THE Education Ministry has attributed the 6.8% pass rate decline in Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) Ordinary Level results to the devastating effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Spokesperson in the ministry, Taungana Ndoro told NewZimbabwe.com Wednesday the pandemic induced lockdown had seen a significant decline in the Ordinary Level pass rate due to reduced face-to-face teaching.
Schools were forced to introduce on-line teaching, but this was not practical in some schools especially government learning centres due to the unavailability of ICT gadgets, learning material, and high data costs.
"It is the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused the gap because it forced a lockdown which forced schools to close and, therefore, there was limited face-to-face teaching," he said.
Ndoro added the pandemic also brought about unforeseen consequences that affected the students' interests in learning and the education sector as well.
"It's the pandemic that caused a lot of unforeseen and unintended consequences where we have had others dropping out of school or others losing interest in school. There are also unintended consequences that affected the education sector as well."
However, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) said the decline in the 2020 results showed the depreciation in learning standards in education.
"Statistics show a decline of 11% on total number of candidates who sat for the examinations. The 11% can only be attributed to some learners who either failed to register or sit for exams. Enrolment statistics never dropped," it said.
"There is a crisis in the education sector, the drop in the ZIMSEC 'O' Level 2020 pass rate is a sign that the whole system is going down the drain and tantamount to producing pseudo graduates.
"The poor pass rates across the nation are direct attributes of poor investment into the education sector amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. It's shocking the deficit in the education system has been turned into a blame game by the orchestrators of the prevailing crises in the education sector," ARTUZ said in a statement.
"It's known to everyone that you reap what you sow, the 2020 ZIMSEC results are a clear indication that the government is not dedicated to investing in education."
An Ordinary Level student told NewZimbabwe.com that online learning had seriously affected their academic performance due to lack of resources to attend the virtual lessons.
"I couldn't afford a computer or a phone during the greater part of the lockdown. This made me fall behind with my lessons and not be prepared for the exams," he said.
Another student attributed the decline in students' academic performances to lack of confidence in e-learning, adding it was not a conducive method of learning some subjects, especially practical lessons.
"Some of the topics, especially practical ones, are not suitable for online learning. They were hard for me to grasp and understand over the computer and I didn't feel confident during exam time."
However, Ndoro said the Education Ministry had since adjusted to the environment induced by the Covid-19 pandemic by putting in place blended teaching methods.
This, he said, included catch up strategies and the distribution of self-study guides for pupils with no online learning facilities.
"We have adjusted to the new reality that we are in a Covid-19 induced environment. We are now having blended teaching methods which include accessing digital platforms as well as face-to-face teaching and learning which means that this year's pass rate will increase from last year's 24%.
"The ministry has included catch up strategies where students have face-to-face teaching and learning. Where there is no online learning at the moment, we have put in place the distribution of self-study guides that are hard copies at those rural and remote areas."
According to ZIMSEC, there was a decline in the Grade Seven examination pass rate from 46.9% to 37.11% reporting a 9.79% decrease. There was also a decrease in the Advanced Level pass rate by 2.1% with 2019 recording 83.1% and in 2020, a reduction to 81%.