RESULTS of a new study on the country's dismal performance in public examinations over the last ten years blame it on poor teaching rather than the examination papers themselves.
The study, 'School Children and National Examinations: Who Fails Who?' released in Dar es Salaam shows that there is a linkage between curriculum objectives and examination content, in that examination questions tend to reflect the content of the curriculum that was supposed to be followed.
The study sought to find out why over the last five years, particularly the years 2010 and 2011, students' performance in the O Level National Examinations declined, with the majority of candidates scoring between divisions four and zero.
Releasing the findings on behalf of HakiElimu, Dr Kitila Mkumbo of University of Dar es Salaam, who is one of the researchers, said that the poor performance in national examinations cannot evidently be attributed to the mismatch between what is asked in examinations and curriculum content.
"There is, however, clear evidence that the curriculum is poorly implemented as the majority of teachers do not aptly understand the requirements of the curriculum, and the teaching and learning environment is generally poor," he said. Dr Mkumbo noted that previously, reasons given for failure include a shortage of teachers, poor learning conditions, low morale among teachers and the lack of teaching equipment.
He said previous research did not put into consideration the extent to which exams lead to the failure of students.There was no research to indicate what was in the exams in comparison with what was taught. Overall, he said that teachers interviewed during the study opined that exams from NECTA were okay and represented what was expected to be taught in schools.
"Performance in public national examinations is a critical factor in assessing the quality of education system. For example, out of the 354,042 candidates who sat for the 2010 National Form Four Examinations, 177,021 (50 per cent) candidates scored division zero. Therefore, 86.6 per cent of the candidates failed the 2010 National Examinations and they could not proceed further," he said.
He added that there had been no systematic examination of the factors behind the poor performance in the national public examination in Tanzania with respect to the linkage between what is taught and what is asked in examinations. The results show that the majority of teachers are not conversant with the concept and requirements of a competent based curriculum.
He noted, that there is therefore a need, as a matter of urgency to devise mechanisms through which teachers could be given proper orientation on the concept, philosophy and requirements of a competence based curriculum. In a related development, a majority of teachers reported that they have never attended any professional development training opportunity over the last five years.
"This is not healthy. For teachers to be competent, conversant and committed in their profession, they need, among other things, continuous professional development opportunities, which should be provided on regular basis," he noted.