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ZIMSEC: We’re as good as Cambridge
09/03/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
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ZIMBABWE’S public school examinations rank among the best in the region and compare favourably with the UK-based Cambridge International system, a senior government official has said.

The country localised public school examinations in the mid-to-late 1990s, phasing out the Cambridge exams with the establishment of the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) in a move that was partly forced by the need to cut costs.

But ZIMSEC has been accused of lowering education standards in the country and its credibility has been hit by endless bungling, including the leaking of examination papers as well as delays in releasing certificates.

Last year alone, some 13 Ordinary Level examinations had to be re-set at a cost of US$850,000 after a headmaster lost exam papers while travelling from Bulawayo.

Still, acting Education Secretary Crispen Boora told a recent Parliamentary portfolio committee meeting that the country’s examination system was still among the region’s best despite the problems.

He told the MPs: “Many of you were saying ZIMSEC has gone to the dogs but I think there have been changes and it compares very favourably with the Cambridge school examinations council which administers examinations in a few of our schools and in countries like Botswana.

“ZIMSEC’s challenge now is to maintain this stakeholder confidence and build on that; indeed improve on it.”

Boora said funding constraints continue to adversely impact ZIMSEC adding that delays in the gazetting of examination fees by the government have also worsened the problems as it affects the preparation of timetables and ordering of the papers.

ZIMSEC Director, Essau Nhandara, said Grade 7 examinations were among the worst hit by the cash constraints since some of the material has to be imported.

“Grade 7 examinations in particular are the most affected due to lack of funding and the ever increasing cost of procuring entry forms which we import as they are not locally manufactured,” he said.

“It is also difficult to have door-to-door delivery of the question papers. ZIMSEC itself cannot deliver all the question papers using its own fleet. Even if we were to do it we would need to be accompanied by security which is expensive and we do not always have the money.”


Nhandara said a newly introduced electronic registration system, which is presently being used for the Advanced level examinations only, would help improve the council’s operations.

“We believe that if this extended to the Ordinary level and by 2015 to Grade 7 it would greatly improve the registration process”, he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the high failure rate recorded in the 2012 examinations, Boora said there was nothing unusual about the results, insisting examinations set by the council were still the best and credible.

“The choice that we can make, a very painful choice to make as a nation is to go the South African way … that is to dilute the examinations … our government would not want that,” he said.

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