Tanzania is among African countries, which right after independence started to take measures on education developments through policies formulation, reviews, adjustments, and improvements. These measures include curriculum design and development for schools to meet national goals on education. English as one of the subjects taught in all education levels from primary school to tertiary level, its curriculum and teaching has being gone those changes since then. In viewing and analyzing the English syllabus used in Tanzanian schools particularly in ordinary level now, we should see the changes of last syllabus, which led to the current syllabus we have today. The last syllabus was introduced in 1996 and used up to 2005 where the current syllabus was introduced in use from January. The syllabus was improved to meet the needs, challenges and shortcomings of the former one. Students were given more activities; the syllabus focuses on student competencies rather than the former one, which focus more on contents. The syllabus was challenged that it did not bring competences that is why the standard of English has declined dramatically over the years, and the main cause of this decline is the insufficient teaching of English in schools following the English language syllabus. This was seen by Allen K. (2008) in ‘What happened to our good English? And wrote:

‘Syllabus and textbooks have caused this… Secondary school students only fare marginally better, and yet secondary and tertiary education is all in English. They may be able to engage in simple dialogue but normally only after they have asked for the question/sentence to be repeated at least once. Again, fluent, complicated structures are mostly not understood at all. Written English is a greater problem. How many secondary school students write the almost nonsensical ‘How are you? On my side, I’m fine and going on well with my daily activities’. Recently talking to university graduates who were embarking on post-graduate studies their lack of confidence in the language was striking. To make conversation I needed to adopt very simple structures at a very slow, unnatural speed’.

This was also earlier seen by Cripe C & Dodd W. (1984) that suggested the authorities to work on a completely new syllabus for English language teaching in schools. Such a syllabus could take into account that many more pupils progress to secondary school from primary school without facing English language good foundation.

In that view, this paper analyze the contemporary syllabus, by using some of the criteria including appropriateness, feasibility, utility, adequacy, content, method, scope and consistency between grades. Others are internal consistency, clarity, and up-to-datedness. These criteria will be on its structure, objectives, strengths and weaknesses that avail. It is important to do so in order to improve the standard of English in Tanzania as proficiency in the language. This is because teachers as main guides for instruction in their classrooms use national English syllabuses and in examinations. The syllabus was designed and prepared by Tanzania Institute of Education under the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.


Before the analysis, the definition of syllabus is given as the summary of the course; usually contain specific information about the course. (www.counselingcenter.uiuc.ed). Collins Essential English Dictionary defined syllabus as an outline or summary of the main points of a text or a course study. Syllabus analysis is the evaluation of the quantity of the syllabus (www.counselingcenter.uiuc.ed). So the purpose is to evaluate the quality of it developed by the institution.

The major areas analyzed in this ordinary level English syllabus are top cover, back cover, inside the top cover, part one and part two of it. The top cover present the title starting with United Republic of Tanzania on top then Ministry of Education and Culture now changed to Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, followed by English Language Syllabus for Secondary Schools, Form I – IV, 2005. Inside the cover on page (ii) copyright of the ministry is uttered followed by designed and prepared authority and address i.e. Tanzania Institute of Education. The next page (iii) is the table of contents.

The syllabus generally is divided into two main parts where the first is introduction, objectives of education in Tanzania, objectives of secondary education, general competence for Form I – IV, general objectives and organization of the syllabus. The second part consists of competences and objectives of the class followed by a table matrix layout, which shows topics, sub-topics, specific objectives, patterns/structures, contexts/situations, vocabulary/phrases, teaching/learning strategies, teaching/learning materials, assessments and number of periods with instructional time.

Introduction of the syllabus is well presented shortly expressing that the syllabus replaces the 1996 English Language edition, which has been phased out. It has been introduced for implementation from January 2005. The introduction could have been more attractive if it explained more the major reasons, which led to the phase out or change of the former one. Several inquiry skills and some inquiry levels are very briefly outlined in the introduction; it could be outlined to polish the part.

The objectives of education in Tanzania are clearly stated, meaningful and relevant to Tanzanian context as well as worldwide. They touch all disciplines of skills needed to the human being in the world. This is written the same in all syllabuses for subjects in that level nationally. The objectives are challengeable with the availability of resources in education both physical and human infrastructure in totality to cater the needs. In the report presented in the Conference of Commonwealth Ministers in Halifax, Canada 2000; by the minister of Education and Culture at the time says that; despite the government and the private sector efforts to provide secondary education in the country, the sub-sector had shortage of the science teachers especially in the rural areas, shortage of laboratories, shortage of equipments and other basic educational materials… It means that the objectives are clearly stated but not easy to achieve successfully.

