The Herald (Harare)

7 February 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Let's Maintain Exam Standards'

FOLLOWING a phenomenal growth which started shortly after independence and has continued over the years, some people with inverted mindsets now want Zimbabwe to lower its flag of triumph in education for reasons best known to themselves.

Shame on them! This indictment is directed at the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council which, ironically, is reported to have wanted to reduce the minimum examination pass mark following a decline in the 2012 Advanced Level pass rate blamed on examinations being difficult.

But thanks to the intervention of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart, who personally directed that the minimum benchmark should not be decreased.

Such a move, it should be understood by everyone, would result in a lowering of standards with A-Level graduates thronging employment places or seeking enrolment at universities armed with certificates that do not portray any academic strengths at all.

In fact, reducing the minimum pass mark would be tantamount to a dilution of standards in Zimbabwe's educational system, with a corresponding poor quality of service offered by school-leavers employed in various sectors of the economy.

If anything, the public examinations from Grade Seven through Ordinary Level to Advanced Level should be maintained, if not toughened altogether in order for Zimbabwe to remain ahead of other African countries in the rate of literacy.

Such a consolidation of the growth in education, which has seen the establishment of a university in almost every province, should be seen to be logical consequence to the expansion in the country's education.

After independence some African countries followed a disastrous route, like one suggested by Zimsec and the result has been a lowering of standards with pupils writing Ordinary Level examinations in Form Five and with Advanced Level examinations abolished altogether.

Attaining high standards of education, and therefore of literacy, is not a picnic and those in Zimsec who wanted Zimbabwean students to go picnicking in their exams should be identified and given short shrift.

Some will remember how standards were kept high in Rhodesia with some candidates who passed public examinations in Standard Six proceeding to work as teachers for example, not to mention Junior Certificate graduates some of whom proceeded to head schools in their own right.

Independence and freedom from colonial rule should not mean a relaxation in any standards; on the contrary the old track record in the educational system should be maintained, even bettered and that is exactly what the Zanu-PF Government did - and did it better in a shorter time than that which whites had at their disposal and with abundant resources available for use.

Which is why a strong case exists for tough action to be taken against teachers who sleep in their classes and then extort money from parents for extra lessons conducted away from school premises.

One is bound to suspect that, away from the prying eye of the school head, the private lesson teacher do symbolic work in their fleecing of parents.

Charitable people will perhaps call these teachers "opportunists" but it is probably more fitting to liken them to opportunistic diseases that spy on the human body for an opening in the skin to bore into the flesh and gnaw away at they host as if ignorant of killing it in the end.

That is what the teachers against whom some parents from Bulawayo recently petitioned the Ministry of Education for action - opportunistic diseases.

It is all very well for the ministry to state that private lessons may be conducted for public examinations pupils and leave it at that. The most sensible thing to do to protect parents, their children and their meagre financial resources is probably for the ministry to crack down on offenders, and be seen to do so, as a deterrent to would-be opportunistic diseases.

Having tested human blood, so to speak, the offending teachers are wont to laugh off any threats by the ministry as nothing but inconsequential threats.

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