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Only teachers should handle academic matters, not politicians

14th May 2013
France Mdoe

The government’s decision two weeks ago to nullify Form Four examination results has received mixed reactions from teachers, civil society organisations and other education stakeholders. Our reporter GERALD KITABU caught up with a long time high school teacher in Dar es Salaam, France Mdoe, with whom he had a chat on the matter. Excerpts:

QUESTION: The government has nullified Form Four results and instructed NECTA to standardise them. What does this mean?

ANSWER: Standardisation is defined as best technical application consensual wisdom inclusive of processes for selection in making appropriate choices for ratification coupled with consistent decisions for maintaining obtained standards. In other words we can simply say standardisation is a condition in which a standard has been successfully established.

This announcement was made by the minister in the prime minister’s office, Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary affairs, William Lukuvi, who said that the National Examination Council of Tanzania (NECTA) last year decided to use Fixed Grade Ranges, shift from Traditional National Mean Difference (NMD) which also considered learners continuous assessment (CA) reports.

He further claimed that the decision of shifting to the new system was not supported by sufficient research and preparation and thus the whole implementation was questionable. Therefore the government decided to take measures to ensure that the standards are met accordingly.

Q: What do you think contributed to the mass failure?

A: It was in fact sad and so much astonishing to receive such extreme overwhelming news of last year’s form four examination results, with no doubt the news sent shocking waves to all stakeholders.

The new assessment system employed by NECTA might be just one among a number of many other factors which contributed to such terrible mass failure of which the government would also need to take into account. For me, I would say there were a number of other factors including teachers, students themselves, parents, guardians, government and the entire community. All these contributed to the observed mass failure.

Some students are the architect of their own misfortune and failure. This is because many of them refuse to read, play away their time and attend parties instead of studying hard for the examinations. Some even believe in the power of magic for success, but, they have always been proved wrong.

Q: How did these factors contribute to the mass failure?

A: there are many reasons but I will discuss only few of them. A good example is the lack of teaching and learning materials as well as qualified and competent teachers.

These normally affect students’ performance. For instance, many students fail their examinations due to lack of relevant books. Even where there are enough and relevant books, many students do not have adequate guidance to which books will help them best. For example, how does a student determine the value of a book in the absence of a good teacher?

I personally believe that there are a number of qualified good teachers who have opted to do other jobs or join some other careers because of unnecessary embarrassments and remarkable mistreatments from their employers, whether private or government itself. Teachers face very bad teaching and living environment. So, because of this mistreatment, many teachers have remained to be employees and not workers thus affecting the students’ performance.

Q: Is the government’s move a constructive or distractive one?

A: It is not a constructive move, but destructive and this could be a strategy of the rulers to create many fools so they can easily rule them. To fully address the issue of mass failure, a number of factors should be taken into account in order to develop long term solutions. When addressing such sensitive matters like academics, comprehensive solutions are required by working out the real causes of the problems instead of politicising the matter, otherwise we might be killing the snake from the tail.

Q: So what is the impact of this to the education system in Tanzania?

A: There will be more questions than answers with regard to our education system as to whether our education policy is effective enough to enable us, as a nation, to achieve our goals. Students might lose trust to the education system and thus develop academic instability.

There were those who didn’t sit for the exam and their results were out. I think standardisation has nothing to do with these students, but then how do we get to identify them? Such phenomenon and more others degrade our education system. This kind of politics in the national exam results, if not handled carefully, might be repeating every year in different styles.

The world is changing, we as a nation have to change as well by copying the changing technology and the emerging new students’ behaviour. We have a number of students who wouldn’t like to study hard to meet their ambitions; however, we have also a good number of students who would want to pass without studying hard. So, in this situation, we are discouraging hard workers and encouraging laziness.

Q: What is your advice?

A: Development of any nation is rooted in a good education system and the teachers are the ones who must be seated on the driving seat and not politicians. Therefore, the teaching career should be respected, not every body who stands and speaks can be a good teacher. Teaching is a profession which is guided by principles, codes and conducts. If we really need to take a step ahead, let the academic matters be handled by qualified teachers and not politics. I call on the government to create a conducive environment for teachers for them to be committed to this course, to fully exercise their potentials without being interfered for personal interests. If private schools, like seminaries can make it, why not public schools and community schools?

Again, I also would like to call on the media fraternity, especially some radio and TV stations to abide to media ethics because some of them have been inviting and offering free air time to students who wrote ridiculous answers on their papers in their final exams. Some were invited as if they did a good thing. Well, they might be fulfilling their duties as journalists but any duty that doesn’t weigh repercussions ends up destroying and not building because it encourages other students of the kind to develop similar habits.

However, we urgently need to review our curriculum for competent students who would cope with the fast science and technological changing world. This is a time for change, let us be agents for change.