HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsA Level selection, high pass rate, back under spotlight

A Level selection, high pass rate, back under spotlight


The subjects tackled in this column last week, the issues of A Level student selection, the extraordinary pass rate and Zimbabwes general education landscape vis–vis examinations, has generated some interesting debate.

Other than the very high pass rate chains of As at both O and A Level, my article sought to make comparisons between today and yesterdays selection systems, the quality of examinations, the grading systems and also the state of the education system then and now.

Basically, the article observed how todays children have all of a sudden become such geniuses that hundreds of them attain chains of As at O Level and unprecedented grades at A Level where it has become commonplace for students to sit for five subjects and clean everything up, to score 25 points well above the maximum possible 15 expected out of the required three A Level subjects.

The article also sought to interrogate how our schools, our teachers and our kids have managed this feat against the backdrop of a virtual collapse of the education system in the past decade. Put plainly, teachers, who earned Zimdollar salaries enough only to buy a loaf of bread, had stopped teaching, just as all other educational needs ceased to be met.

But most contentious was the selection method where, faced with these circumstances, headmasters tended to pick the highest number of As at the expense of students that would have spent four years at their schools students results, although not chains of As, clearly qualified them for places at the schools into which their parents would have pumped a lot of money in development projects.

While a good number of readers agreed with my observations, there were many too that found my analysis overly and unduly critical of todays quality of education, examinations and the product therefrom.

I found it needful, therefore, to share some of the views proffered for the benefit of all of us and to provide a platform for further debate on this issue. Below are some of the contributions.

Flame Enhancement: Yes, these kids are smarter by far because they have more access to information via the Internet, TV. etc. And by the way, we are not the only country in this situation . . . and it is NOT a problem. And it is not just Zimsec exams . . . kids are getting straight. Even writing Cambridge (not that it is any better than Zimsec) by the way, the kids are plain smart.

Thomas: I do agree with the writer of this article that the Zimsec grading system is questionable. I have heard university lecturers many a time complain that the current crop of students is by far inferior to yesteryears students in that they cannot present the higher order skill of critical analysis in their write-ups, which they should ordinarily have learnt and mastered at Advanced Level.

In addition, the current students, with their chain of As, cannot write a simple, coherent paragraphs such that it becomes difficult for these students to write reports, projects and dissertations later on at higher institutions of learning.

Pass Maths: Ideally, we need more A Level schools. Look, hard exams are counterproductive in that they create negative learning. The people who wrote hard Cambridge are the ones falling to run companies whose helms they are at.

Charlie: Interesting exam results from kids who share textbooks at a ratio of 5:1, whose teachers spend lots of time on strike, whose schools go for extended periods without electricity and other resources such as science laboratory materials, equipment, etc.

Pssst, by the way one boy just got an A in Ordinary Level Fashion & Fabrics, without even attending the class or writing the final exam!

Phylkudzai: This is a stupid article. The author is not objective in his criticisms of the system and Zimsec in particular. I can show you plenty examples of kids who have written both Zimsec and Cambridge.
The variance is within 3 points/ 2 As.

The truth is Zimbabwe is one of the few remaining countries where boarding schools are still concentration camps where scholars come to school to study.

As for employers who complain of graduates that are not skilled enough, what do you expect when you pay $350 to a graduate with a four- year degree? Companies are also not performing, why should employees?

J Mutimunyoro: I salute you, Tangai Chipangura. Your article is not only precise but factual and to the point. Headmasters should be reminded that they do not own schools but the parents that fork out the money are the main stakeholders. Some parents believed in boarding schools to such an extent that they provided the money to feed the entire school which their kidsattended only to be disappointed like this.

Munkanj: One thing for sure is that Zimsec is responsible for the mess as security of exam papers is not guaranteed. Furthermore, there are schools that are known for leaking exam papers, which is why their students score very high grades.

Biggy: Tangai Chipangura, you have the same eyes as me. Thank you for this piece of work. The chains of As are too good to be true. Zimsec, please help us. It doesnt help us as a country. Youre really tarnishing the image of our education system.

Tchikuku: Tangai, get your facts right. Many students who sit for Cambridge exams are passing more than those writing with Zimsec. Check official statistics. Generations always improve, teaching methods improve.

Why should you struggle with Chapter 11G in New General Mathematics when things have been made easier?

I know you remember this chapter from Gokomere. tchipangura@newsday.co.zw

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