Examination results often come with many surprises. The 2010 Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (ACSEE) results were no exception. When the National Examination Council of Tanzania (Necta) recently announced that 78.53 per cent of the candidates, who sat the exam last October had passed, many received it as a sign of good progress. But there is more to the statistics than meets the eye.
One of the interesting revelations in the 2010 ACSEE is the discrepancy between the two sets of figures - the number of candidates, who registered to sit the 2010 exam and the number of students, who passed Form Four in 2008 well enough to have been the candidates for the same exam. According to Necta, only 57,146 students sat the Form Six exam out of 168,420 students, who passed the Form Four national exam in 2008. This means that at least 111,274 students did not make it to the A-level examination room, even though some could have registered but failed to write, or proceeded to Form Six but did not register to write.
A disturbing transition rate
Still, observers argue that such a huge difference is a shocking. The two possible reasons are not convincing enough, and now there are concerns that the statistics reveal a disturbing transition rate from O to A level. The question to ask is: Where did the rest of the students who passed Form Four go?
"It is difficult for the ministry to gather all the statistics at once because there are several departments involved in the matter, but obviously some students join private institutions to pursue various certificate and diploma courses," says James Muchunguzi, an official in the ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
"The ministry selects only a certain number of students who would have passed Form Four to join public A-level schools." Necta announced that out of the 57,146 students who sat the exam last year, 34,949 passed.
In 2008, 75.82 per cent of the candidates in the Form Four exam passed with Division I to III, which guaranteed them a place for A-level.
However, when it came to Form Six exams, a paltry 33.93 per cent made it to the A-level exam room two years later.
Not only that. In the 2010 national Form Four exam, 40,388 students (27,805 boys and 12, 583 girls) scored between Division I and III, which also guaranteed them a place for A-level. Surprisingly, only 35,469 students had the chance to join Form Five in both private and public schools in the country.
And only an estimated 916 students had a chance to join one of the various Vocational Education Training Authority (Veta) centres in the country.
So, the question is: Where could the remaining 4,003 students have gone?
Mr Neto Masonda, an A-level teacher at Loyola Secondary School explains that some students proceed straight to Veta centres after completing Form Four.
But the centres do not accommodate all of them. He cites various other possible explanations.
"I think we also have to take into account of the many students who pass their O-levels very well but decide to pursue technical courses with Veta instead of proceeding to Form Five," says Mr Masonda.
According to official records, the number of students who repeat both O and A-level can be as high as over 20,000 each year.
Dropouts and truancy rates at A-level are 36.1 and 20.3 per cent, respectively, according to ministry's Basic Education Statistics in Tanzania (Best).
The government recognises low transition rates as one of the major setbacks in the education sector.
One of the specific targets of the Secondary Education Development Plan (SEDP) of 2004-2009 was to increase the transition rate from primary to secondary and O to A-level.The rates were 21 per cent (from primary to secondary) and 15 per cent (O to A-level), according to the final document of SEDP.
The ministry's target was to increase the transition rate to 40 per cent for primary to secondary and 32 per cent for O to A-level by 2009. Whether or not that has been achieved posterity will judge.
However, Best ironically reveals that the number of students selected to join Form Five in 2010 decreased by 11 per cent (4,718 students) from 2009 when the ministry selected 43,052 students for A-level. It also reveals that transition rate from Form Four to Form Five has been decreasing in the last three years.