The following section analyses the feasibility of the objectives of secondary education in Tanzania. The part started by defining the secondary education as a post primary formal education offers to learners who successfully completed seven years of primary education and have met the requisite entry qualification requirements. The objectives are stated to make the syllabus implement-able and feasible. However, it carries elements of behaviorists’ approaches that emphasize the use of reinforcement and repetition. The challenge is how to fulfill the packages needed to meet those objectives. Obanya P. (2006) had seen it and pointed out that Africa is still trailing behind other regions of the world in its effort towards attaining the EFA (Education for All) goals. So to Tanzania among African countries. Further he said the successes and sustainability of the new vision of secondary school in African governments show an appropriate level of political will…stepping up the process of reform, mobilizing the required resources, ensuring a participatory process etc.

General competences for Form I – IV in part two are relevant and if they are to be, achieved changes are to be seen. Competences were added to this syllabus to meet the objectives of teaching English in secondary schools by focusing on the learner-centered education (LCE) rather than teacher centered education (TCE) which proved insufficient masterly of language formerly. Allen K; (ibid) supported the transformation and said that things could have improved in the early 2000s with the opening up of the school textbook market to private publishers and the permitted multi-textbooks. However, the standards in teaching English had already declined by then, and many teachers were not equipped to be able to choose the best books for their purposes. Teachers have mostly taken the multi-textbook system to mean that they choose one book from a selection of many, and so they still effectively only use one textbook. In really sense, general competences collaborate with national objectives.

The syllabus has utility and efficacy that is why general objectives are outlined to enable the student acquires knowledge and skills to practice and use the language in specific settings and remarkable performances. They include speaking and writing skills, reading skills, communication and demonstration skills. These are form of skills which Burt C. et al (1933) categorized them as skills, concepts, relationships and strategies. They said that these four categories should not be thought of a hierarchically linked in the learning process, they are to large extent interactive. If a student acquire the outlined objectives thoroughly she/he would be competent to use English language in the world of information and communication technologies. It is clearly seen that these objectives were derived from the national objectives because they comply with them.

Class level competences are the statements, which specify the abilities that are expected to be attained by students before the class objectives found at the beginning of the content of each class level. Objectives are statements of behavior that are stated immediately after class competences to be exhibited by each student at the end of given class. These are achievable in a class of a recommended number of students not exceeding thirty five in class at a time and with the competence of a teacher. However, in Tanzanian crowded classes environment of more than sixty students is very difficult to achieve such objectives. Sumra S. (2000) pointed out that the education policy needs to clarify in focusing on ‘inputs’ or ‘outputs’ and the meaning of – what is expected of all teachers and how this will be monitored and measured. Pre and in-service needs to be focused on teacher competence. The effectiveness of human and physical infrastructures should be assured and realized in our schools so that the objectives are achieved.

Class level competencies and objectives in each Form are not the same. They are articulated according to the topics arrangements in specific Form and the behavioral changes intended. Class level competence is appropriate in scope versus students’ ability level. The new approach shifts the orientation of the content largely, but not exclusively, away from the rote memorization of factual knowledge to a competence based learning, which focuses much more on the understanding of concepts, and the acquisition of skills and competences.

The organization of topics and sub-topics, which are in the first and second column of the syllabus layout, shows that are completely designed to students ability. They diminish in number sequentially and consistent as they go to upper Form. While in Form I, there were sixteen topics and twenty-four subtopics, in Form II there were eleven topics and fifteen subtopics. In Form III and IV, there were six and five topics, fifteen and fourteen subtopics respectively. Some topics recur more than once but in advanced form. For instance, ‘Expressing Opinion and Feelings’ appeared in Form I, II, and III. ‘Talking about Events’ and ‘Interpreting Literary work’ appeared in Form I and II, while ‘ Listening for Information from different Sources’, ‘Reading Literary Work’ and ‘Writing Appropriate Language Content and Style’ appeared in Form III and IV respectively. However, the topics are consistent and have sequential arrangements. The entire syllabus has credential internal consistency between components and their content scope.

