Outrage over Form 1 entrance tests

HARARE - A directive by the ministry of Education last week ordering schools to cancel entrance tests for 2017 Form 1 pupils and wait for the release of Grade 7 results has divided opinion among most parents.

While some secondary schools were already enrolling learners into Form 1 through application of their own entrance tests and assessment, government says this practice is discriminatory and violates the provision of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 of 2013 Section 563 and the Education Act Sections (4) 1 and (4) 2 (b).

Some schools have defied government’s directive, in particular the ministry of Education Secretary’s Circular Minute Number 13 of 2015 which provides guidelines on enrolment into Form 1.

The circular states that enrolment of learners into Form 1 shall be based on Grade 7 results and shall be conducted on a specific date each year across the country.

Lawyer Jacqueline Chikakano said she can only speculate on the reasoning behind conducting entrance tests as a parent.

“Schools preferred to conduct their own entrance exams because it gave them an opportunity to conduct their own independent assessment of a child’s all round capabilities as compared to choosing form one candidates sorely on the final Grade 7 results.

“Such tests I think enabled schools to assess not only what a child garners after sitting for the Grade 7 results but also how a child has progressed over the years, which gave them an overall idea of what the child is capable of and their general aptitude,” said Chikakano.

She said some schools especially private schools promote at greater levels, many non-academic pursuits such as sports whose capability cannot be assessed through the final result slip at the end of Grade 7.

“So overall I think entrance exams gave schools the opportunity to go through the screening process of candidates at length and especially, to have an opportunity of assessing children in line with each school’s standards and other preferences.”

Chikakano however, said one advantage to the ban is that it gives all students a fair opportunity to have gone through the full Grade 7 curricula before they sit for an exam which will determine which school they go to.

“Entrance exams which were held before the Grade 7 exams, more often than not came with a requirement for Grade 6 exams which was a disadvantage to students who progress slowly and who would probably be ready for Grade 7 exams way into the third term.

“Be that as it may I think the directive could have been given much earlier in the year, even at the beginning of the year to allow schools to conform accordingly in time,” she added.

Public relations practitioner Beatrice Tonhodzayi-Ngondo said she has issues with how some schools use these tests as money making venture.

“One school invited as many as 16 children to sit for Grade Four places when they had one place to offer. We all had to pay. That is so ethically wrong. However, I do not have problems with entrance tests by and large.

“Private schools have their own tests mid-year before Grade 7 results are out. This allows parents and children to make their first choice on the list, to go for interviews and then tests, which are not just about academic results but a more holistic way of looking at a child,” said Tonhodzayi-Ngondo.

She added that waiting for Grade 7 results mean only those with the best results get places ahead of children who are gifted differently.

“I think a selection process based on several factors makes sense. Some of us look at sports, environment, facilities, integration and it’s not just about academic results. So it’s tricky.

“I do not like how some fleece parents through this exercise but when it is done honourably so as to get the right children and parents into a school community, why not?”

Misa Zimbabwe administrator Annie Musodza said the scrapping of the Grade 7 entrance exam before results are out is a good move because it had become a money making adventure for most schools.

“The best performing school would call thousands of kids yet their capacity is only 100 students per stream.”

Muzodza said the final result after completion of the requisite years for primary education is the best result that should be used to select pupils for form 1.

“Why bother to write Grade 7 exams if schools are going to conduct their own exams for Form 1 selection?

“The reluctance from schools to wait for Grade 7 examination results is due to the fact that the extra cash they were harvesting from hard pressed parents will no longer be there.”

She added that if the schools want to continue with the entrance tests then they should call only 200 to 250 children for a school which takes 100 pupils for Form 1.

“Otherwise calling thousands becomes a money making gimmick on the part of the school.

“Parents fork out a lot of money hopping from one school to another in pursuit of the elusive Form 1 place.”

Legislator Jessie Majome said the scrapping is a blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional directive.

“Zimbabwe is in terms of the Constitution a democratic State one of whose founding values is the rule of law not the rule by decree of government.

“Government has no legal authority or basis to issue such a directive and I therefore urge schools to do defy it,” said the lawyer.

Majome added: “I would volunteer to defend them if they were persecuted for it. Government should instead direct itself to scrap Grade 7 exam fees which are unconstitutional as it has a duty to provide basic State funded education.”

Singer Diana Samkange said she always respects what government implements in terms of the Education system.

Comments (8)

As a country we need one system of taking pupils to form one not parallel strucrures as if the ministry of education is not there. The idea of entrance tests saw us loose money as parents. in some cases children who passed entrance tests were denied places when they did not get good points at grade seven, and that is something else. Then I see some schools boast of being capable of producing best students in the country at O and A levels when i actual fact they took students with 4 units at grade seven. Then they do not have 100% pass rate after all, so who is fooling who. Entrance tests ban is good move

dm - 22 August 2016

Entrance results are discriminatory the children in rural areas where certain general knowledge information is not so common. beside there is no quality check on the exam its self as it is set by the teachers at certain school. Its also unfair to expose the same child to two exams determining her/his success. Its not uncommon that children of teacher of that school are not subjected to the entrance test. The purpose of the Grade 7 exam is to assess knowledge of of both academic and practical nature as prescribed by the curriculum and enable the leaner to process to form 1. Now an entrance test to assess the same thing is unfair regardless of how school might want to portray. Rather the Ministry must decide whether to use standardized uniform entrance written on the same day in all schools and do away with grade & results, or use grade & results. How transparent is the marking of the test, what are the quality checks on this assessment.

amina - 22 August 2016

Mr Editor, I'm failing to read your article because I am already angry with its contents. Surely, why should grade seven pupils have entrance tests? What for? This is a result of corrupt teachers and headmasters who want to siphon already heavily burderned parents with s costs of entrance teachers. I'm sure even officials from the Ministry of Education are also involved in the corrupt scam. If they are not why are they not firm in controlling this corrupt behaviour. These are parents and headmasters who want to education the prerogative of the rich. Why not respect the national exams. Why do they want to take the cream only? Why not produce their cream out of the ordinary students? Should we therefore have entrance tests at "A" Level and at Universities? What then is the purpose of national exams? Then people should start producing their own birth certificates, IDs, Passports and dearth certificates because national documents are sub standard. Please minister of education, work up and control this mess. If you cant control these greed headmasters and illiterate rich parents, then resign and give us a chance. I can do the job. This silly debate has gone for too long. Please stop it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ziso - 22 August 2016

I beg to differ because there is a big shortage of secondary schools. Last year we had a situation of hundreds of children converging on one school wich required just a hundred students. Most parents had to then drive to one school after the other when they failed to secure a place at their first choice. What I propose are entrance exams coupled with Grade seven results. That way, its easier for the headmasters to mange and the parents alike.

Samaita - 22 August 2016

a fund raising activity

rmunemo - 23 August 2016

a fund raising activity

rmunemo - 23 August 2016

Entrance tests ban is a good move Manhie S (Educationist)

Manhie. S - 23 August 2016

Entrance tests ban is a good move Manhie S (Educationist)

Manhie. S - 23 August 2016

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