TEACHERS in primary schools are not to blame for low reading levels, says Primary Education Teachers Union of Zambia acting deputy general secretary Evans Chungu.

And Chungu says the transition from the Zambia Basic Education Course (ZBEC) to Zambia Primary Course (ZPC) following the abolition of basic education by the government should not make schools abandon some good teaching strategies.

In an interview yesterday, Chungu said it was wrong and unfair to heap the blame on teachers for the low reading levels in most public schools, especially in rural areas.

He explained that teachers were not curriculum developers but recipients of the curriculum from the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) that they were forced to implement.

Chungu said most of the reading programmes under the ZBEC were implemented hurriedly without proper consultations.

He observed that despite some programmes being good, they were implemented as replicas of certain developed countries.

Chungu named the programmes as the New Breakthrough to Literacy (NBTL) for grade one, Step Into English (SITE) for grade two and Read on Course (ROC) for grades five to seven which were introduced as primary reading programmes under the MMD government.

"If you look at those programmes, most of them work so well in countries with very few pupils on roll and with enough classroom space; for example, NBTL can only work well in a classroom with just 10 pupils in class," he said. "Teachers were at the time the programmes were introduced not properly trained hence making them so confused."

Chungu accused the CDC of not consulting teachers who were key stakeholders when coming up with new curricular.

And Chungu has called on schools to embrace good teaching strategies under ZBEC during the transition from the system to the ZPC.

He observed that the ZPC had its strengths and weaknesses which should be taken into consideration as the schools drift away from the ZBEC programme.

Chungu said the ZPC was using the communicative approach as lessons were taught while the ZBEC used the situational approach which emphasised the participation of learners.

"Under ZPC, pupils learnt mechanically through repetitive approaches and mnemonics; pupils were treated as not knowing anything and the teacher was
depicted as knowing everything but ZBEC acknowledges the fact that a learner is a participant in learning just like the teacher," said Chungu.