Higher levels of examinations are individually administered by respective institutions, even when they offer identical courses like teaching certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas. There are no national examinations for technical education as it is believed each institution is vested with a charter that also ensures competence is embedded in the way it operates, generally speaking.
In that case there is something thrilling about school examinations from primary to secondary and on to high school levels, with a total of 947,221 pupils in 17,051 schools across the country sitting for their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) for two days. In years gone by, these exams were set on an ordinary format of answering questions and expressing oneself, but this proved increasingly difficult as years went by.
A multiple choice format was adopted as it reduces the breadth of error and how to mark each set of answers, avoiding perhaps too many failures, to enable the pupils finish school with dignity.
Yet it is not even this aspect of schooling and setting of examinations which preoccupies attention of the public authorities during this examination season, but honesty and the proper conduct of exams. NECTA Executive Secretary Dr Charles Msonde made an effort to emphasize how stringent the council was going to be for those defaulting in their conduct, that none of that would be tolerated.
There were examination centres where misbehavior was reported last year; their candidates will sit at new centres this year, not reopened as it is likely rectification efforts are not yet satisfactory to remove the cause of the misconduct.
What is also alarming is that examination indulgence isn’t just on the side of interfering with its conduct to bring about faulty pass marks for pupils but quite often parents push pupils to do badly, so s to be available for other social chores.
Girls are needed by a portion of families for domestic chores including helping with younger siblings – and in some cases marriage is contemplated, only held back by strict application of the law. With free (or fee free) secondary school education now available, parents are resigned to have the girls continue with schooling – unless of course they aren’t selected, to their ‘joy.’
Such attitudes are symptomatic of the effects of generalized lack of employment the higher one goes, and inability to use education to find means of livelihood directly as all initiative must take a commercial character, where the competition is too high.
People cannot put their labour to creating the goods for their direct livelihoods in urban areas and even in rural areas the lack of assurance of water flow all year round is a serious limitation.
When such bottlenecks are resolved, school leaving examinations would open the way to life of self-management – knowing which vegetables to prioritize in a family garden, how to take care of poultry or getting the right breeds, not by opening kiosks all over the place.
It is a long journey to making full use of primary/secondary school education to make a living - but vital in combating poverty.