Tuesday, June 20, 2006

bad geography

Mwajuma, a young girl who we sponsor to attend secondary school, was over the other day to get help from me on geography. The topic was longitude and latitude lines and how to differentiate time zones using the former. I looked at the examples and saw these odd math problems using something akin to what I remember as algebra. I looked closer and saw the answer........If it is twelve o clock noon in X place at y longitude, what time will it be in Z place....the "answer" from her teacher was 2:40 pm!!!

It so happened that 5 of the (former) street boys who we also sponsor in school were there. I asked for their help and each of them were familiar with the (incorrect) formula. There is a standardized curriculum for the entire country. All government schools use the same books. The teacher writes everything on the board and the kids copy word for word. They do not get a book. Many of the schools don't even have a library.

I asked the kids "what are you going to do about this? Will you tell your teachers that they are wrong?" One boy said that if they do that, they risk getting into a lot of trouble- they aren't allowed to tell a teacher they are wrong. They saw the now familiar look on my face when I am about to launch into protest mode. Mwajuma said "I am going to tell my teacher!" Emmanuel followed and said "I will also tell". The others were quiet.

The boys are on holiday still, but Mwajuma told her teacher and he said he had just been "testing" the students to see who was clever enough to spot his error. Right. I don't want to use this blog to complain about Tanzania, but this disturbed me a lot. In defense of the education system, the problems seems to correct itself because all of the older students I have asked know the correct formula, but what is most disturbing is that in general, independent thinking and creativity are just not rewarded- just obedience and memorization.

I welcome dissenting opinions and stories that would cheer me up.

5 comments:

plaiche said...

"but what is most disturbing is that in general, independent thinking and creativity are just not rewarded- just obedience and memorization."

Hey sis, I would argue that your last statement is an acute problem here in the resource rich US as well. From not coloring outside the lines to standardized tests and massive class sizes, education here starts off as a day care tool and at secondary and higher levels becomes a factory for automatons (exceptions abound but despite, not aided by, a stifling system). This despite $10,000 a head spent on schooling here.

Here's a light hearted thought: when it comes to geography, we here in the US (yours truly included) are a solid example that wealth does not help much in teaching geography ;-)

plaiche said...

Yo Mama J,

Two comment sont he blog overall: need a link to the Baobob home page, and a picture or two would be great.

MP

Mama C said...

I have a hard time with geography if it's not personal. I have a handle on Tanzania now because you are there. I have learned some other geography by listening to Buffett songs. I just can't wrap my brain around locations unless there is a connection.

Here's a funny tidbit for you: My mom says she feels like everything is "to her left." (When she's facing which direction?)

Love from AZ,
Mama C

Karen said...

You said it yourself, T: "In defense of the education system, the problems seems to correct itself because all of the older students I have asked know the correct formula."

I wouldn't be so quick to defend the educational system -- they're the source of the problem and aren't self-correcting. Instead, praise the kids for eventually, somehow (and lord knows how) uncovering the truth.

Most kids are capable of overcoming deficiencies in education, even in the US. And if they don't? Well, someone's gotta make the donuts. Education is a constant struggle between what should be and what is. It's easy to criticize, but any teacher can tell you it's a waste of time and energy to cry about the "shoulds" -- you have to deal with reality. Students need to learn this too, and somehow those kids did.

farg8 said...

Like cars replaced autos, calculators and the web replaced 4RS. So now, if we wanna know what time it is in Mongomery, IL we do here http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/
BTW what is the Lat and Long for the home for us google Earth folks. UCF