HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsHeadmasters must stop the A Level selection charade

Headmasters must stop the A Level selection charade

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The extraordinary pass rate in the Zimsec O and A Level examinations written last year appears to have placed parents, headmasters of A Level schools and universities in a quandary.

There were celebrations all over the country last week. Everyone was on cloud nine because our children or some relative passed their O Level examinations with flying colours.

A chain of As in all nine subjects has become commonplace, just as 20 to 25 points at Advanced Level has ceased to be anything out of the ordinary.

Back in the days of Cambridge, entry into A Level was guaranteed for any good five O Level passes A to C grades. With the advent of Zimsec, the pass rate has pushed entry requirements so high thousands of children have fallen by the wayside although they, by their results, ought to have been in school doing A level.

This scenario is worth exploring and government must make its position clear with regards entry qualifications for A Level and university.

Either we must be told our children have become so brainy they should all proceed to university and therefore a deliberate policy put in place to accommodate all pupils coming from Form Four into Lower Six and thereafter into universities.

Or, government must bring into scrutiny the quality of our examinations, the grading and also the systems that are put in place before and during examination time this is in light of the numerous cases of exam paper leakages, a situation which Zimsec has reportedly acknowledged was difficult, if not impossible, to plug.

What has prompted me to bring this subject up for debate is the ongoing war at A Level schools where parents and headmasters are tearing each other apart over the enrolment of Lower Six students. Picture this.

A parent (he is one of several that I have met in the past few days breathing fire) has his daughter who, after four years at a boarding school, attained two As and a chain of Bs at O Level and he is told the school has no A Level place for her because there are chains of As coming from other schools.

The parent is livid and threatens to take action, even physical, because he refuses to accept a situation where a school where he has invested for the past four years contributing for the purchase of a school bus, sinking of boreholes, building of new classroom blocks and hostels among many other development projects will reject his daughter who, by any standards, qualifies to proceed to A Level!

After all, he argued, when the kids got Form One places, they were screened and only succeeded because they had the highest possible four points.

Who then do the schools blame when the cream that was trusted into their hands four years ago did not get the chain of As that the headmasters now demand?

The parents argument is that headmasters should absorb into A all their students that have attained the government-set entry requirement before they entertain students from other schools.

The argument is reasonable and it should occur to every headmaster the natural thing to do. But, with no statement of policy from government, you will find headmasters doing as they like.

There is no doubt there are school heads that are impervious to common wisdom and others who, because they head a school and have hundreds of pupils at their mercy, believe they have become brothers to the Moon and cousins to the Sun that they now occupy the realm of the gods.

This is the crop of headmasters who will treat their own students as trash the people that will sell places with bribes. This is the crop of headmasters that is responsible for the blemish that many schools are struggling to shake off.

Where is the logic, the morality, of turning away students that you have nurtured for four years, within which period their parents have forked out thousands of dollars to develop the school for the reason that you want only students with a chain of As into your A Level classes?

Back to the chains of As that Zimsec seems to be doling out like confetti, questions are raised about the quality of our examinations especially given the final product that turns up at industry, brandishing O and A level certificates full of As and Honours university degrees.

Employers complain of university graduates that walk into industry with educational qualities inferior to those of yester-year O Level dropouts. Without taking anything away from our genius progeny, there is a lot of truth in these complaints. It brings critical questions on the quality of examinations set by Zimsec, their grading system and the value of education in this country.

Have our children suddenly become such geniuses they now score literally four times as high as their parents did during the Cambridge and early Zimsec era?

That is regardless of the virtual collapse of the education system that we saw in the past decade where teachers were on perpetual strike or selling sweets in classrooms to supplement their worthless Zimdollar salaries.

tchipangura@newsday.co.zw

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