In organizing the topics and other sub-heading, the structure of the syllabus is in matrix form layout. Form I classes for example have sixteen topics and twenty-four subtopics. Both are relevant to their level and the continuity of topics is maintained accordingly from simple to difficult and there is a link between them. The same applies up to Form IV. The objectives in each topic and subtopics are clearly articulated from Form I – IV, to meet the behavioral change intended. The analysis of topics and sub-topics show that there is continuity within and link between topics because sub-topics are presented under the main topics. This enables a teacher to understand and relate the topics with concepts and ideas. Change of behavior is taken into consideration during planning the lesson to teach to make sure the autonomy is attained. Autonomy refers to student’s ability to organize his/her own learning activities.

Patterns or structures and variety of activities are relevant and adequately in providing, enough learning in every Form presented in the syllabus. It suggests use of variety activities including demonstration, dramatization, dialogue oral and written drills, songs, role-plays and games. These activities bring a vital role to students to master language skills, however, the nature of most Tanzanian crowded classes and shortage of teachers, this is a challenge to achieve successfully.

Context/Situations are provided in abundance and this will depend on how the responsible teacher opts to them depending on the natural setting of learning environment. Natural setting help the students the knowledge of skills they attain in their environment even after school. Vocabularies and phrases option provided are enough and relevant to the level of students.

The syllabus is adequate because in teaching and learning strategies throughout the syllabus, students are intended to develop fully speaking, writing, listening and arguing skills. They are adequately assisting the learners to attain the objectives. It is recommended that the list is not exhausted that the teacher will use more strategies depending on the needs where necessary. These include ear training, pronunciation and writing by using directives given in patterns/structures in third column of the syllabus.

There is no doubt about teaching and learning materials because they are well presented and suggested. The only slight doubt is that in rural areas, it might be difficult to access on television, video and audio cassettes because of shortage of power supply but with initiatives, it can be solved out. The levels of inquiry require students to be able to do something in the assessment and this is very well articulated in the part. There are one hundred and eighty four periods in a year, which shows at least there are seven periods in Form I and II; six periods in a week for Form III and IV. Each period is forty minutes.

The syllabus does not give suggestions, advice, or alternative program or prospectus to be used together or in place of itself. Again, it does not provide a list of selected text and reference books. It would be better if at least five textbooks and five reference books could be suggested in each topic. The national English syllabus serves as one of the main resources for English teaching and learning in secondary schools. Each teacher is given a copy of the national syllabus as a guide for the scope and depth of the content to be taught.

Inquiry is explicitly emphasized in the assessments section in the secondary school syllabus. This syllabus aims at stimulating pupils’ curiosity and sense of enquiry which will in turn not only provide suitable basis for further study of the subject but also provide students with sufficient knowledge and understanding to make them become useful and confident citizens. The essence of such an enquiry is related to problem solving and reflecting on modern enterprise. During the course, students should acquire language abilities associated with language competences. Students should develop second language attitudes such as open mindedness and willingness to recognize alternative language skills of view. Moulali S. (2006) said that the main objective of education quality improvement is to have a market responsive curriculum, with an efficient and effective delivery system that enables the recipient to become confident in modern enterprise.

In the assessment also, the teacher is required to make sure that students are assessed in all objectives into considerations of learning outcomes. It is explained that assessment provides room for fairness as well as enhancing students’ development of high level of thinking. The teacher must assess students in all language skills using paper pencil assessment, interviews, observation, portfolios, projects and questionnaires. These are the most techniques for active and participative learning. Active learning or learner-centered education (LCE) is considered an effective antidote to the prevalence of teacher-centered instructional classroom practices, which is widely claimed to support passive learning, and the stifling of critical and creative thinking (Rowell and Prophet 1990). The promotion of LCE is directly associated with high development ambitions, such as economic development, or social restructuring. LCE fits well modern pedagogical ideals for focusing on the provision of a platform for developing knowledge, skills and competencies for innovation, social development and economic growth. LCE requires a move from the commonly pure content learning and the memorization of facts to the ability of learning-to-learn, to the inclusion of methodological and social skills and competencies into the learning process, to the understanding of generic higher order concepts.


In totality the syllabus is well organized and presented successfully to meet the intended outcomes. It has the desirable aspects of quality, continuity, autonomy and discussion. It is also updated because it is relevant to current situation of the nation and the world as a whole. Such current issues include HIV Aids in Form II, ozone layer depletion global warming and environmental conservasation in Form III.

