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Opinion - Delay exams for grade 12 Advanced Subsidiary students

2021-09-27  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Delay exams for grade 12 Advanced Subsidiary students
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Bureaucrats at the ministry of education continue to assure the nation that for the first time, grade 12 exam results will be better, compared to pre-Covid-19 academic years. Undisputed basic facts, however, refuse to support the ministry’s assurances. For instance, records show that only 13 000 out of the total population of 804 000 learners in public and private schools countrywide accessed the ministry’s e-learning platforms during the several national lockdowns. With less than 2% of learners accessing e-learning across the country, why do bureaucrats continue to pontificate their love for Jesus on the altar of Saturn? On what evidence do education officials base their conclusions that this year’s grade 12 exam results will be better than ever before? 

In my opinion, everyone acknowledges the gumption of education officials when they talk of improved grade 12 exams this year. However, the truth is that 99% of Namibians distrust the ministry of education on historical grounds. Evidence shows that for more than three decades since 1990 and without any pandemic, and while implementing a shallow, less-demanding curriculum, grades 10 and 12 exam results for public schools remained below 50% of the national average pass rate. Many rural public secondary schools across Namibia have for the past three decades suffered zero per cent pass rates. In can hear some cunning education officials whispering, ‘what about HIV, and several drought and flood spells which ravaged the country during the 30 years since independence?’ Destitute and marginalised Namibians should treat such an argument with the contempt it deserves.     

The destructive consequences of several lockdowns caused by Covid-19 did not forgive the historically worst-performing schools. Yet, bureaucrats at the ministry of education have failed to present credible evidence of resources that were invested in public secondary schools to neutralise the horrendous conditions that continue to inflict serious mental health issues on most parents whose children attend poor rural schools. Launching a single interactive educational smartboard in an urban school in the middle of Covid-19 is an affront to the thousands of rural learners who still share one Maths or Physics textbook.

Against this bucket of historical evidence, estimates suggest that more than 50% of the 95 public schools offering AS level countrywide will underperform in the forthcoming exams. Academic wisdom, therefore, asserts that the education ministry should delay the upcoming exams to some later date on three grounds. 

Time lost for teaching and learning

Classroom research distinguishes between allocated, engaged and productive time. Allocated time is the time allocated by curricula to promote learning. Engaged time, on the other hand, refers to time that learners spend to complete a task. However, productive time is the amount of time that learners are engaged to really learn with high success. Educators countrywide agree that most grade 12 AS learners, particularly in rural and sub-urban public schools, were engaged with their lessons for only about one-third of the total class time. Across Namibia, both engaged and productive time was different across schools and between teachers. And here is why.

It is obvious that unlike during pre-Covid-19 years, the current cohort of grade 12 AS learners have been fighting continuous disruptions, including long spells of bad or non-existent remote learning opportunities. The question is ‘When will the heavily distressed learners, especially those in rural schools, recover the engaged and productive time lost to Covid-19?’

 

Increased workload 

Evidence shows that the continuous Covid-19-induced disruptions have resulted in an increased workload, leading to burnout and low motivation among teachers and learners. In the school environment, exams are said to be associated with mental health and social-emotional issues. In the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, learners, especially those from under-resourced homes and schools, are without doubt experiencing acute challenges with little or no support from their parents and teachers. Teachers too are experiencing untold trauma conditions. These reasonable fears suggest that a focus on exams, without first providing mental health support for teachers and learners, undermines current and future teaching and learning efforts, resulting in dismal learning outcomes. For a better return on investment, the education ministry should rather devote the scarce resources on promoting teaching and learning at the expense of exams. In my 12 April 2021 article, I ask the question ‘Whose interests do exams serve?’ In this article, I ask the same question differently ‘Whose interests are served when three-quarters of Namibian learners fail?’

University closures

Universities depend on the supply of learners from high schools, without which they will face closure. If we assume that reasons one and two above will potentially lead to massive failures among grade 12 AS learners, we can as well conclude that universities will have to give up some of their programme offerings, resulting in the loss of revenue annually generated from tuition fees. 

Also, poor exam results among grade 12 AS learners will most definitely be a red flag for employers. Additionally, bad exam results will undoubtedly delay the progress of career opportunities of many learners. Taken together, poor exam results will in the medium to long-term lead to increased inequality and reduced chances to available socio-economic opportunities among the current cohort of grade 12 AS learners.  The ministry of education cannot afford to be oblivious to the irrefutable truth presented in this article. Remember, trust is earned when actions meet words. Namibians are waiting for the ministry of education to deliver on its promises.


2021-09-27  Staff Reporter

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