13 February 2013

Zimbabwe: O-Level Results Need Holistic Analysis

Photo: Unicef/IRIN
School kids sharing text books in Zimbabwe.


October-November 2012 Ordinary Level examination results are out and are now in the public domain. Zimbabwe has again recorded one of the lowest O-Level pass rates since independence and there is a national outcry. It is obviously expected that there be a national outcry if national exams are bad and happiness if the results are good.

Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart, several experts and non educational experts have been giving their views on reasons why the Zimsec 2012 O-Level exam results are poor as indicated in the statistics that the results fell from 19.5 percent to 18.4 percent while the number of candidates increased by 11.3 percent.

We should also be concerned that even the 19.5 percent from which the results dropped is still too low.

Professional Evaluation: there is a need for evaluating examination results in a professional manner.

Comments and evaluation should aim at improving the education system and standards. The education system must be accountable to the people and nation it serves. Robert Linn, an educational evaluation expert of Crest University Colorado USA, also stresses the point that the systems of educational assessment and accountability share a common global purpose of improving teaching and learning.

In our case, we should not look at examination results as a product of many variables which should be taken into account in order to improve future results of new students. Those variables are known as antecedents. They include the teaching activities undertaken over the years that lead to O Level or A Level and the teaching environment which includes resources, quality of teachers, as well as the students and their preparedness to learn at that level.

The motivation of teachers is also a very important factor, for example, the flight of many highly qualified and experienced teachers during the period of 2000 -- 2010. In addition, the country had recruitment of science and mathematics teachers by our regional neighbours exacerbating the country's flight of skills. There must be an on-going Government policy on educational evaluation rather than wait to pass judgment on examination results. Evaluation should provide for contingency measures to improve teaching and learning. Evaluation would consider all the factors including finding ways of motivating the teachers and students so as to produce good exam results.

There is a need for monitoring and assessment of students from Form 1 until they enter O Level. There is a need to consider reintroducing ZJC or a system that provides evaluation between Form 1 and Form 11. Rural and urban areas education must also be looked at. Examination results may not be the same in rural and urban areas. There are more disturbances to students learning in urban areas than in rural areas and this might be the reason why some of our best exam results are from rural schools although most of them have limited resources compared to urban schools.

The socio-economic status of the schools also has great influence on the schools performance. The School Development Committees should therefore be encouraged to enhance the schools socio-economic status in order to boost teaching and learning activities so as to have good results. Rural schools have more untrained teachers than urban schools where trained teachers do not want to be.

We should not condemn untrained teachers as they are giving a good service where trained teachers are not found. Untrained teachers should be given staff development opportunities so as to improve their education levels, educational resources, good accommodation and rural teaching incentives should be provided in order to attract trained teachers.

Sociology of Education: Role of family; It recognises the importance of the family role in the child's education. It should nevertheless be taken into account that some families are not capable of taking a role of helping the child with educational assignment maybe the family members do not even have the O Level,Form 1 or Grade 7 education. The family unit may no longer be there as the Registrar General has revealed that almost 60 percent of marriages are not registered properly. Economic instability has contributed to family instability. Well-to-do and educated families should assist their children with learning at home.

Dr Ndlovu is a former Higher Education Deputy Minister and the founder and chief executive director -- ZDECO Group of Colleges.

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