Understanding The New Competence-Based Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions


Since 2014, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has been embarking on a comprehensive curriculum reform process which is meant to enhance the quality of education in Zimbabwe. A new competence-based curriculum framework was developed and finalised in 2015 whose phased implementation commenced in 2017. Several innovations were introduced in the new curriculum with broad implications for stakeholders at all levels. To assist stakeholders to have an appreciation of the changes brought about by the new competence-based curriculum, a set of questions and answers have been prepared.

 The expansion in the capabilities of information and communication technologies and the emergence of an information-driven economy underpin the need for the development of new skills sets that enable citizens to live and work competitively in the global village. The competence-based curriculum seeks to achieve the following: To motivate learners to cherish their Zimbabwean identity and value their heritage, history and cultural traditions and to prepare them for participatory citizenship; To prepare learners for life and work in an indigenized economy and increasingly globalized and competitive environment; To ensure learners demonstrate desirable literacy and numeracy skills including practical competences necessary for life; To prepare and orient learners for participation in voluntary service and leadership; and To foster lifelong learning in line with the emerging opportunities and challenges of a knowledge society. 

What are the Principles of the Curriculum?

Respect (Unhu/Ubuntu/ Vumunhu)
Gender sensitivity

How is the competence-based Curriculum organised?

The Framework organizes the Curriculum into three learning levels, namely: Infant School which covers Early Childhood Development (ECD) to Grade 2. At this level, the emphasis is on the acquisition of the foundational skills for learning. Junior School covers Grades 3 to 7 and reinforces the foundational skills and starts to provide learners with life and work skills. Secondary School covers Forms 1 to 6 and prepares learners for various pathways including university education, technical and vocational training or entering the professions in various training programmes and forms of apprenticeship and on-the-job training.

What are the Learning Areas (subjects) for each level?

The competence-based Curriculum Framework outlines the following learning areas for the three levels:

Infant School:
Indigenous Language (as a medium of instruction) ;
Visual and Performing Arts (Expressive Arts);
Physical Education;
Mass Displays;
Mathematics and Science;
Family and Heritage Studies (Social Studies); and
Information and Communication Technology.

Junior School:
Languages; Mathematics;
Heritage and LOP - Social Studies;
Science and Technology;
Agriculture; Information and Communication Technology;
Visual and Performing Arts;
Religion and Moral Education; and
Physical Education, Sport and Mass Displays.

Forms 1 to 4:
There are ten optimal study areas. Seven learning areas are required but learners will select additional learning areas based on their interests. Learners wanting to exceed 10 learning areas can do so but schools will exercise judgement. Learning areas offered for Forms 1 to 4 are as follows:
Heritage Studies (embracing Zimbabwe Constitution);
Mathematics: Pure Mathematics, Additional Mathematics and Mechanical Mathematics;
Sciences: Physics, Chemistry, Biology and General Science; Geography; Computer Sciences
Humanities: History, Religious Studies, Sociology and Economic History; Literature in Indigenous Languages and in English; Indigenous Languages and English Language; Foreign Languages such as, French, Swahili, Chinese, Portuguese;
ICT: Computer Science;
Agriculture: Agriculture Engineering, Animal Science, Crop Science, Horticulture;
Commercials: Accounting, Commerce, Commercial Studies, Economics, Business and Enterprise Skills;
Practical subjects: Wood, Metal, Food, Textile Technologies, Home Management and Design

What are the major changes in terms of new Learning Areas (subjects) and assessment?

Changes to the learning areas can be summarised as follows:

Content and concepts in the syllabi have been arranged in a spiral approach, from ‘simple to complex’ as well as from ‘known to unknown’, starting from ECD to Form 6;
Areas of specialisation have been widened at secondary level to include studies such as Film, Economic History, Musical Arts, Dance and Technologies (Wood, Textile and Metal);
An emphasis on technical and vocational learning areas (practical subjects) to give a balance between academic and practical subjects;
The Introduction of Heritage Studies at all levels;
Infusing Mass Displays into the Physical Education and Sport syllabus;
Gradual expansion of the Indigenous Languages offering, in line with the 16 Languages recognized by the country’s constitution;
Introduction of 7 cross-cutting learning areas (subjects) at ‘O’ Level;
Introduction of 5 pathways at ‘A’ Level;
Introduction of Life Skills Orientation Programme.

Changes to assessment methods are as follows:

Continuous Assessment and Learner Profiling will be introduced at all levels;
Continuous Assessment will contribute to the final exam grade of learners in all terminal exams; and
The exam component of Continuous Assessment will be based on tasks completed during the final two years at each level i.e. grades 6 and 7 for primary school and forms 3-4 and 5-6 at secondary school.

