ZANEC’S ANALYSIS OF THE GRADE SEVEN 2009 RESULTS AND GRADE EIGHT 2010 SELECTION
The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) welcomes the timely release of the 2009 grade seven results and the increased progression rates to grade eight as recently announced by the Minister of Education, Hon. Dora Siliya.
We commend the Ministry of Education for the steady increase in the progression rates from as low as 47% in 2004 to 65% in 2008 and to the current 71% in the 2009 grade seven examinations. We also note the progress towards gender parity in the selection of pupils to grade 8.
However, ZANEC is concerned that there is still a significant number of pupils (87,610) that were not selected to grade eight, constituting about 29% of the candidates.
This number is quite significant and will affect Zambia’s chances of meeting Millenium Development Goal Number Two on Education which is to achieve Universal Basic Education by 2015.
One of the key indicators for this goal is the progression of pupils starting Grade one through nine years of basic education. Ideally, achieving Universal Basic Education would entail all grade one entrants completing the first nine years of education.
In Zambia, however, various factors have had a negative impact on efforts to achieve universal basic education.
The grade 7 examinations and the cut-off point system used to select pupils to higher grades based on the available places is one such factor. Notwithstanding, the Education Policy Document recognizes the need to promote universal basic education through provision of additional school facilities so that every child has a fair and equal chance of being admitted to and continuing in school.
At its formulation in 1996, the Education Policy envisaged progression into grade 8 on a non-selective basis. The Policy Document “Educating Our Future”, with regard to selection for Grade 8 further states: “The Ministry’s intention is that eventually every primary school will be upgraded to complete basic school status, offering the full range of basic education from Grade 1 to Grade 9. In such circumstances, all Grade 7 pupils in a school would proceed without selection from Grade 7 into Grade 8 in the same school. There would be no need for pupils in such complete basic schools to sit for the Grade 7 composite selection and certification examination. As more primary schools attained full basic school status, the Grade 7 examination would play a progressively reduced role in the education system and eventually would be abolished.” P12.
A detailed analysis of the Grade 8 progression rates between 2004 and 2009 shows that the infrastructure development programme which the Ministry of Education has been implementing over the last two years is only just beginning to make an impact at grade eight level.
Despite an increase by 6% in progression from 2008, statistics from the Examinations Council of Zambia show that, infact, a higher progression rate of about 8% was recorded between 2006 and 2007. This year’s increase, is therefore a recovery from a decline of 5% progression rate in 2008.
This means that the infrastructure development programme needs to be accelerated in order to meet the classroom requirements at upper basic level. Government therefore will require a long, sustained and well balanced programme for infrastructure development in the coming years. The deficits in classroom space at all levels arises from lack of sustained investment in infrastructure in the education sector.
We note that Luapula and North-Western Provinces recorded 100% progression to Grade 8. This is commendable but these provinces have, however, recorded the least performance in grade 12 school certificate examinations over the years. There is therefore need to target them specifically with added resources to improve on the quality of teaching and learning.
It is interesting to note that community schools, will provide 1,800 school places for grade 8 pupils in 2010 when it is common knowledge that these schools are poorly supported by government; lacking books and trained teachers. In line with the policy framework for community schools, we wish to urge government to ensure that it meets its obligations to children enrolled in community schools as increased enrolments recorded by government have been attributed partly to contributions made by community schools.
We urge government to put their money where their mouth is regarding community schools so that the quality of teaching and learning in these schools can be improved. ZANEC is also greatly concerned about the small number of Learners with Special Education Needs that access the school system.
This is evidenced by the fact that only 250 candidates sat for the Grade seven examinations countrywide. Central province did not have, and has not had any candidates entered for the composite examinations. The Ministry needs to put in measures that will capture students with special education needs in Central province and countrywide.
Similarly, the Ministry should work towards upgrading St Mulumba school for the disabled in Choma to a full basic school so that it is in line with others who entered their pupils for the examinations countrywide.
Unlike the rest of the special education schools which provide full basic education currently, St Mulumba still offers education up to grade seven, forcing its selected pupils to seek grade 8 places elsewhere.
This contributes to some Children with Special Education Needs systemically being excluded and denied their right to education.
Released: 12th January, 2010