2018 grade examinations were a major challenge – minister

By Staff Reporter

ACTING general education minister Elizabeth Phiri says the 2018 Grade nine examinations have gone in history as one which presented major challenges to Zambia at large.

And Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) Dr Michael Chilala says the examinations body “fell” last year and we will begin better next time and forestall examinations leakages.

Meanwhile, more boys than girls failed last year’s Grade nine junior secondary school leaving examinations.

Announcing the Grade nine examinations results at the Ministry of General Education headquarters in Lusaka yesterday, Phiri reminded journalists that anxiety arose among examinations candidates and parents on when the examinations would be written following the suspension, on account of malpractice.

The 2018 Grade nine examinations were written from September 24 to November 26.

The long examination period was as a result of the suspension of the conduct of the examinations on October 23 and cancellation of some examination papers due to leakages.

“The 2018 Grade nine examinations has gone in history as one which presented major challenges not only to the Examinations Council of Zambia and the Ministry of General Education but to the nation at large,” Phiri said

She reiterated that the cancelling of some examination papers and consequent suspension of the examinations, in entirety, was based on the reports that were received by the ECZ and the appearance of the Mathematics Paper two question paper on the Zambian Watchdog website.

“A decision was also taken to cancel six examination papers namely; Mathematics Paper two, Social Studies, Cinyanja Paper one and two, Religious Education and Business Studies, due to leakages,” Phiri explained, adding that a total of 78 cases of suspected examination malpractices involving individual candidates and whole examinations centres were reported.

“The six examination papers were subsequently replaced and the examination resumed on 2nd November, 2018.”

The minister disclosed that out of the 284, 523 pupils who entered for the examinations, 255, 449 candidates sat for it, of whom 127, 772 (50.02 per cent) were boys while 127, 677 (49.98 per cent) were girls.

“This represents a decrease of 53, 111 candidates from the 308, 560 who sat for the 2017 examination. When compared to the total number of candidates who sat in 2017, there is a 17.21 per cent decrease in 2018,” she said, further attributing the decrease to separation of external candidates from internal ones, among other reasons.

“A total of 29, 074 candidates were absent from the examinations, of which 13, 932 (9.83 per cent) were boys and 15, 142 (10.60 per cent) were girls. The national absenteeism rate was 10.22 per cent, representing a decrease of 1.82 per cent from 12.04 per cent recorded in 2017. Muchinga and Luapula Provinces recorded the largest proportions of absenteeism at 13.49 per cent each while the Copperbelt Province (7.08 per cent) has continued recording lowest proportions.”

Phiri revealed that 116, 616 candidates obtained certificates, representing 45.65 per cent of the total number of candidates who sat the examination.

“This represents a decrease of 9.54 percentage points from 2017. Further analysis of the results showed [that] in absolute figures, more boys (58, 974 or 46.16 per cent) obtained certificates than girls (57, 642 or 45.15 per cent), more girls (63, 009 or 49.35 per cent) obtained statements than boys (61, 439 or 48.08 per cent) [and] more boys (7, 359 or 5.76 per cent) failed the examination than girls (7, 026 or 5.50 per cent)” Phiri said.

“All the 116, 616 candidates who obtained full certificates have been selected to Grade 10. The national progression rate to Grade 10 is 45. 65 per cent from 52.76 per cent in 2017.”

And Dr Chilala said for the first time, the ECZ experienced a situation where the examinations had to be suspended for about a week and “we had to replace six papers.”

He noted that the performance of Grade nine examination candidates was similar to other years, “except for this time around we had a situation where the learners had to have a break and then continue with the examinations.”

“We are yet to have a serious assessment of the situation so that we can know what effect that may have had on the learners. These are psychological matters where the learners where ready to sit and then eventually, because of the leakage, we had to change the examination for the first time,” explained Dr Chilala.

“So, we will preview our situation as we go forward to ensure that the lessons learnt…. We take it that it’s not how many times you fall; we fell at this time. But it’s about ‘how do you wake up and continue.’ We learn from various scholars in leadership who have said failure is but an opportunity to begin better. I think we’ll begin better and be able to carry out the much-anticipated reforms to prevent leakages from happening in future exams.”