What are the Learner Exit Profiles?

The new Curriculum will prepare graduates of the education system to have the following exit profiles:

Skills: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Leadership, Communication and Team Building, and Technological;
Knowledge: Basic Literacy and Numeracy, Business and Financial Literacy, and mastery of specific subject content;
National identity: Patriotism, Recognition and Valuing of National Symbols, and Participatory Citizenship;
Values: Discipline, Integrity, Honesty, and Unhu/Ubuntu/ Vumunhu;
Attitudes and Dispositions: Self-initiative and Enterprising, Self-managing, and ability to plan and organize.

Are textbooks that speak to the new syllabi now available on the market?

Textbooks are being developed for the new learning areas and some are already in the market. The Ministry evaluated the existing textbooks against the requirements of the new syllabi. Most of the existing textbooks have content that is relevant to the updated curriculum, ranging from 60% to 100%, depending on the extent of the changes from the old to the new syllabi. Schools should continue to use these textbooks in the short term. Gaps identified in existing textbooks will be closed through teachers’ guides and supplementary materials. As for the other learning areas where there were substantial content changes, teachers’ guides and supplementary materials were produced and distributed to schools before the end of the first term of 2017.

What does the teaching of Family, Religious and Moral Education entail?

Has Islamic Studies been included in the new curriculum as a subject?

The approach to the teaching of Religious and Moral Education in Zimbabwe has not been changed in the new curriculum. All religions that have been taught as topics in Zimbabwe from 1980 are still being taught. Islamic studies are not a learning area and has not been ‘included’ but has always been a part of the curriculum. As has been the case in the past, a multi-faith approach is used in the teaching of Family, Religious and Moral Education, with Christianity, African Traditional Religion, Islam, and Hinduism being some of the religions that will be covered. The Religious and Moral Education syllabi do not aim to influence or convert children into any religion, but to allow learners to be aware of diverse religions.

How did the Ministry ensure that the content in the syllabi is appropriate to the developmental level of the learner?

Syllabi for all levels were developed by national subject panels made up of specialists drawn from universities, teachers’ colleges, and polytechnics, working together with classroom practitioners (teachers) and supported by Education Officers. The respective subject panels researched on content that was suitable for every level and drew on their pedagogical training. The organisation of concepts in the updated curriculum adopted the spiral approach, from the known to the unknown, and that allows proper mastery and development of competences by all learners.

What are the implementation phases and timelines?

A phased approach has been adopted for the smooth changeover from the existing to the revised curriculum. The inception phase was from September to December 2015. Phase 1 was year 2016, when syllabi were developed. In phase 2 (2017), implementation commenced with three out of nine grades for the primary level (ECD A, Grade 1 and Grade 3) and three forms out of six at the secondary level (Forms 1, 3 and 5). The other levels will phase into the new curriculum gradually and this will allow time for resource mobilisation and capacity building for teachers to deliver instruction effectively.

What preparatory steps were taken for implementation of the first phase of the curriculum?

2016 was dedicated to preparation for the phased implementation of the new curriculum. Some of the major activities undertaken included:
Finalisation, printing, and distribution of the 104 syllabi that are now in schools;
Training of over 70,000 teachers, who started implementing the curriculum in 2017, on syllabus interpretation;
Piloting of syllabi for new learning areas;
Assessment of existing teaching and learning resources to determine their suitability for the revised curriculum;
Briefing of publishers on revised syllabi for all learning areas so that they could develop relevant textbooks;
Drafting of assessment framework, and;
Translation of syllabi for indigenous language learning areas from the English language.

What now constitutes a full ‘O’ Level certificate?

A full ‘O’ Level certificate remains as before, passes in five learning areas (subjects) However, the Ministry expects learners to exit the education system with skills and competences that will enable them to function productively in society. The updated curriculum emphasises the attainment of competences (knowledge, skills and attitudes). For that reason, the secondary school curriculum has been broadened to give learners an equal opportunity to balance academic and practical subjects.

When will the first examinations based on the competency-based curriculum be written and at what levels?

