Education Minister Hatem Ben Salem said that the education sector is the most affected as it is raising true existential questions. This sector has brought hope for all the Tunisian people by providing the true social ladder allowing them to have an important place in society thanks to the public system. However, this system today is stalling because there is an accumulation of problems that must urgently be solved.
This accumulation is due to overcrowding and Tunisia is not prepared since the sixties for this phenomenon which resulted into massification and negative consequences on educational quality, said Education Minister Hatem Ben Salem at a breakfast discussion last weekend, organised by the Tunisian-British Friendship Association.
This massification needs qualification of the teachers which could be implemented only by a strategic programme of further training because of the multiplicity of degrees which affects the graduates and make them totally disconnected with the employment market. This is one of the facts which led to the fall of the system, which is experiencing today an existential questioning, The Minister underlined.
Hatem Ben Salem said that “first we have to be aware of this dramatic situation. This awareness is even before 2011, during which decisions were to be taken. As Education Minister between 2008 and 2011, we have initiated with a group of experts and civil society representatives a reform which would have very probably changed the course of the educational system in Tunisia, but the reform was not implemented.”
Besides, the anarchic recruitment since 2011 of thousands of persons who were granted amnesty with no qualification in teaching will certainly impact our children’s level in the educational system, so there is a need to have the courage to admit this deficiency and take the responsibility, he placed emphasis.
The Minister said: “Despite this deficiency, I am not pessimistic because I know as I have seen in classes that we have the most intelligent pupils of the world, I say it by conviction, we have unlimited potential of pupils who only dream of innovation. This potential is very important to remedy the situation“.
Accordingly, a number of strategies have to be adopted to cope with massification at the national level, Mr. Hatem Ben Salem revealed.
In another connection, the Minister of Education said that the teaching staff in Tunisia is very open to training, and admitting the difficulties and the weaknesses, on which “we have consensus with the Trade Union along with training, we consider that we are able with a permanent continuous training over the years to ensure the qualification required of the teachers who today cannot impose themselves in class.”
“We not only need awareness but also a very strong commitment particularly from the civil society because the state has enormous financial difficulties and cannot deal with the challenges faced by the education system on its own, ” Ben Salem admitted.
Additionally, the Education Minister said that public education has the highest rate of success which means that there is still hope, but “we cannot speak of hope if we are not aware of the state of affairs of the education system to establish a real strategy of consensual and participatory reform which we are trying to do by changing the approach of the reform that can include four axes.”
As a first axe, the Minister mentioned the introduction of single session system at schools, for him this experience must begin as soon as possible, by starting with the pilot public school in the coming year.
The second axe consists of the real upgrading of the school infrastructure which requires huge funding. The Minister of Education said a map of black spots in terms of infrastructure has been made. The result reveals that 549 schools need to be developed. This is a real challenge for the Ministry which resorts to the mobilisation of the international assistance.
The third axe focuses on the integration of technology which is vital for the future of our educational system, The Minister noted, saying that “my objective is to make sure that the teacher is not the only source of knowledge…, in the future the teacher must be a facilitator between the sources of knowledge and the pupils.” The use of technology will accelerate the abundance of knowledge and create a new category of young learners with important levels in the future, he underlined. “There is a digital revolution underway, we need absolutely to integrate it but not by speech, we rather need operational strategy”, he went on saying.
The extracurricular activity is the fourth axe. Today’s pupils are gifted in matters of innovation and creation, Minister of Education Hatem Ben Salem explained, saying that these gifted pupils are not blossoming so there is a need not only to create time for them but environment to help them enjoy extracurricular, so in addition to the reorganisation of the single session system, efforts are exerted to introduce important subjects such as music, theatre, sports and so on…
Besides, a planning in Tunisia is being prepared to create agricultural schools, crafts schools, art schools, and by next year three or four military schools will be established because young people are very interested by the military training the Minister said, placing emphasis that Tunisia has a good experience of these schools but unfortunately this experience stopped.
Today, there is an actual willingness by the government to reform the educational system, the Minister of Education said referring to the address made by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in parliament voicing his appreciation to this speech which is largely devoted to the educational system.
“A governmental seminar on education will be held soon, during which I will present this strategic project and we will take exceptional measures particularly financial to face up this situation, Hatem Ben Salem said, underlining that the year 2018 will be the year of education for the government of national union.
“We are moving towards other horizons and we must be aware that the Tunisian education system must take back its role of social ladder, we need to restart this ladder and I am certain that the Tunisians have the capacity, the potential and the ambition to reach the goal of the civilisational project, a good education for all,“ Minister of Education Hatem Ben Salem concluded.