ACADEMICIAN Joe Kasaka says the grade seven automatic promotions and expiry of examination numbers require revisiting urgently as they pose more disadvantages than advantages to the learners.
Kasaka said the observations by National Action for Quality Education in Zambia on the automatic promotion to grade eight of grade seven examination candidates and the expiry of examination numbers require serious attention as the two hinge on the future of children.
He said Zambia as a country had approximately 200,000 children who were out of school as espoused by education statistical bulletin (ESB) of 2019 and that entails that all efforts should be concentrated on ensuring that all pupils were in schools rather than promulgating policies that had the potential to increase the out of school children.
Kasaka said the government policy at grade seven was automatic promotion to grade eight where there were enough places.
“Grade seven pass rate does not, therefore, measure learning achievement; rather it shows how adequate absorptive capacities are at grade eight levels in different provinces. This is one of the problems that NAQEZ and indeed many educationists like myself have observed. Firstly, if the progression was automatic just like progressing from grade one to grade two, why is the Examination Council of Zambia (ECZ) wasting taxpayers’ money on grade seven examinations?” he asked.
Kasaka said examinations were designed to achieve certain goals and if the examination was not achieving any of the intended goals, then it was worthless having such an examination.
He said the said policy was rendering the grade seven -examination a nullity and waste of resources.
“Secondly, the ramifications of automatic promotion of grade seven pupils to grade eight has a telling effect to pupils who can not find spaces at grade eight and cannot repeat grade seven due to the expiry of examination numbers obtainable at grade six. For example in 2019, the national total of grade seven candidates was 395,130 competing for the 272,128 spaces that were available at grade eight. The net effect was that children that were below par with influential parents got the spaces leaving out children with slightly better results but with non-influential parents and consequently dropped out of school,” he said.
“Finally, this space-based automatic promotion does not promote fairness in the manner children are supposed to be selected to grade eight, hence calling for pass rate transition. This policy does not reflect the Zambian perspective but appears to have been book lifted from alien environments and does not support quality education as espoused by various protocols that Zambia is a party to.”
Kasaka said candidates writing grade seven examinations were required to get their examination numbers in grade six and once they have used those numbers at grade seven, they cannot use them again the following year’s examination as repeaters but would require to get a new number, implying that they have to repeat to grade six.
He said the repeating might be necessitated by lack of space at grade eight for that year and possibly bad examination performance of the child in that examination.
“So, ECZ must reintroduce pass rate as opposed to automatic promotion at grade seven level and do away with expiry of examination numbers,” the lawyer and academician said.
“The two policies, grade seven automatic promotions and expiry of examinations numbers, should require revisiting urgently as they pose far more disadvantages than advantages. I can only agree with NAQEZ that they are a recipe for confusing our education system where children who can’t read and write properly are promoted to higher grades hence negating the system.”
Meanwhile, NAQEZ in Muchinga Province says it was very much ready to lawfully and peacefully demonstrate if the Ministry of Education would allow all grade seven candidates to progress into grade eight.
“We shall do this in the best interest of our education and the nation. For some time now, the organisation in the region had sadly observed that this policy of 100 per cent promotion from grade seven to grade eight had brought more academic harm than good. Allowing everyone to get into grade eight has seen schools in the province having pupils who cannot read or write. This has given secondary school teachers untold trouble when handling these learners,” provincial coordinator Charles Goma said.
“As a province, we are totally in support of our national leadership in calling for reintroduction of cut off points at grade seven level. We cannot continue allowing everyone to be moving up the academic ladder. It is academically dangerous and bad for national development.”
Goma said NAQEZ was also strongly against expiry of grade seven examination numbers.
He said this policy must be reversed because it had thrown a lot of learners in Muchinga out of schools.
“Our position is that those learners who fail the grade seven examination must be allowed to repeat and not to indirectly force them to go into grade eight,” said Goma.