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UB don offers answers to Dow's many questions

Weighing in: Bulawa has suggested answers to Dow's questions PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Following yet another dismal Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) results a University of Botswana (UB) academic says studies previously undertaken on poor performance by students need to be retrieved to help improvement, Staff Writer OARABILE MOSIKARE reports

More voices are weighing in to the public debate on the recent shocking JCE examinations in which 66% of learners were graded D, E and worse.

UB senior education lecturer, Dr Philip Bulawa says studies have previously been undertaken on the factors behind poor performance by the students in public schools. “All we need to do is retrieve such information and determine what would help us make an improvement,” Bulawa asserts.

In the event that there are still some gaps, he believes further investigations should be done to find out the real cause(s) of the decline.

“Whatever findings we come up with, let’s not try and implement in all the schools, but rather pilot with a few schools, say 20 for three years or so. Piloting will be very critical so that we get things right.”

In his analysis, he says the problem is that the nation expresses concern about the poor results as soon as they are released, but subsequently heads are not put together to explore possible solutions.

“Instead we wait for the next exam and when results are a disaster, we express further concern without doing anything or taking any immediate action.

In this regard, we are all at fault as a nation. The Ministry of Basic Education plays a lead role on this issue.”

He does not want to agree or disagree with the Basic Education Minister, Unity Dow who earlier this week questioned whether a factor in the poor results was the acceptance by mainstream school of who should otherwise be receiving specialised education.

“Well maybe or maybe not. The Minister’s statement is based on her own opinion and not based on any empirical research to that effect. It could be a minor factor among several other factors at play and this needs to be established through research or else we’ll forever speculate,” Bulawa says.

Dow also told journalists that it was clear that there “was a gap” as the JCE results confirmed

“a disturbing consistency” of trending within the 30-35 percent range for students achieving grade C or better.

“Yeah, obviously there is a gap that can only be established through some investigation, otherwise we’ll never really know what’s the contributory factors to such decline in performance,” the UB don responds.

The Minister also said a tracer study of the candidates progress from Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) for instance could help to understand if pupils improve or become poorer as they transition from primary to secondary. Although Bulawa agrees, he explains that the gravity of the situation dictates they should not just look at candidates from PSLE to JCE, but a wider range of other possible contributory factors to poor performance.

He believes automatic progression has had an impact in that pupils proceed to the next stage before having mastered the one they are currently in.

“This is highly possible, but again without any research we can’t be conclusive about this as with other possible factors.”

Another question Dow posed at the press conference was what the influencing social factors on the subject choice of young people are and how they affect the way they perform in the examinations.

 In response Bulawa says: “This is a difficult one, but from experience at this, students' choice is very minimal if at all it exists; subjects are largely already predetermined for them.”

Lastly, he concurred that the much talked about Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) is a duplication of the Revised National Policy on Education.

“Yeah, there is some duplication, but in certain cases this is for emphasis. I’ve read ETSSP extensively and have also had the opportunity to interact with officers responsible for its implementation.

There are some very good things in there and if fully implemented it would go a long way into improving the quality of our education. As you would know, the problem in this country is failure to implement programmes or policies.”



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