The Sunday Mail
It was like some divine force influenced us last Sunday to write our lead story titled “A-Level results hit by inflation?”, like we were seeing the future. Though the message was subtle, in essence our story was querying the now commonplace 30-pointers amongst our A-Level students.
We queried, sarcastically though, if “inflation” has somehow been at play with our exam results.
Generally, when this topic is raised, the topic of today’s students, if they are more intelligent than their predecessors, the usual line of defence is that today’s students have access to an array of information sources. Hence the learning and consumption of knowledge today is not as laboured as, say a decade ago.
But on interaction, some of today’s students, those who will have attained more than a colouring of the five Ordinary Level subjects and even proceeded to Advanced Level, and attained more than the average points, seem blank. In actual fact, their depth of knowledge does not justify the so-many points they would have achieved during public exams.
Back in the day, whilst it was “general” knowledge to chorus all the countries on the continent and their presidents and currencies or their flags, plus a plethora of other useless trivia, which all this was over and above a real grasp of the issues of substance, it looks like the emphasis of today is to pass with an “A”.
Which leaves some, if not many of us, suspecting that schools are conniving to cheat their way through the exams. All in the search of glory.
A couple of years back the examination body used to run the Top 100 schools — either O or A-Level — soon after the release of exam results. This practice was discontinued, ostensibly on the assumption that the lists were exerting unnecessary pressure on schools, especially those that recorded 100 percent failure rates.
In a revised attempt at listing the schools, the examination body decided to list the high performers from last year’s A-Level exams. Same practice, different methodology.
The effect remains the same — there is always pressure on schools to be seen to be the best ones in the country. Agreeably, there are a number of ways schools can achieve high performance, amongst them offering good working environments to their teaching and non-teaching staff.
Or providing their students with environments that make studying and learning conducive. All fair and fine.
But there are other cheaper and easier ways — outright cheating.
Though there has been no substantiating of the claims, there are reports that some schools open exam papers and go on to teach their students exactly what to expect in the exam. They even go to the extent of writing mock exams.
The result, besides the abnormally high pass rates, is that the students produced there from are devoid of depth and character, such that when they are let loose into the open world, they struggle.
It would be interesting, quite interesting, on another day and hour, to trace all those students who scored highly in the local exams, and see what they have gone on to become in real life.
So last week’s announcement, that O-Level students have to rewrite the English Paper 2 examination should not come as much of a surprise. Papers have been leaking. Pointedly, it is not the first time that Zimsec is ordering a rewrite.
Which leaves a number of questions hanging: if Cambridge examinations are being written in this country, under the same conditions as Zimsec, why is it that the local examinations are the ones leaking? What is Cambridge doing right that Zimsec is failing to copy?
Part of the answer to that lies in punishment. With every exam leak, innocent students are the ones that are punished and not the offending exam centres. If Cambridge exams were to leak, I am sure the offending exam centre would be censured outright. Why can’t we do the same with Zimsec?
But more importantly, why has no one ever been fired or resigned over these exam leaks? We have to rewind back to 1996, when Edmund Garwe, then Education Minister, resigned when his daughter was found in possession of examination papers. Outside that, and in spite of repeated exam leaks over the years, no corrective action has been done.
Why should innocent students, some who might have travelled far and wide, only waiting to come back to their schools to collect their results, be summoned, and with only a week’s notice, to write another examination?
In the spirit of the new dispensation and the new optimism sweeping across the country, it is only right that corrective action be taken. Nothing short of a firing will appease parents and guardians. Who will be fired remains the prerogative of those who oversee the process.
Honestly, during the 100 days in which we are looking for deliver- ables from the Government, we get this from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education?