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Education system not ready for new curriculum

In March this year, the Primary and Secondary Education ministry announced the urgent revival of the continuous assessment framework for 2021 candidates.

The framework will be implemented for Grade 7, form 4 and Upper 6, 2021 candidates.

The programme is part of the 2015-adopted new curriculum, but had been shelved because of lack of resources, among other challenges.

Continuous assessment (CA) is a revolution from the traditional knowledge-based final examination model to a competency-based exit profile evaluation.

CA gives a holistic evaluation of a learner’s profile including an assessment of skills and values, among others.

This is a big shift from the final examination model, which mainly evaluates the knowledge bank of the learner after completing a course.

The framework serves us better on preparing learners for the competitive labour market and makes our learners potential solution holders to the multiple contextual challenges faced by the world.

It is clear that the CA framework has the potential of addressing an identified problem.

The policy framework can bring better returns compared to the old examination policy. However, policies are not implemented in a vacuum.

Systems should be put in place to ensure their smooth implementation.

A good policy, if poorly implemented, may produce far worse results than a well-implemented bad policy.

In the quest of dumping knowledge evaluation of a learner for the holistic evaluation of the learner exit profile, we might end up failing to achieve both.

At the end of the day, the outcome of the evaluation process will not be reflective of the genuine exit profile of the learner.

It is common knowledge that both the Ordinary level and Advanced level courses are two-year courses.

During the duration of the two-year courses, learners interact with multiple areas of study within a single learning area.

Teachers have the liberty to tackle topics in order of choice.

The new curriculum is spiral in nature allowing educators to build on concepts in a logical Bloom’s taxonomy, assisting learners to:

  • Remember
  •  Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyse
  • Evaluate
  • Create; in that order.

It is unfortunate that learners have already applied their knowledge in the first year of the two-year course, but the CA framework wants to evaluate the application in the final year.

In this context the CA framework becomes more of a disruption than an evaluation tool.

Teachers plan for a two-year course with clear objectives in mind.

Time frames are set on which areas have to be covered by what time.

In this context, of CA disruptions, the teacher’s solid plan is shredded to pieces.

Teachers may be forced to revisit a level of learning that was completed in the first learning year.

Syllabus coverage will be in jeopardy.

As we urgently pursue quality evaluation, we risk failing to impart the skills and knowledge to the learners and produce half-baked graduates.

It is our measured view that continuous assessment should begin in the first year of the two-year course.

We should have implemented for the current Form 3, Form 5 and the Grade 4s.

Teacher capacity building should have been prioritised ahead of the implementation of the CA framework.

We note attempts to hurriedly train teachers, including forcing them to be trained during public holidays.

We took a keen interest in the ongoing trainings. A series of interviews were conducted with teachers. The whole process is a sham.

The capacity of the teachers is not being enhanced, the facilitators are just ticking the box.

One teacher described the training programme as a “ bushgate scandal”.

The teacher alleges that the facilitators are more concerned with getting the “bush allowance” than delivering any service.

The trainings are another disruption to learning and again syllabus coverage is being jeopardised.

Outside the knowledge and skills capacity of teachers, there is another pressing issue of teacher incapacitation with respect to material resources for individual welfare support.

The teachers have been reduced to paupers because of underpayment.

These paupers are now expected to fairly evaluate learner performance.

We do hereby correctly predict that the majority of marks to be awarded to learners will be fake.

The teachers do not have both the capacity and the motivation to properly evaluate learner performance.

In 2017 the CA framework was abandoned because most schools could not afford to secure the relevant teaching and learning materials to satisfy the expected evaluation standards.

We implore the ministry of Education to educate us on how they intend to procure enough resources for our public schools.

If government fails to support our schools, CA will only serve to entrench inequality.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe

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