The Sunday Mail
Harmony Agere and Emmanuel Kafe
With candidates scoring as high as 25 points at Advanced Level as well as the record high pass rate for Ordinary Level, the debate and interest in the November examinations has been feverish.
Could the improved pass rate at O-Level be because of the competence-based curriculum? Is it necessary for students to sit for five or six subjects at A-Level, when most universities consider only three subjects?
In announcing the O-Level results, the national examinations body, Zimsec, said 162 541 candidates sat for five or more subjects and of these, 50 664 obtained Grade C or better, giving a 32,83 percent pass, which is an improvement from the 28,7 percent of 2017, where 162 915 sat for five or more subjects.
But what could have been the major driver of the improved pass rate?
Educationist Dr Peter Kwaira said a lot of resources need to be directed towards provision of enough learning materials in schools.
“The results show that most of the pupils who passed the exams were from ‘established’ schools that have resource material at their disposal,” he said.
On the other hand, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima, said he is pleased that there is healthy competition to perform among schools.
“With private colleges we see some of them performing better now because of that element of competition,” he said.
“For a school to attract students it has to perform better in terms of pass rates because no child would want to go to school with a bad record.”
The Minister added, “But we are not in competition with them (private schools), we want them to perform as best as they can because it will benefit the learner at the end of the day.
“What we, however, emphasise is that they should register, because if they operate under the radar then we, as a Ministry, cannot keep track of standards.”
President Mnangagwa is on record encouraging private partnerships to improve the delivery of quality education. Addressing an infrastructure Investment Indaba organised by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in Harare last year, President Mnangagwa said, “As a nation, we are now in a new era where education has ceased to be a cost and must now be understood as an opportunity for investment and consequently a conduit for employment generation and economic revival.”
To this end, The Sunday Mail Society visited one of the flourishing private schools in the country to find out what they were doing right in helping the national pass rate.
Established from virtually nothing in 2009, Corpus Christ High has grown in unprecedented leaps to claim its place among the giants in the hall of academic excellence. With a pass rate of 96 percent during last November’s Advanced Level examinations, Corpus Christ is probably among the best performers in Harare district and has achieved this with a modest set of resources, as compared to some trust schools. Their best A-Level student scored 23 points, out of a possible 25, learning on a school grant and using borrowed books. And the 96 percent pass rate is only for the subjects graded C or better as opposed to the Zimsec grading system which starts recognising passes at Grade E.
This is the college’s own grading system to motivate their students to perform better. Corpus Christ High’s excellent performance extends to the just announced Ordinary Level results which, although not yet rated, are showing that the majority of the students have performed well. The school comes across as a model that can be copied by most public schools which are facing a deterioration in standards and dwindling pass rates due to shortage of books and unmotivated teaching staff. Whilst inside the past decade, the school has moved from renting premises at a local church to acquiring their own land and building modern buildings, with an enrolment of 850 students. The school has also managed to keep a constant pass rate over the past five years.The college has made these significant strides against stigma associated with private colleges, little resources and a difficult economic environment.
To make matters worse for the institution, the coming in of private colleges has been seen by some as profit centred business initiatives which operate at the expense of quality education. But how has the school managed to defy the odds? School head, Mr Samson Ngwandingwa, says their success is a result of hard work and professionalism.
“This hard work we are talking about at Corpus Christ High School covers both the student and teachers,” he said.
“Teachers are supervised strictly and they administer their work efficiently and proficiently. The students are supposed to follow suit in doing all their assignments on time, reporting wherever they are supposed to report on time, be it a practical subject or a theory subject.”
Mr Ngwandingwa said students have a lot of work which they are required to hand in before deadlines in order to push them to do better. We also offer after-school studies, for female students up to 6pm and male students up to 8pm.”
The school rewards performing teachers with bonuses, the head said. “We try to motivate our teachers by giving them bonuses depending with the number of As they produce. It makes them work harder to try and achieve academic excellence.”
The school has adopted an internal examination system which mixes questions from Zimsec, Cambridge and questions generated within the school by the teachers.
On suspicions that they could be opening examination papers for their students, to achieve better results, the head explained: “We operate under strict Ministry regulations and we have an exam committee which monitors all our operations in terms of examinations.”
“We have a double lock and three-tier system. I release the question papers from the smallest safe in the strong room, whose keys are held by the vice principal and the third key is kept by the third member of the committee. So all of us have to be present to get access to the papers.”
A director with the school, Mr Wilberforce Ruzvidzo, said the financial success and growth of the school was down to professionalism and adherence to Christian values.
“It is by the hand of God that we are where we are today,” he said. “We have been devoted to God throughout and as such we have been able to run the institution professionally, paying salaries and suppliers on time.”