Stakeholders have expressed mixed feelings about the proposed abolishment of grade seven examinations for primary school learners.
National Action for Quality Education Zambia (NAQEZ) executive director Aaron Chansa says abolishment of the examination is not the solution, suggesting the implementation of school based assessments.
But Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) general secretary Newman Bubala says the abolishment is welcome but it must be accompanied by necessary measures to ensure the quality of education being given to learners is not compromised.
In an interview, Chansa said NAQEZ would not support the abolishment of grade seven exams.
“So we feel that abolishing grade seven exams will not be the way to go, what is needed is for the ministry, with the ECZ to reform these exams. We need a serving exam at grade seven, we also need to implement the school based assessments at primary school level, and otherwise we are not for the idea that grade seven exams should be abolished. We know that these exams are important, they are the gateway to secondary education and we need to know those that are fit to proceed to secondary education. So we wait for these consultations and we are very confident that these consultations will not result in abolishing grade seven exams because it’s a very important component of our school system, we will not support any idea from anyone that suggests that these exams must be abolished,” said Chansa.
“As an organization that promotes quality education, we have been extremely concerned at the manner in which grade seven exams have been administered in this country. Everyone that writes it goes to grade eight. One of the proposals is that we need to have these exams reformed where only those that go beyond a certain cut off point must be able to proceed to grade eight in order to improve the caliber of grade eight intakes. We have also seen a proposal where the ECZ with the ministry wants to introduce school based assessments where grade five learners will be given exam numbers and be given school based practical assessments and these will be part of the final exams at the end of the primary school course.”
But Bubala said the abolishment was welcome but it must be accompanied by necessary measures to ensure that quality of education being given to learners was not compromised.
“So for me really, I would like to say that if the infrastructure is there, if we have enough teachers, we have enough all what it takes, it’s better to expose the children to better education and learning so that out of that education, maybe they can have better life than just that you have failed an exam, that’s all your future is ruined. I think assessment where it works well is the best because you might come to an exam when you are in grade 10 or 12 where they assess how you have been performing all these other years, there we will be able to say ‘you might not have done well at the final but your performance down the line has been of great importance because you have been doing fine. So you are rewarded that way. I think infrastructure being there, the number of teachers recruited, teacher pupil ratio improving and allowing them to go into grade eight meant training more teachers meaning they get rid of the challenges I think for me is the best,” he said.
“What it is, is that it’s costly but it is the best because you are trying to create an environment where every child can progress because really, the whole idea of learning is not about exams. You don’t go to school because of exams, you go to learn and we need to learn the different kind of subjects so that we can identify our best field of life can be.”
Meanwhile, Bubala called for the creation of a National Curriculum Authority to regulate the curriculum and ensure it was in line with demand on the market.
“For me, we need what we call the national curriculum authority. You know, we have people who have come up with this but we needed a board which will supervise the curriculum issues where we will be able to ask if we need to change our curriculum and do we have a good study and what could be the implication of changing the curriculum. Now we have a situation where the syllabi, the exam time table, everything is not even in line with what the curriculum demand is. So it’s very important that we have an authority that will be regulating our curriculum because I think it hasn’t been seriously regulated that’s why we have a lot of inconveniences. This year, you change this, the other year you change that, no! We need a progression which will be important for every person to know that this is the way we are going, this is the benefit of this subject, this is a practical subject, what are contents, what is the period so that even those who scheme have got proper time to do that,” said Bubala.