THE Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) has turned into a cash cow for teachers who are being paid to award more marks to candidates, while others are writing coursework on behalf of pupils, The Manica Post has established.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, through the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC), introduced CALA this year as a candidate assessment procedure that requires pupils to perform, demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency in their learning areas before the main exam.
Under the regime, ZIMSEC candidates’ academic aptitude is assessed continuously (coursework) to contribute 30 percent to their final marks.
Summative or knowledge skills assessed during examinations contribute 70 percent to the candidate’s final grade.
External candidates wishing to sit for their exams this year have to approach their examination centres for assessment.
However, a two-week investigation by this newspaper into how CALA was being implemented in schools revealed that rogue elements within the education sector were charging varying amounts to candidates willing to get high coursework marks.
Apart from being paid to award more marks, some teachers were being paid to write the coursework on behalf of candidates.
During the investigation, this reporter negotiated and paid US$10 to a Grade Seven teacher at a Sakubva school to write the coursework for a candidate purported to be under his (the reporter’s) guardianship.
A Grade Seven teacher at a school in Dangamvura accepted a US$10 bribe to provide all the required material.
Not to be outdone are stationers who are also reportedly making a killing out of services being rendered to candidates in this year’s examination classes.
Prices of basic printing services are now slightly higher as stationers take advantage of the candidates’ need to print a number of answer sheets.
Printing a page with written answers and pictures pasted on it, a service for which stationers charged 50 cents before, has since been doubled to a dollar.
One of the parents with children in a Grade Seven exam class, Mr Paul Sigauke of Dreamhouse in Mutare, said: “This is really bad. We are forced to pay the amount because if you do not pay, the teacher deliberately reduces your child’s marks.
“On the other hand, we are also bearing the cost of typing and printing the children’s coursework. The stationers have hiked their prices.”
Johnson Mutambiranwa, who operates a bookshop and printing business in Mutare’s central business district (CBD), said: “It is common knowledge that when demand is high, prices also increase. That is simple economics.
“We have increased the prices because there has been more demand for the services. It is true, this CALA programme has managed to give us more business than we ever anticipated.”
Manicaland Provincial Education Director, Mr Edward Shumba, said accepting bribes to award more marks was a punishable offence if one got caught.
He said a moderation exercise would be conducted at the end to ensure quality assessment of the work done by the candidates and teachers.
“Accepting bribes to award more marks is a punishable offence. We do not expect that from our teachers. We believe these teachers are professionals who were properly trained and must never involve themselves in such dirty work.
“We will also have a moderation exercise that will give a better picture of the work that would have been covered by the teacher and the pupils,” said Mr Shumba.
Recently, ZIMSEC allayed fears surrounding CALA, saying reliance on the old summative mark leaves a gap in capturing the candidates’ performance.
Speaking during a scholarship handover ceremony in Mutare, ZIMSEC Manicalandregional manager, Mr Robert Takundwa, said CALA offers authentic and holistic assessment of candidates.
Mr Takundwa said supervision of CALA would be rigorous in both Government and private institutions.
“We will ensure that there is rigorous supervision of the work done under CALA. This is what Government has adopted and we are geared to implement it meticulously with all due diligence from primary to secondary school. The strict supervision will be done in both Government and informal institutions.
“Private candidates who have registered for exams receive guidance in carrying out their CALA at the schools or colleges where they are registered as candidates. An examination centre accepts a private candidate on the basis that it has learning area experts (teachers) to provide such a service to candidates.
“My viewpoint is that CALA brings authentic assessment of candidates. Reliance on the traditional summative mark leaves a gap in capturing the candidate’s performance.
“Quality compliance issues are dealt with through examination centre registration procedures and monitoring as well as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s supervisory roles. In essence, all candidates — both formal and private — access CALA for authentic assessment under the new Assessment Framework and Policy,” he said.
Mr Takundwa added that training of teachers and supervisors was done by joint teams from ZIMSEC and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“There is really no doubt about the proficiency of teachers and supervisors, given the fact that they received enough training that was done by joint teams from ZIMSEC and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” he said.
Commenting on the progress of CALA so far, Mr Shumba said his office was still to receive reports of any challenges in the implementation of CALA.
“I have not received any complaints or challenges relating to the implementation of CALA, and I suppose the silence means it is progressing well. We are going ahead with the implementation of CALA and we are happy that it is progressing on well,” said Mr Shumba.
In March 2021, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education announced the urgent revival of the continuous assessment framework for 2021 candidates.
The Government said the framework would be implemented for Grade Seven, Form Four and Upper Sixth candidates for 2021.
The programme is part of the new curriculumthat was adopted in 2015 but had been shelved because of lack of resources among other challenges.