EDITORIAL COMMENT: Maintain momentum to get even better results

The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) has just released the 2015 Ordinary Level results which, happily for us, show a five-percent increase in the pass rate on the prior year. It rose last year to 27,86 percent compared to 22,38 percent in 2014, an improvement of 5,48 percent.

At Advanced Level 41,653 candidates registered and sat for a range of subjects last year, up from 39,133 in 2014, a percentage increase of 6,4 percent.

The number of candidates who obtained Grade E or better in one or more subjects was 38,873. This gives a percentage of 93,3, which is higher than that recorded in 2014.

Commenting on the O-Level results Zimsec says:
“The rise in the pass rates for the November 2015 examinations could be attributed to a number of factors, such as the Education Development Fund (EDF), the then Education Transition Fund (ETF) where in 2011 and 2012 all secondary schools received textbook kits. There was a one-to-one textbook-pupil ratio and these resources were used from Form 1 up to Form 4.

“The cohort of learners who used these books from Form 1 to Form 4 were those who wrote examinations in 2015. These learners had all the basic textbooks from Form 1 to Form 4. In addition to the EDF programme, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education mounted workshops in provinces, districts and even at cluster level through the Better Schools Programme. All these efforts were meant to improve teaching and learning processes in schools. The issue of having qualified teachers in secondary schools cannot be ignored as a contributing factor to improved learner performance during the November 2015 examinations.”

It is notable that the pass rates at these two critical stages of our education system increased last year, maintaining the year-on-year recovery since the downturn of the hyper-inflationary period.

We recall that during that time, pupils stopped going to school. Teachers also did the same. The system had actually collapsed that authorities could not sanction the teachers for absconding.
The pass rates around that period reflect the meltdown.

According to Zimsec, the lowest O-Level pass rate of 9,85 percent was recorded in 2007 followed by 10,2 percent in 2004; 12,2 percent in 2005; 13,0 percent in 2003; 13,18 percent in 2000; 13,75 percent in 2002; 13,99 percent in 2001; 14,2 percent in 2006; 14,44 percent in 2008; 16,5 percent in 2010; 19,50 percent in 2011 and 18,4 percent in 2012.

Indeed, the figures were displeasing, but thanks to the various initiatives that the government has been implementing since dollarisation to recover the pass rates, we are seeing this continued improvement.
We look forward to the momentum being maintained and improved upon in the coming years.

Pupils at every level of education — from kindergarten to Advanced Level — need enough, relevant learning materials, particularly textbooks. Their teachers also need them.

That is why, despite its many flaws relating to incorrect spellings, wrong labelling of pages and other text and so on, the ETF must be commended for, at least, delivering textbooks to schools when we actually had none.

We are happy with continued efforts by the government to ensure that as many as possible qualified teachers man classrooms countrywide. They are specifically trained for their jobs and are better placed to lead the learning process than someone with a degree, yes, but one that is not relevant to the education that he or she must deliver to pupils. As many as 20,000 untrained teachers had their contracts terminated recently and qualified teachers on leave recalled. We note this was done to contain labour costs, but this can enhance education too.

In addition to that, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has intensified its supervision of teachers, with officials making unannounced visits to schools. In these visits, the government seeks to establish whether teachers would be at work or not, whether their and pupils’ books are in order or not. They should keep teachers on their toes, doing what they are paid for.
Another worthwhile initiative is the Performance Lag Address Programme (PLAP), designed to enable learners to make up for the time they lost between 2005 and 2009. It should assist in the wider efforts to boost examination performance in schools and the quality of our education. The same applies to a government decision to mainstream early childhood education.

Now that level of education is not for under-fives to just play, eat and sleep, but to actually learn, laying a strong foundation for future education.

Yet all these measures will count for nothing if the teacher is not in class or too demoralised to deliver. There is much stability now in the education sector, a far cry from the strikes of old. Working conditions might not be up to scratch in some places, salaries are not yet there but we don’t doubt the government’s commitment to address them.

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