High pass rate greeted as good as well as bad news

Wednesday July 23 2014

Tanzanian pupils in class PHOTO I FILE

Tanzanian pupils in class PHOTO I FILE 

By By Frank Kimboy Political Platform Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The revelation that over 95 per cent of students who sat for the 2013/2014 national exams passed is supposed to be good news to the entire country but it hasn’t been received well by some education stakeholders.

Surely it must be good news for those students who passed the exams but the results have caused many Tanzanians to raise their eyebrows over the rapid improvements in education sector.

It should be remembered that six out of every 10 Tanzanian students who sat for 2012 Form Four national ordinary secondary level examinations failed.

The result also showed that close to 54 per cent of students tested picked up Division Zero in National Form IV exams which was the biggest rise from the 32 per cent who had failed to score in 2011.

Some students were so desperate that they instead resorted to writing insults on the answer sheets after the realisation that they were completely unprepared.

This forced the government to revise the results from which over 40 per cent of those who sat for the same examination passed.

The change of grading system saw the general performance of candidates in 2013 Form Four examinations improved by 15 per cent compared to 2012.

Announcing the results at National Examination Council of Tanzania (NECTA) headquarters Dr Charles Msonde, Necta acting executive director, said pass rate for this year has jumped to 95.98 per cent, up from 87.85 per cent in 2013.

Although it is a fact that many students have been performing well in advanced level national examination compare to ordinary level national examination, this year’s performance has raised many questions than answers.

This is because it is no secret that Tanzania education system is experiencing a number of challenges. The challenges vary from inadequate funding, lack of skilled teachers, acute shortage of libraries, teachers and laboratories as well as outstanding teachers’ arrears.

Despite various reforms done by the government to improve country’s education quality many political stakeholders criticized the government with regards to the latest results.

Some education pundits who spoke to the Political Platform blamed the government for politicizing education. According to them there was no way that the performance rate could sky-rocket within just a year of BRN implementation.

Mr Emmanuel Ndembeka, an education activist basing in Dar es Salaam, agreed with those who accuse the government of politicizing the country’s education system.

According to Mr Ndembeka the just released results confirm the allegation that the government decided to change the grading system to fixed grade in order to reduce pressure on authorities.

“The government has been put to the sword due to poor performance by students; I think in order to reduce the pressure from NGOs, opposition parties and other stakeholders the government has decided to lower the grades so as to enable many students pass their examinations,” said Mr Ndembeka.

He added, “It is like when two football teams decided to increase the size of the goal simply because they can’t score against each other when the size of the goal is of required standard.”

However, Mr Ndembeka warned that the country will pay the price for politicizing such a sensitive sector. According to Mr Ndembeka the country will have ‘many intellectuals’ but very poor performers when it comes to work.

“If you look at the result many students performed well in science subject despite the fact that many schools don’t have laboratories; this indicates that we will have many scientist who will fail to practise because they studied science theoretically,” said Mr Ndembeka.

Other pundits linked the result to 2015 general election. According to Mr Salvatory Magafu, a Mwanza based lawyer turned teacher, the ruling party tries to preempt the opposition political parties of their agendas ahead of 2015 general election by showing that education quality is improving.

According to Mr Magafu it has never happened in any country across the world that almost all who sat for examination passed. He added that the government is trying to show that there are enough teachers, enough laboratories and in general the learning environment has been improved in less than two years.

“It is normal practice that the opposition will look for the ruling party’s shortcomings in various sectors during the election campaigns; now that nearly all students who sat for their Form Six examination passed what will the Opposition say during the campaign?’’ said he.

A Dar es Salaam based teacher who preferred anonymity expressed his concern on the quality of examination which the students sat for. He was also sceptic over a little time it took for the examinations to be marked and the results to be released.

According to him the results have been released less than two years since the students started their examination at the end of May.

“I can’t think of any other explanation than to think the examination were too simple that’s why it took less than two months to mark them and that nearly all students passed their examination,” said the teacher.

Debating the budget for the ministry of Education and Vocational Training during this year’s parliamentary budget session virtually all MPs’ agreed that the country’s education was in crisis; a serious crisis that has been created over several decades.

Looking at the numbers alone, the impression one gets is that education has gained progress some MPs observed. The budget has been tripled, primary school enrolment has skyrocketed—thanks to the Universal Primary Education (UPE) initiative launched during the Mkapa administration.

At the secondary school level, the numbers reached a record high in the past eight years, what with the many conveniently located but ill-equipped ward secondary schools.

At university level, there has been a rush for degrees, thanks to the mushrooming of public and private universities. Until the mid-1980s, there were only two universities; today Tanzania has about 50 universities, most of them private.

However, when it comes to quality, MPs affirm, almost unanimously, that the country’s education is at the intensive care unit. Things are bad. Between 2009 and 2012, 1,294,230 students sat the Form Four national exams and 590,686 of them scored Division Zero. The figures paint a gloomy picture of Tanzania’s education system.

Debating the 2014/2015 budget estimates for the ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Mr James Mbatia (Nominated-NCCR-Mageuzi) suggested that there should be a commission on Education Quality Assurance and Control.