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Zimsec urged to revise grading system

By Whinsley Masara

The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) has been urged to review its grading system for practical subjects to enable academically challenged but practically gifted pupils to pass.

Professor Paul Mavhima, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education
Professor Paul Mavhima, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education

Researchers from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development said Zimsec should consider awarding significantly more marks for practical work so that academically challenged but practically gifted pupils can pass.

This was said during the presentation of a research paper entitled: School-based assessment a panacea for low pass rate at ‘O’ Level in practical subjects recently at the fourth annual research and innovation conference hosted by the Bulawayo Polytechnic College in Nyanga.

The two- day conference which was held under the theme: “Research based STEMitised Innovations: Solutions to revive Zimbabwe” is aimed at finding solutions to revive the country’s economy.

“Zimsec summative assessment criteria at O-Level for practical subjects seem to render the formative practical useless. Academically challenged learners with manual dexterity competencies are automatic failures. Observations have been made in fields like: Computer Studies, Foods and Nutrition, Fashion and Fabrics’ that most learners who excel in practical work fail the summative examinations.

“They never move to the next levels of education simply because of failure to express the learned material on paper. The formative practical mark contributes insignificantly to the O-Level examination;” said the presenter.

A researcher from Mutare Polytechnic, Mrs Chido Bvumisani said Zimsec does not take into consideration the daily practical activities which are done.“Assessment highly focuses on the cognitive domain at the expense of psycho-motor domain. It has been noted that psychomotor skills is formatively done but less evidenced as practical samples in the examination.

“Soft skills that characterise the effective domain are subtle to assess and therefore are neglected in favour of cognitive skills which does not paint the full picture;” she said.

Mrs Bvumisani said evidence has demonstrated that most learners competent in manual dexterity have challenges in cognitive development.

Learners valued practical activities more than cognitive activities.

“The assessment criterion currently in use fails to emphasise on assessment of soft skills which receive prominence in the new model. Subjects like, Computer Studies, Food and Nutrition and Fashion and Fabrics by their design, should experience the extensive assessment of psychomotor skills.

“Learners should be appraised on competences to be emphasised and developed during the practicum. Teachers should be motivated and staff developed so as to implement the new model effectively and soft skills should be taken into consideration.

“The study strongly recommends that Zimsec should use formative assessment to capture the splendid performance done by academic challenged pupils. This will turn the Us into As hence education will find meaning for them,” she said.

Researchers, leaders, academics, policy makers, business executives, civil society and practitioners in the area of technical and vocational education attended the conference.  The Chronicle