Victoria Falls Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology
The idea: Establish theVictoria Falls Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology- an innovative school designed to improve and increase learning achievement among students by transforming what we teach and how we teach.
The school will offer a tailored curriculum that explicitly integrates the academic with the practical—emphasizing project and inquiry based learning, problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication, collaboration, creativity, entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, community service, confidence and character building—uniquely designed for Zimbabwe’s student and drawing on the natural resources of the country.
The proposed school is intended to: (i) supplement the government’s inadequate capacity to deliver quality education services for all children, (ii) help narrow the achievement gap between children from poor households and rich households, and (iii) improve transition rates from primary to secondary education and onto to university or technical colleges. It is hoped that the school will provide a model of excellence in alternative approaches and innovation in teaching and learning. To that end, the school will move away from route memorization and learning just to pass examinations and towards active, life long learning and ensure that learning activities in school are engaging, meaningful, multi-faceted, and linked to everyday life in the local community.
Audience Target and Why It is Important
Target Audience: The school will enroll 800 talented middle and high school learners, Grades 8 to 13, between the ages of 13 and 18 years. About 75% of the students will be from across Zimbabwe with the remaining 25% from broader Africa and beyond.
Why is the School important? Education is foundational for the development of individuals and success of all societies. And yet, the town of Victoria Falls has poor access to education. Establishing a world-class school with a focus on innovation in teaching and learning provides an opportunity to help improve the overall quality of education as well as transform the lives of children, especially those from poor families.
For decades, Zimbabwe’s education system has been touted as one of Africa’s best in large part because, by 1990, it had achieved near-universal access to basic education and high national literacy rates. However, the country’s education sector is facing a learning crisis and serious access challenges. Schools are mostly under- funded and woefully overcrowded. Today, demand for education substantially exceeds supply. Education data indicates that a total of 2,056 new schools, and an additional 33,636 new classrooms are needed in existing schools just to reduce overcrowding. And this existing infrastructure gap is projected to widen as the school-going age population grows against declining public expenditure for education- a trend that has been prevalent over the last decade.
The proportion of children completing primary education has declined. And, of those who completed 7th Grade in 2017, only 78.7% transitioned to lower secondary, indicating that one in every five students did not proceed to 8th Grade. Historically, learning outcomes, as indicated by pass rates, have mostly been poor. Only about 44.7% of the students passed the Grade 7 national public examinations at the end of primary school cycle. Similarly, only 28.7% acquired the expected pass rates at Ordinary Level (11th Grade) in 2017. And, indications are that there are wide and growing disparities between children from poor households and those from rich socio-economic status.
The poor pass rates indicate that many students are not effectively participating in learning. Key among the challenges facing education sector is the inadequacy of the national curriculum in schools and poor individual capacities of teachers for effective pedagogy and assessment. Until 2017, the curriculum narrowly catered for the needs of a small proportion of academically talented learners and largely excluded learners with other diverse interests and aptitudes. To add to the challenge, schools do not provide students with experiences that help them to develop questioning and critical thinking skills as well as the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively in order to solve more complex problems. Consequently, far too many students are neither prepared for the modern economy nor equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. These challenges, if allowed to continue, could threaten social stability and the future socio-economic development in Zimbabwe. And it is in the context of the above that the idea to establish the Victoria Falls Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology- an innovative school- was conceived, to transform improve access to quality education.
The school will promote local job creation, economic development and enhance social vitality in Victoria Falls and surrounding communities. Ultimately, the school will provide opportunities for children to unleash their potential and become powerful catalysts for positive change, innovation and sustainable development.
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