The objectives and competences are clearly constructed and stated to meet intended outcomes including national and individual goals in English language skills. Language is vital for everyone to communicate and this is where the access to cognitive skills, knowledge, technologies, attitudes and values can be obtained. The objective of this syllabus is to have a responsive curriculum that addresses the skill needs of the population and an efficient and effective delivery system of the curriculum. This would mean an adequate and qualified number of teachers, as well as sufficient and appropriate teaching and learning materials O-saki, K., & A. Ndabili. (2003). They should be available in all schools to raise student achievement, and appropriate mechanisms for testing learning competencies. This is a challenge in Tanzanian context but (World Bank Report 2007) said that to achieve education goal emphasis must be directed in expanding facilities through the provision of development grants to schools. Policy measures such as raising the average number of students per teacher, increasing the average number of teaching periods per week, increasing class size, especially at upper secondary, expanding open and distance learning programs, reducing tuition fees by half, and providing scholarships to students from poor household.

As previously mentioned the syllabus does not list a number of text and reference books to use at least five each Form. This is left to school administration and subject teacher to choose various books to use. This is a very good decision but the challenge is; can all schools manage to buy these books according to the needs? The answer is no even private schools in spite of their school fees collection cannot affect their textbooks needs. African Development Bank, (2000) remark that the bulk supply of textbooks to schools was found to be inefficient as the supply of the books is not always based on accurate information about the schools. This approach of providing textbooks also does not encourage the flourishing of local publishers and local book suppliers. Under SEDP (secondary education development program), the schools are receiving capitation grants which they use for the purchase of learning and teaching materials, including textbooks. This enables the schools to procure the books they need and in the quantities they can afford, but not the recommended needs.

The assessment section of the syllabus state that at the end of Form IV students are expected to do an overall achievement assessment intended to determine the extent to which the objectives of English course have been attained. This can be attained if in all stages of teaching and learning process, (LCE) was adhered with sufficient supply of learning materials. Several studies indicate that implementation of LCE in the classroom is problematic (Jansen 1999; Chisholm 2000; Leyendecker 2002; Ottevanger 2001). Where Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries have attempted to implement learner-centered education, the actual instructional processes were largely far removed from the ideal. One of the problems is that the teacher is regarded by the societies and culturally determined understandings of authority and teaching, including students’ perceptions, as the provider of knowledge and the bearer of authority. These perceptions and the resulting classroom behavior will not change overnight. Although Prophet’s report dates back to 1995, his observation that teachers rather adapt their teaching to suit their and their students “world view” and perceptions on teaching, is continuously repeated and supported by other studies.

Another challenge is that, contrary to the pedagogical ideal, the vast majority of students are not very active and visible, probably because they have never given the chance. Although there is little research about students’ experiences of curriculum reforms, numerous comments and observations, point to the fact that students struggle with their new roles, which they are assigned by the intended curriculum changes. Students frequently share with teachers a common perception about what it means to teach, and are resistant to changes not fitting this perception. What is more, students’ attitudes concerning learning and discipline have embraced aspects of international youth cultures. Students welcoming the opening of classrooms and the change from strict classroom organization and discipline, have problems in meaningfully filling the added space and freedom. Students are powerful influencers of change, and can be obstructive if the required attitudes and instructional practices do not fit their expectations. This is happening in various secondary schools in our country. Both student and teachers cannot jump from the current classroom situation and culture to a desirable ideal behavior. It needs transitional time for changes to be instilled in the mind of teachers and students. However, both can gradually grow and adapt to the new roles that are beneficial to teaching and learning. For such a process of growth to take place, support structures should to be available, but these are often absent or very limited in scope and time lines.


As to conclude, the main practical challenges for the improvement of syllabus and instructional quality that are frequently neglected for the development is that, teachers need to have sound knowledge of the content matter to be flexible to adjust to different ways of student thinking, and to be able to relate to the emerging questions and problems without being challenged in his position. Due to their own learning experiences and education, the content knowledge of many teachers in Tanzanian classrooms is limited, so in-service programs to sharpen teachers knowledge is essential. Teachers need to have a sound knowledge of instructional methodologies, their aims and potentialities. Teachers need assistance and space for learning about instructional methodologies. Teachers’ roles change from providers of knowledge to facilitators, and the changes in roles need to be both comprehended and accepted by teachers, students, and the society alike.

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