Continuous assessment of learners way to go

Candid Comment :Nevanji Madanhire
nmadanhire@zimind.co.zw

Students around the country started writing examinations this week. Due the lockdown some made it to the examination rooms, others didn’t because the start of the examination coincided with the start of the lockdown and the confusion that accompanied it.

Some may argue, justifiably, that the current examination should be written off; not only were the children ill-prepared for the tests not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also due to the continuous teachers’ strikes that crippled almost totally the whole education system. If the situation isn’t handled properly the country could lose a whole generation of learners and destroy the education revolution Zimbabwe is famous for worldwide.

An important question is: Can the results of the examinations written under the present conditions be trusted? The government, to save face, might claim the examinations were held in fair conditions so are credible, but the learners, the teachers, and the parents know this isn’t the case.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed the way of doing things in all sectors including, most challengingly, in education. Can we talk of a “new normal” in education? The answer should be a definite no because, unlike in other sectors where issues can be put in black and white, education is quite armophous.

Can periodic examinations, such as those written by learners in Zimbabwe every two years, be part of the “new normal”? The answer again will be a definite no. In an age where pandemics and wild climatic variations have become part of life can people really stick to the old system?

Zimbabwe seems to have been almost prophetic about a new way of testing the prowess of learners. Proposed in the Nziramasanga Commission decades ago continuous assessment should already have been an integral part of our education system.

According to Zimsec, continuous assessment is simply the assessment of a pupil’s progress throughout a course of study rather than exclusively by examination at the end of it. It has many advantages, and disadvantages too, but when the current vagaries of nature — pandemics and climate-change-induced aberrations of the weather — are considered the pros surely outweigh the cons.

Thousands of children lost the chance to sit examinations in the past few years due to cyclones and presently due to Covid-19. Because of this there is no way they can be selected and placed in tertiary education and in jobs because there is no known record of their aptitudes nor of what they’re capable of doing because both these would only have been established by examinations they sat.

This is wrong and can no longer be a feasible way to continue. Continuous assessment is now, without a doubt, the way to go. But it will take determination to implement it for, it’ll face resistance, as it already has, from both teachers and parents.

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