… as government is accused of ignoring calls by critical stakeholders
Melinda kusemachibi/Emmanuel Chitsika
Government insistence on the implementation of Continuous Assessment of Learning Activities (CALA) has created a cloud of confusion on the possible success of the programme as stakeholders in the education system are accusing the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) of ignoring their input before implementing the programme.
Click link to Listen
Under CALA, pupils are supposed to carry out projects and tasks in schools, which will constitute 30 percent as their coursework for the final Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) examinations in each subject area while the remaining 70 percent will be from summative evaluation in form of the traditionally written examinations.
Director of Information and Advocacy in MoPSE Taungana Ndoro said those who doubt the success of CALA will be shocked sarcastically calling them ‘naysayers’.
“The programme is a success already and naysayers will be left with an egg on their faces. We are doing this in order to attain Vision 2030. Continuous assessment is a necessary part of holistic assessment of learner performance under the competence-based curriculum implementation.
“This is an on-going system of monitoring and assessing learners’ progress with the aim of helping them improve their learning as formative assessment becomes part of their routine learning processes done within the school environment,” said Ndoro.
He also said the activities done in schools like quizzes, tests, interviews, projects and observations form part of assessment of the learner.
“This is a daily monitoring of learner’s ability to demonstrate the required competences in carrying out tasks. This covers all the skills and includes assessment for learner profiles.
“Learner assessment will also continue to encompass the more familiar end of syllabus cycle Assessment of learning (Summative evaluation),” he said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure described CALA implementation in schools as chaotic.
“The CALA initiative is the worst nightmare being endured by learners and teachers. Rural schools are already affected by Covid-19 pandemic and accessibility to resources is very difficult for students in rural areas.
“There is poor network system in rural areas that teachers are not able to research on the topics at hand. Some children live with their grandparents who are not able to read and write which will lead to poor results for this year that will not be a true reflection of learners’ exit profile, but a big lie to mask the crisis in the education sector,” said Masaraure.
A Zaka teacher who spoke to TellZim News anonymously said the implementation of CALA is very difficult in some areas especially to learners in rural areas as they have no access to internet.
“I teach Mathematics and Chemistry which makes it difficult for students to get practical areas to carry out assessments on. There has also been very little training on the exercise which makes the implementation on our part more difficult especially during this pandemic time we are in,” said teacher.
An Advanced level learner who refused to be named indicated that balancing reading, attending lessons while at the same time doing projects is very difficult to the extent that one could not attend lessons to do the projects.
“The pressure is too much as l have to balance reading, attending lessons and doing projects. On every subject we are doing three projects, as for me l do four subjects and balancing them is very hard. From 7-12 am, l attend lessons then from 1-5pm, l do projects at the same time l have to read. I learn here in a remote area where there is poor access to internet making it difficult for us to effectively research on the projects,” said the student.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Deputy Secretary General Munyaradzi Masiyiwa said government do every trick to implement CALA this year when it is not supposed to be done due to limited time for learning.
“We have CALA in a period of exams and where learners did not have enough time for continuous learning. So we can not implement CALA to students who did not have continuous learning for two years. Schools in remote areas do not have access to internet for distance learning while teachers do not have information on CALA and they do not know who should come up with questions. Is it the district or individual teachers themselves,” said Masiyiwa.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said pupils are forced to go into communities as part of the CALA research, where they mingle with individuals from various backgrounds, risking contracting COVID-19.
“The process has been marred with confusion because of limited timescales. CALA is a more like a commodity approach and does not work, resonate with CALA that we know as a product of continuous assessment learning areas. It is something coming from a barbaric militarism and does not commensurate with educational skills.
“The whole essence of CALA is the blending of theory and practical experience. But because of limited time, students have embarked on hiring other people and unemployed teachers to do this for them. Are we assessing pupils? Government must listen. CALA is funded by donors and the Ministry of Education is not reversing it because they want to receive donor funds. The unions were very clear that the government rushed to implement it,” said Dr Zhou.
He further indicated that they are not against the implementation of CALA but it has to done appropriately maybe after two years.
“Our point is very clear that it is not wrong to do CALA, but it is wrong to rushed CALA that seems to serve no purpose. It needs to be done appropriately and in stages starting with workshops, development of assessment tools. We are not against it but it has to be done appropriately,” noted Zhou.
National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) wrote to the ministry of education in June 2021 advising it to delay the implementation of CALAs until at least January 2022.
“Given that the education system has been heavily affected by Covid-19 national lockdowns in 2020/2021, a lot of catch-up is required. NASH feels that implementing CALA in 2021 is inappropriate and very difficult. NASH is greatly concerned about teacher incapacitation and the current low level of teacher morale and motivation in schools. The level of teaching and learning in schools is low at most schools and the current atmosphere is not appropriate for such a demanding programmme,” read the letter.
NASH also said in the letter that the Ministry should have first addressed issues at hand rather than implementing it.
“NASH is appealing to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to influence the relevant Ministries and departments to urgently address the incapacitation of teachers to help the system recover and function properly. The current environment in schools is deeply disturbing and needs urgent redress,” the letter read.
There are to be two forms of assessment namely formative/ continuous and summative where the former refers to assessment for learning while the latter means assessment of learning.