hard to make it in the three skills but they are now improving thanks to the new books.”
Zero tolerance to frauds, bribery
Shangazi says that all materials produced are designed to fulfill the local curriculum and are written by local authors who are knowledgeable in the country’s context and environment.
She points out that OUP Tanzania is committed to support education in the country through publishing high-quality, well-researched learning and teaching materials.
How about fraudulence? “We have zero tolerance to bribery and frauds and committed in conducting our business in line with the highest degrees of integrity and in accordance with the local and international legislation,” she says.
The books, Shangazi cautions, were not just produced to meet business demands but also as service to the nation and this was made possible through well-researches undertaken and partnering with local teachers in preparing them.
Mr Habibu Fentu is a Seating Director General at the Tanzania Institute of Education who says that the updated English language Syllabus for English Medium Primary Schools started to be used in 2015. He states that they have now stopped issuing books as they are doing some of the improvements of the existing one.
“We, however, give accreditation to other publishers, like the Oxford, so that they can publish books relevant to the syllabus,’ Mr Fentu told Success in a telephone interview recently.