Lowering of school exam grading sparks outcry in Tanzania

The Tanzanian government’s decision to lower the threshold for passing grades on form four and form six examinations has sparked outcry from educators and some politicians who say it will weaken national education standards and make the country’s students less competitive.

The Tanzanian government’s decision to lower the threshold for passing grades on form four and form six examinations has sparked outcry from educators and some politicians who say it will weaken national education standards and make the country’s students less competitive.

On October 31, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training Sifuni Mchome announced that the government was changing its grading policy on the two secondary school exams. The move came about after poor performances by many Tanzanian secondary school students on recent nationwide exams. In 2012, two out of three students failed the Tanzanian form four exams, which spurred the Tanzanian government to form a temporary inquiry commission headed by Mchome.

“They [the government] do not know what they are doing,” said Jovin Batulaki, 70, a retired teacher. “We need to tell the objective truth that failure is failure. Reducing the pass mark means our students will not compete internationally.”

The new policy will encourage laziness in students and “this is detrimental to the quality of education in the country”, he told Sabahi. The new system makes it easier for students to qualify for an A, B or C, which directly affects their eligibility for admission to universities, colleges and vocational training. [Agencies]

Yusufu Halimoja, an 80-year-old former secondary school teacher, also criticised the new policy, saying it would dilute education in Tanzania.

“Teachers are not well paid, students have no books, they are sitting down and teachers are not properly trained in the colleges like it used to be,” Halimoja told Sabahi.

The country’s education system needs to be managed by one state agency, unlike now when schools are managed at various levels of government, he said.

“It is not known whether education falls under the ministry of education, local government authority or town councils,” Halimoja said. “In the 1960s education was managed by one organ: the Ministry of Education. What is happening now is confusion. We have to go back.”

For his part, Seif Bashemera, the headmaster at Margaret Maria Alakok Girls secondary school in the Tabora region, said he was in favour of going back to the old system for grading exams. Under the new system, he said, students might graduate to the next academic level without being adequately prepared.

“What is needed is to invest in the training materials, to pay teachers well, to build laboratories and train teachers to the accepted standards, but not to reduce the pass mark,” Bashemera told Sabahi.

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