The 100 per cent pass rate for grade 7 pupils this year can mainly be attributed to spaces made available by the upgrading of some primary schools to basic level, not necessarily that the pupils improved in performance says the Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT).

In an interview, ZNUT general secretary Newman Bubala observed that grade seven exams need to be revisited in order to improve the quality of education being imparted on students.

In 2018, all 388,331 candidates that sat for the grade seven exams passed, according to Minister of General Education David Mabumba, who announced last week.

This phenomenon has seen an increase in the passing rate by 0.86 per cent from last year’s passing rate, which was 99.14 per cent.

“The grade seven exams I think even they need to be revisited; it’s a situation where you have the multiple-choice; the intellectual tests; the IQ tests and so on. But the truth of the matter is that, going to grade eight has to do with the space in grade eight. So, if you have got a lot of space, meaning that if you have a lot of grade eight classrooms as many as those who are able to make it, they make it. So, we cannot really determine by saying we have improved, because of maybe the children are able to read and are able to have material,” Bubala explained.

“Yes, it could [be] that there is an improvement in materials, improvement in the teachers, but the biggest improvement is if you build more schools, it will mean that more children will go into grade eight easier. Because the low cut-off point will be lowered. But if you build more schools in grade eight, that means many will pass because it’s about cut-off points; it’s about the issue of space. So, we are seeing more of a bigger space in grade eight, that means a lot of basic schools; a lot of primary schools have been turned into basic. So, we are seeing this kind of a flow.”

And he expressed concerns about maintaining a high quality level of education, together with ensuring a sufficient amount of available classroom space for grades nine upwards.

“All what we are worried about is, will the same quality be found in grade nine to 10? So, going [from grade] seven to eight, the challenge there is not really in how many are able to read; it’s really a matter of making sure that there is enough material; enough teachers at that level. But as the children are going to grade eight, they need to be ready to face serious exams in grade nine because between seven and eight, it’s all about space,” observed Bubala.

“So, there is bigger space in grade eight now so a lot of grade sevens are making it, but they may be smaller space in grade 10, which we are asking government maybe to begin expand high schools so that we don’t [have] a situation where because if a lot of grade sevens are making [it] to grade eight, there might be a challenge when they reach grade nine if in grade 10, there is no expansion policy of increasing the infrastructure.”