The first ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations based on the updated curriculum were written in 2018. Because of the phased approach, the first Grade 7 examination on the updated curriculum will be in 2021 when the new syllabi would have run the full cycle. The full certificates will be accompanied by a profile report which summarises the key competencies of the learner

title="What is the medium of instruction? Are all subjects including Mathematics going to be taught in indigenous languages at all levels?" The policy on the medium of instruction has not changed. Learners at Infant Level, which covers Early Childhood Development (ECD) to Grade 2, will continue to be taught in the language that is predominantly spoken in their area. The range of languages that will be used at that level has been expanded from three that were previously used (Shona, Ndebele and English) to 15, in line with provisions in the new Constitution. English will be taught at this level as a subject. However, from Junior level (Grades 3 to 7) to Secondary level, English will be used as the medium of instruction as before, with indigenous languages being taught as subjects.

What is the status of technical and vocational Learning Areas (practical subjects) in the updated curriculum as compared to academic subjects?

The updated curriculum seeks to achieve a good balance between academic and technical and vocational (practical) learning areas. For instance, all schools will be expected to teach Agriculture from Grade 3 to Grade 7 at Primary level and Form 1 to Form 4 at Secondary Level. Syllabi for practical learning areas have been revamped to make the learning areas more ‘hands on’. Subjects such as Building Studies have been upgraded to Building Technology, and this applies to all tech-voc learning areas. This was done to ensure that learners and schools become productive and work on real products.

Are all schools equipped to teach the updated curriculum in terms of availability of qualified teachers and equipment?

Achieving full functionality in all schools is work in progress and will require the support of all stakeholders. However, the Government is striving to make adequate resources available, with the most critical resource to the system being the men and women who keep schools running on a day to-day basis. The Ministry is supporting them so that they continue to be creative and to be able to make the most economic use of the resources available at their schools to implement the curriculum. The Ministry continues to work with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to ensure the required teachers, where available, can be hired. There is also an effort to reassign teachers who are already in the system but who teach outside their areas of specialisation, to teach in their areas of specialisation. Collaboration with training institutions will continue to encourage them to fill gaps in the availability of trained teachers. The Ministry continues to procure the necessary equipment for schools. The support of stakeholders in the provision of equipment and supplies is welcome.

What additional support for curriculum implementation can schools expect to receive?"

The Mnistry will be:

Continuing negotiations and advocacy with the Public Service Commission regarding the hiring of more teachers;
Consolidating the in-service training of teachers who are now implementing the curriculum, through school and cluster level training;
In-service training of teachers who will be starting implementation of the updated curriculum in 2018 and subsequent phases in syllabus interpretation;
In-service training of teachers in Continuous Assessment and learner profiling;
Procuring textbooks and other learning materials for the most under-resourced schools. Selected schools will be requested to indicate their needs;
Printing and distributing teachers’ guides and supplementary materials;
Establishing and equipping science laboratories at selected Primary and Secondary schools;
Providing teaching and learning materials for children with disabilities, and;
Working with stakeholders at all levels of the system to strengthen support for schools.

How were teachers prepared to support the implementation of the curriculum?

Preparation of teachers began with the launch of the Teacher Capacity Development Programme in 2014. Since then, there has continuous teacher capacity development various areas of specialization related to the updated curriculum, addressing gaps that were identified in the system and various grades. In addition, teachers who phased into the new curriculum in 2017 received in-service training on syllabus interpretation in 2016 in preparation and will continue until all teachers are in-serviced. The Ministry delivered training at national, provincial, district, cluster and school levels. Cluster and school level trainings will continue as teachers learn from their experiences in implementing the curriculum.

Have teachers been oriented on how to implement Continuous Assessment (CA) and Learner Profiling?

Is the Continuous Assessment Framework and guidelines in place?

The Ministry has developed an Assessment Framework that provides clear guidelines on Continuous Assessment and Learner Profiling. Teachers will be undergoing in-service training, led by ZIMSEC, in preparing assessment modalities for all learning areas in the curriculum.

How did stakeholders participate in the curriculum review process?

Approximately one million people participated in the public consultations organised by the Ministry in November 2014. These consultations were held through community meetings at all primary and secondary schools across the country, as well as at District and Provincial Education offices. Further views on what members of the public expected to see included in the curriculum were solicited through breakfast meetings with different interest groups, written submissions, and radio talk shows among other approaches. The Minister, Deputy Minister and Permanent Secretary, together with senior personnel of the Ministry, were extensively involved in these consultations. A team of six consultants, working with the support of a broad-based technical working group, analysed the information gathered and produced a report from which a Curriculum Framework was developed. Teachers’ Unions endorsed the Framework at a meeting in May 2015 after which the Framework was taken to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education and subsequently to Cabinet for approval. After September 2015, the Ministry organised feedback meetings in all Provincial capitals where stakeholders were engaged once again.