By Deogratias Mmana:
Education experts have cautioned the government to be prioritising quality, and not costs, when fiddling with public policy.
They have made the sentiments after the government ate humble pie and started, through Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb), re-administering Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations, which were abolished in 2016 to cut costs, among other grounds.
Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje last week announced that JCE examinations were back and would, this year, be administered from September 28 to October 7.
Former president Peter Mutharika approved recommendations by stakeholders in the Public Service Reform Programme to abolish JCE. The government was expected to save K2 billion for abolishing the examinations.
Commenting on the resumption of the examination, education analyst Steve Sharra said it was wrong, in the first place, to abolish JCE based on costs.
“The lesson to learn here is that, when making or changing an education policy, part of the rationale must be improving the quality of education.
“JCE was removed for reasons that had little to do with improving the quality of education. It had everything to do with cutting costs,” he said.
Sharra advised the government to use results from national examinations to gauge whether progress is being made.
Civil Society Education Coalition Board Chairperson Limbani Nsapato challenged the government to provide adequate funds for examination administration.
“The Malawi National Examinations Board should be provided with adequate human resources and security to ensure efficient and leakage-free administration of the examinations,” he said.
However, Nsapato commended the government for bringing back JCE examinations.
“JCE will help in providing checkpoint assessment before students sit Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations and it is expected that candidates’ performance will improve,” Nsapato said.
He added that JCE examinations would offer some sort of certification to those that drop out of school before their third year in school.
Justifying the resumption of examinations, NyaLonje said there was no system in the world that had no checkpoint.
“This year, however, under the leadership of His Excellency Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera and his Tonse Administration, we have brought back JCE in response to concerns that citizens raised but also because, in education, we believe that this is the right thing to do.
“There is no education system that does not have a checkpoint within an educational cycle. This is news to be celebrated by both parents and students; a big win to the education system in Malawi,” NyaLonje said.
Maneb acting Executive Secretary Dorothy Nampota said the board was ready to administer JCE from this month-end to October 7 2021.