By JACK MWEWA –
AS the case always is whenever the schools’ examination results are announced, analyses are heard as to what leads to what results.
The recent announcement of grade 12 examination results marked a complete departure from the 2012 results, including those for grades nine and seven announced earlier.
Notable highlights from the 2013 grade 12 examination results are that pupils from privately-run schools performed better than those from Government schools.
Such revelations, as expected, left the Government disappointed by teachers’ performance, a move that prompted teacher unions to push back the blame on some decisions made by the Ministry of Education.
“Teachers in Government schools had very little time with pupils following Government’s decision to ban extra lesson tuitions. The decision meant that pupils knocked off after only four hours of learning,” observed one union leader.
They also bemoaned the over-enrolling of pupils in Government schools, in some cases with more than 60 pupils instead of 30 who are crammed in one classroom, while private schools stuck to the recommended one teacher to 30 pupils ratio.
In the 2013 Grade 12 results, 63,104 out of 104,809 pupils passed, the results Education Minister John Phiri described as poor.
A 60.21 per cent increase from the 58.08 per cent recorded in the 2012 examinations in which 60,319 out of the 103,853 candidates who participated passed was not good enough by Dr Phiri’s expectations.
He observed that even if the pass rate had marginally increased, the results were generally poor.
“I, therefore, wish to state that although we acknowledge the marginal improvement in the performance of candidates in 2013 as compared to 2012, the results are generally poor.
“The general poor 2013 Grade 12 examination results are attributed to the fact that the majority of pupils today cannot read with understanding or writing,” Dr Phiri said.
The above statement is a sad one, if pupils who go to school to learn cannot only fail to read, but also fail to understand nor write, one wonders what they spend time doing in classrooms.
He observed that candidates from urban schools slightly performed better than those from rural schools, with rural schools performing better in all Zambian languages, Fashion and Fabrics, Physics, and Chemistry.
Dr Phiri put the total number of 386 schools as having registered candidates for the 2013 Grade 12 examinations, out of which 69 were from grant-aided schools, 70 from private schools while Government schools accounted for 247.
Like in the past, malpractices make part of the examinations anecdote going by the 421 cases that were recorded, said to represent 0.40 per cent of candidates who wrote the examinations.
As for grade nine results, Dr Phiri disclosed earlier in the year that 110,739 out 285,636 pupils who sat for their junior secondary school leaving examinations in 2013 qualified to grade 10, representing a progression rate of 37.10 per cent.
Of the 110,739 successful pupils, 57,327 were boys while 53,412 were girls and the results showed that 174,897 candidates failed the examinations compared to 191,000 in 2012.
He said those results, especially ones for grade 12 pupils, were poor and called for Government’s concern citing poor reading culture among the pupils. This is another ugly deficiency for those seeking education.
Earlier, the ministry announced the performance of pupils who sat for the 2013 grade seven examinations showing a marginal improvement.
It was noted that 279,186 pupils out of 312,433 candidates who sat for grade seven composite examinations in 2013 had qualified to Grade eight, representing a pass rate of 89.36 per cent.
The excellent pass rate recorded at grade seven level reinvigorated renewed hope that Zambia’s educational standards were improving, at least better than grades nine and 12 results.
Abdon Mwape, a teacher based on the Copperbelt, observed that the teachers, in private or Government schools, trained from the same colleges and were, therefore, capable of delivering just as others.
He said the teachers’ performance was greatly influenced by the environment under which they operated, for motivation or otherwise.
“Why should teachers trained from same colleges and universities differ in their performances? This clearly shows that the environment under which they operated contributed to their quality of delivery,” Mr Mwape said.
Some parents, however, suspected that the poor results were in a way a protest by some teachers who were said to have been infuriated by the ban of extra lessons’ tuition.
“We are aware that some teachers did not take kindly to the recent ban against them conducting extra lessons,” Mrs Maureen Mulongo said.
She claimed that one teacher openly told her that the ban meant that pupils had little time for school as most of them performed better under supervision.
Mrs Mulongo further said that some teachers felt the ban deprived them of an extra income they made from such tuitions.
Other teachers, however, cited the advent of Facebook as having one adverse effect to pupils’ concentration in class rooms.
They bemoaned that some pupils spent most of their time on mobile phones either checking or following events on Facebook.
“It is very difficult for any learner to concentrate while glued to their mobile phones, either checking or following events on Facebook,” observed one teacher.
For Peter Bweupe, a retired teacher, measures taken by the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) to ‘seal avenues through which leakages filtered to students exposed some students’ weaknesses.
“There was so much dependence on the so-called leakages in the past. Now that ECZ has tightened porous avenues from which they slipped, lazy pupils and teachers who depended on such have been exposed,” Mr Bweupe said.
While he recommended the extra lessons’ tuition mode, Mr Bweupe thought the practice in some cases encouraged pupils to concentrate on learning how to pass an examination than grasping what was being taught.
“Tuitions in themselves were good, but the whole concept somehow encouraged laziness, because pupils concentrated on learning how to pass examinations rather than being whole-schooled,” Mr Bweupe said.
With all that said and done, no matter how good some analysis might be, players in the entire school system ought to review their pace.
Teachers, being custodians of pupils, have a duty to employ every methodology in their book for a good product, and pupils owe it to themselves to pick up valuable life-time lessons while parents too would do well to monitor their children.