Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mock Exam Results

So the education system in Tanzania is as follows: Primary school goes from standard 1 to standard 7. At the end of standard 7, students need to pass a national exam in order to continue with their education. Students who “pass” the national exam move onto secondary school. I put pass in parenthesis because by western standards, the huge majority of them still fail miserably…I’m not sure what the grades are for primary schools but for secondary school, a 25% is passing….So, in secondary school, students study from form I – IV. In form I and form II students take nine subjects: civics, history, English, Kiswahili, math, physics, chemistry, biology, and geography. At the end of form II, students again need to take a National Test (called the NECTA). However, since so many students were failing the form II NECTA, in all it’s infinite wisdom, it was decided that although students still need to take the test, they can continue on to form III even if they do not pass the test (again, passing is a 25%). After form II students can drop physics and chemistry, so in form III and form IV, students study between 7 and 9 subjects. Again in form IV, students take a NECTA. The results of the form IV NECTA decide whether a student can continue on to A-Level. Students who pass their NECTAs are selected to A-Level schools, where they study a combination of three subjects. The subjects they study are dependent on which subjects they did well in on their form IV NECTA.

So every year, schools do what are called “mock exams”. Like the name implies, they are mock NECTA exams. Students in form II and form IV, sit for a week of tests to help prepare them for the real thing. This happened about 3 weeks ago in my region of Tanzania. And we got the results back today. My school was 34/204 in math and 127/204 in biology (I forgot the exact numbers so I am estimating a bit, but I remember we were about the 20th percentile for math and about the 50th for biology). That sounds pretty good right? We’re about average!

Yea. Great. 7 of the 104 students in the form IV at my school did not fail biology. Yes, 97 students got an “F” in biology. The 7 that did not get an F, got a D. Let me remind you that an F is anything under a 25%. A D is between a 25% and a 40%. Nobody got above a 40% and still we did better than about 50% of the schools in the region. Really? That’s ridiculous.

As we were looking at the results the other teachers and I got to talking about what the problem was. I said that I thought that the syllabi were way to long so that the students did not get the chance to understand the material because they were rushing through the material too much. The other teachers disagreed because it’s not like everyone fails, there are a few people that pass…the problem is that the students do not study enough, they just hang around and don’t do anything.

Let me tell you the school-day schedule for my school. Students wake up at 6 am to do “usafi” (cleaning the school grounds) They then bathe and must be in the classroom by 7 am. They have school between 7:30-2:00 with a half hour chai break. From 3:00-5:00 students have remedial classes, meaning teachers can enter the classroom to teach more – if a teacher is not entering the classroom, then students do not need to be studying, but most days, students study during remedial time. From 8:00 – 11:00 students have “prep time”. All students are required to be in the classroom between these hours. Students study plenty here! They are studying, literally, all day. How can people think that it is the students fault? That they are not studying enough? The problem is that the syllabus is so ridiculously long, the tests are written so difficult, teachers are not super qualified to teach (I mean so of them, I’m sure got 26% on their NECTAs and are now teaching the material), and students don’t understand English. I mean, why does it matter how much they study if the material they are studying the do not understand?

It’s frustrating. However much I try to teach…most of my students will still fail. And, I’m not even that great of a teacher. It’s difficult to learn the material the night before and then have to teach it. What this country needs is to switch secondary education to Swahili or primary education to English so that students would either learn English in primary school and therefore understand English by the time they reach secondary school or they need to switch secondary school to Swahili so that students understand what the heck they are learning about. The way it is n

1 comment:

  1. Hi. My name is Nate Bloss; im a PCV in Namibia. Ill finish in December and three of us plan to do some travel in Tanzania. Were wondering if you could give us a little advice.

    The questions we have:

    1. Can we free hike around Tanzania? We do that in Namibia all the time, but dont know if we can there.

    2. Were planning on coming into Tanzania from Mozambique. Do you know a good way to do that? Bus, train? Right now were just planning on traveling straight up to Zanzibar, but maybe you know of something we shouldnt miss on the eastern coast?

    3. Any recommendations for Zanzibar. Well have about a week there.

    4. After Zanzibar I wanted to head to Uganda. Whats the best way to travel from Dar to Uganda? Im extending next year in Kenya, so I probably wont want to do much in Northern Tanzania, as ill be able to do it next year. But for future reference, is there anything we shouldnt miss up there (other than kilimanjaro, i hiked that last december).

    5. Do you know what the visa cost is for americans?

    6. What else should we know about Tanzania?

    Nate Bloss