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Frustrations creep in after JCE abolition

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Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology says its recent inspection of some secondary schools in the country has shown that school authorities and learners are frustrated with the abolition of Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations.

The Ministry abolished JCE in 2015 as a cost-cutting measure at the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb), among other reasons.

Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology, Elias Chakwera, has said the committee’s assessment in the past months gathered sentiments of unhappiness.

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Chakwera said the learners they talked to are frustrated with the prospects of preparing for examinations that will only come after four years.

“Four years is too long for the students to prepare for examinations. Unless there are some examinations in between, it will be difficult to prepare. They are not sure of what to expect and how to cope with the examination that takes four years to come,” Chakwera said.

When the decision to abolish JCE was made, government said it would promote the practice of continuous assessment in secondary schools but, according to Chakwera, authorities in schools told the committee that it is difficult to do such an assessment considering large class sizes and absence of materials.

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“Schools are just operating without the promised continuous assessments,” he said.

Chakwera said, time permitting, the committee will present a comprehensive report on the matter during the November meeting of Parliament.

Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, said stakeholders in the education sector already highlighted some of the challenges JCE abolition could bring.

“We did indicate that the decision needed further consultations and if that is the decision that Malawians would support, government needed to prepare for the same. One aspect that government promised to undertake was introduction of continuous assessment and we did highlight that with big classes, continuous assessment is almost improbable.

“Therefore, government needed to come up with a very clear strategy to ensure that learners are kept busy until they sit MSCE examinations,” Kondowe said.

He said the assessment by the civil society indeed revealed that schools were not doing continuous assessment, a development not good for learning.

Making a formal announcement of the JCE phasing out in October 2015, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Emmanuel Fabiano, said the ministry had plans to strengthen the cluster examination system.

Fabiano told the media then that the system would be used as part of secondary school teacher development activity and students learning hubs in line with the plans of the ministry which intended to resource the cluster centres.

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