‘O’ Level results spark debate

News Day

6 February 2013

EDUCATION, Sport and Culture minister David Coltart yesterday attributed the poor Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) 2012 “O” Level to the crisis that beset the education sector before the formation of the inclusive government.

The results generated a heated debate with a number of Zimbabweans calling for an overhaul of the education sector.

Coltart also said the decline in the pass rate was an indication that Zimsec had followed his instruction that standards must be maintained so that there is an accurate “view of the health of the education system.”

The pass rate for 2012 at 18,4% was marginally lower than that for 2011 which was at 19,5%.

Zimsec on Monday said the decline could be due to the increase in number of students who sat for the examinations.

“That the rate has fallen is primarily in my view a reflection of the extreme crisis in education experienced between approximately 2005 and 2009 when thousands of teachers left the service and many teaching days were lost,” Coltart said in a statement.

“Sadly, there is a batch of children going through the system whose education suffered during those years, and that is reflected in these results.”

Coltart also appeared to be backing the Zimsec theory that the decline could be as a result of the increased number of children writing the school-leaving examinations.

“There is one other major factor to consider — our “O” Levels are primarily academically orientated whereas many children are more practically orientated,” he said.

“Inevitably, this academic orientation results in many children failing whose talents are not academic. Whatever the case the results are a reminder that whilst there is still a lot of good in our education system, there is still much work to be done before we can say that we have restored excellence.”

The minister acknowledged the education sector remained in “crisis and it is going to take a sustained non-partisan effort to regain its status as the best in Africa.”

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said morale was low amongst teachers and government should give them better salaries.

“Results can only improve when teachers are at the top priority of the government,” he said.

A study by the Research and Advocacy Unit last year revealed that 70 000 teachers had fled political violence between 2000 and 2008.

Coltart has also said official figures indicated that 20 000 teachers were lost between 2007 and 2008 due to the economic crisis.  A Bulawayo-based university student Bernard Sibanda attributed the poor results to indiscipline at schools.

“During our schools days we used to be given corporal punishment if we failed to do our school homework,” he said.

“Now teachers can be sued for beating up students which makes it hard to instil discipline and ensure pupils concentrate on their studies.”

Zimbabwe’s sector once attracted students from neighbouring countries because of its high standards.