Saturday, 4 February 2017

Japan, Zambia Retrain Lecturers, Teachers To Improve Pass Rate

General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe
By Paul Shalala in Mufulira

The figures were embarrassing.

Pupils failed and their failure was loud enough for the whole nation to notice.

Social media was full of ridicule for those provinces which did not do well.

Copperbelt and Western Provinces have been the shining examples in Grade seven, nine and twelve examinations.

But the results from last year’s exams have even embarrassed the teachers.

“The results where embarrassing, we hope to change the scenario in the coming years. As teachers, we promise to work hard and change the image,” said Bernard Kamfuli the Headteacher at Mufulira Secondary School during a meeting to discuss the performance of teachers in class.

With this confession in mind, education authorities are now left with a huge question.

What went wrong?

Those charged with the responsibility of ensuring that standards in the education system are enforced, have an idea of what happened.

“I think we need to intensify the inspection of teachers in schools. We also need to help our pupils grasp what they are taught in class. I must say am disappointed with the results Copperbelt recorded but we can do better,” said Copperbelt Provincial Education Officer Paul Ngoma at the same meeting.

In order to avoid the report of the disastrous school results, the Zambia government has since instituted a number of measures to improve examination performance by pupils.

So far, a new strategy called the 16 Hour Policy is being implemented.

The strategy forces pupils to spend one hour studying after they knock off on a daily basis.

Teachers too are also forced to spend a further one hour after classes in order for them to prepare their lesson plans.

This policy is being piloted in Mufulira District on the Copperbelt.

“So far, the 16 Hour Policy is working well. Pupils are having prep shortly after class and this gives them an opportunity to revise what they have ust learnt. But we also need to check teachers and see how many lesson plans they had the whole term,” said Mufulira District Education Standards Officer Henry Mwale.

The failure late in last year’s exams cannot be solely blamed on the pupils.

A recently conducted survey  by two researchers shows that the quality of teachers and lecturers graduating from the country’s 106 colleges and over 25 universities are some how below par.

The research, which sampled hundreds of students from across Zambia, showed that the learners do not get the education needed for them to pass and implement in their day to day life.

“We discovered that when we asked the pupils if they were satisfied with what they were taught in class, most of them said no. Most of the learners do not think outside the box because we have not taught them adequately. So there is need for the teacher to be prepared too,” revealed Grace Chilekwa the lead researcher who is also the Principal at Mufulira College of Education, an institution which is the premier trainer of teachers on the Copperbelt.

In order to fight this inadequacy in the teaching profession, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of General Education have launched a K2.8 million program called IPECK.

IPECK stands for Improvement of Pedagogical Content Knowledge among teachers and lecturers.

The program targets those who teach pupils and the aim is to improve quality of what is being taught in class.

“Copperbelt and Western Provinces used to be the provinces to watch. But now the results are bad. We hope that with the coming of the Japanese, we will improve our record. Please teachers I urge you to change your mindset and deliver,” said General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe when he launched the program.

For the next five years, dozens of teachers and lecturers from across the country will be retrained to sharpen their teaching skills and in the end raise the pass rate.

Some Japanese experts in the education system are already in the country and they have embarked on the capacity building for the teachers and lecturers.

Currently, they are doing their activities at Mufulira College of Education.

Hopefully, at the end of this year when pupils sit for their exams, the pass rate on the Copperbelt and Western Province will go up with the help of IPECK.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was aired as a documentary on Morning Live program on TV2 on 2nd February 2017 and on Newsline program on TV1 on 3rd February 2017. The documentary can be watched on this YouTube link: Copperbelt Poor Exam Results Documentary