The Deputy Minister of Education Paul Mavima last week said the 21 percent pass rate recorded in last year’s O-Level ZIMSEC results was actually an improvement as at one time it was 16.5 percent.
Mavima was responding to a question from Kadoma Central MP Fani Phiri who asked what the ministry was doing about the pass rate as having only two out of every 10 students passing was not good enough.
Mavima said although the pass rate was of concern to the ministry, the situation was in fact improving. He said in 2012 the pass rate was 18 percent. Before that it was 19.5 percent and prior to that 16.5 percent.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, this pass rate represents problems that started during the time that this country had serious economic problems and there was very little teaching taking place in our country. We are beginning to see the improvement now in the Ordinary Level results. This is also indicating the improvement that we are seeing in terms of both resources availed to school and the working conditions of teachers,” he said.
Question and answer:
MR. PHIRI: My question is directed to the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. What is the Ministry’s policy stance on the continued leak of examination papers and failure rate by our children in secondary schools? A 20% pass rate, which is 2 out of 10, if one is a teacher and has 10 children, there will be 2 children passing out of 10. That is not good enough. What is the Ministry’s serious stance on the failure rate and the leakage? The leakage is discrediting our education system in this country. Thank you.
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (PROF. MAVIMA): Thank you Mr. Speaker. The Ordinary Level pass rate continues to be of concern to the Ministry. However, we are happy that in actual fact, that situation is improving. This year, the pass rate was 21%, last year it was18%, the previous year it was 19.5% and the year before that it was 16.5%. Mr. Speaker Sir, this pass rate represents problems that started during the time that this country had serious economic problems and there was very little teaching taking place in our country. We are beginning to see the improvement now in the Ordinary Level results. This is also indicating the improvement that we are seeing in terms of both resources availed to school and the working conditions of teachers.
We hope that as time goes on, this situation is going to improve. Like I said, for example in 2009 we had 99.3%, we dipped in 2010 to 16.5 but the graph is starting to go up and we hope this will continue to happen. We are providing the necessary training, especially to headmasters in order to provide consistent and stable leadership to the schools so that they can improve. We are also working with the Civil Service Commission to make sure that the conditions of service for teachers are improved so that the pass rate can improve.
Mr. Speaker Sir, as far as the leaks are concerned, we are in a very difficult situation. This is so because these leaks mostly take place at school level. The leaks do not take place during distribution by ZIMSEC to schools. They take place at the school or in transition in district sectors to the schools. We have a responsibility as a country to ensure that the distribution, especially from district centres to the schools is done in ways that will not result in leaks. It is easier for us to deal with headmasters than situations where the leaks take place elsewhere due to logistical problems. Once we are able to identify the headmasters responsible, then we can bring them to book.
Currently there is the withholding of results because there were allegations of leaks. We are investigating that thoroughly. There is a committee of ZIMSEC that is currently working to ensure that we identify where the leak is. Once we have identified that leak, people will be held responsible. Through this process, we will be able to reduce future leaks. However, we are seized with this matter, both matters are important to our Ministry and we are working on them.
MR. PHIRI: My question was not fully answered. It only started when ZIMSEC was formed. Before that, it was not there, this leakage and the failure rate. If we do not take serious action, these are future leaders, if we do not take serious action against this, definitely…
MR. SPEAKER: What is the question hon. member?
MR. PHIRI: My question is on the failure rate. What are the steps, we have just been told about the teachers and headmasters. What about the school children?
THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (MR. DOKORA): Thank you Mr. Speaker. I thank the Deputy Minister who was holding the fort. I also thank the hon. Member for asking the question which helps us clarify some concepts about examinations. To say that there was no failure rate when the system was running the examinations in conjunction with the Cambridge Examination Syndicate is further from the truth than anything I can imagine.
The fact that we have domesticated the examination system and configured it into ZIMSEC was in fact a process that we undertook in conjunction with the Cambridge Examination Syndicate. The marking system and the standards that we uphold are designed to replicate the same competence level of the original Examinations Board.
Now, failure rate, there are interpretations to what constitutes failure. We look at those students who have five credits at ‘O’ level and calculate that. But, you can also look at those students who have four credits at ‘O’ level and look at the figures as well, even three credits. So ultimately, you have to be saying to yourself and we are in this process ourselves saying, why is there a normative of 5 subjects? It could be six or four subjects. It is an arbitrary measure in a sense but any learner who has undergone a programme of study and comes out at the end of that process with say, four subjects; they can still be material for training in technical institutions. So, when we say they have failed, we must be saying they have failed to get credits to proceed to what kind of training, because there are still opportunities even for those with four or three subjects.
Indeed, admittedly, a lot of our people also want to have the five credits at ‘O’ level and consequently, when they fail to make the initial five at the first sitting, they make further efforts to sit either for one additional subject in the June examinations or two subjects, which matters we have now addressed and said, the non formal component of the Ministry will now offer a robust programme to take care of those in the community who wish to supplement in these ways. Thank you.