20 February 2013

Tanzania: Grading System Affects Results

Photo: Mohamed Mambo
The country has recorded poor performance of Certificate for Secondary Education Examinations results in 2012 (file photo).

IN an unprecedented trend, two students from Feza Boys Secondary School are said to have emerged best performers in the national Form Four examinations held last year after scoring Division One with nine points, failing to score the highest points in the top category.

Unlike in previous years where best students scored Division One with seven points, last year's national Form Four exams were seemingly challenging as also more than half of the candidates failed by getting Division 0 and less than one per cent got Division One.

Change in the grading system of percentage score is mentioned as among the factors for massive failures in the exams. Reliable information says that it is only the two students who attained Division I with single-digit points countrywide. The government, however, is yet to release the list of top 10 students in last year's Form Four examinations.

The duo, Said Juma (17) and Jasper Kajiru (18) attribute discipline coupled with hard work and motivated teachers as reasons for their good performance. Though the government is yet to release names of overall best students, evaluation of the results indicate that the two students recorded the highest marks.

Last year's examinations are said to have been competence-based, meaning that candidates were tested on how well they understood the subjects and with the aim of doing away with the trend of spoon feeding students. "The exams were normal. In fact I was expecting to perform even better," Jasper boasted during an exclusive interview with the 'Daily News'.

Feza Boys Academic Master, Mr Simon Albert, blamed the setup of last year's exams, which were competence-based, for massive failures among students. "Apart from Mathematics and Biology, other subjects required distinctive brilliance to excel, average students could hardly pass the exams," Mr Albert, who teaches Physics, said.

"We could blame the present generation of students for the failure but factors such as poor setting of the exams should also be taken into consideration," he added. The teacher said the questions were very tricky for students of Form Four level and urged the government to go slow in rolling out the competence-based setting of examinations.

Dar es Salaam-based Feza Boys emerged the third best school during last year's Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (CSEE), behind St Francis Girls Secondary School of Mbeya and Marian Boys Secondary School of Coast region. Jasper and Said have been friends since at school and they both have dreams of studying Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) in Advanced Secondary Education (A Level).

The former wants to become a computer engineer while the latter dreams of becoming an engineer. The two students also blame poor curriculum, poor learning environment and shortage of teachers as among factors for failure of their peers. "There is a need to put in place an established and well organized curriculum and also motivate teachers if students are to perform well," Said explained during the interview.

The Dean of Examinations at Feza Schools, Mr Maina Richard, also concurred that results have been very bad this year due to a combination of factors. "As teachers we are also worried, having only two students scoring Division I with nine points is troubling, last year our school had the best student nationwide with Division I of seven points," he said.

The concern was shared by the Headmistress of Marian Girls School, Ms Flora Mapunda, during a telephone interview on Monday, shortly after the results were announced. "Some of our students scored Division Three and Four which we had wanted to relegate into the annals of history in our schools," Ms Mapunda, whose school was number four, said.

Heads of best performing schools attribute favourable learning and teaching facilities in addition to motivated and strong leadership for their success. "Our success is not a result of mere chance but strong commitment and dedication shown by our administration and school staff," Feza Boys' Headmaster Isa Otcu said.

Last year, the school was the second best performing school and it also produced the best student in the country. Meanwhile, Mr Hashim Saiboko, the Headmaster of Algebra Secondary School, told the 'Daily News' the change of pass grades was also to blame for the bad results. He said that contrary to previous years where a 50 per cent score was graded as C, the same percentage score was marked as D in last year's examinations.

"The change in the grading system has not only affected public schools but also private ones which had been performing excellently in the past," he said. He said the government had to notify members of the public on the new grading system before introducing it and students should have been informed on the same before sitting for the examinations to help them set their targets.

Meanwhile, a student of Saint Clara Secondary School in Same is reported to have collapsed yesterday in Dar es Salaam after learning that she performed poorly. She scored Division Three in the examinations while she was hoping to score Division One.

The student was taken to Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) for medical treatment at midnight and she was discharged around 10 am, according to an eye witness who preferred anonymity. Elsewhere, reports suggest that a Headmaster of Vigwaza Ward Secondary School in Coast Region, whose identity was not immediately established, collapsed after learning that all students who sat for the examinations at his school scored Division 0.

Initial reports claimed the said headmaster had died, but police authorities declined knowledge of the incident. Kigoma North Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Zitto Kabwe, recommended that the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, his deputy and the ministry's permanent secretary should resign on their own volition to show urgency of the matter.

"I understand that it (resignation) has no direct connection with the results because the problems facing the education sector are very huge but something should be done to allow positive change," said Mr Kabwe. He observed that poor results have been recorded for the past three years running without anyone being taken to task.

He also said that the public is quick to forget about the issue in just a matter of weeks after the results are released. Mr Kabwe suggested that the ministry be moved to the President's Office to revive the education sector, saying that the current Form Four students might be the next victims of a poor education foundation.

NCCR-Mageuzi National Chairman, Mr James Mbatia has asked President Jakaya Kikwete to appoint a team of experts to expose fundamental weaknesses within the education sector and propose lasting solutions. Addressing a press conference in Dar es Salaam, Mr Mbatia called on all stakeholders including politicians to set aside their ideological differences and employ their expertise to help revive the education sector.

In an odd move, he also called on the public to demand that children of government leaders be enrolled in ward secondary schools. "This will make them feel the need to address challenges facing the schools since at the moment they pretend not to be aware of the shortcomings in the schools thus do not see the need to address them," he said.

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