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Rising school failures is global phenomenon

Rising school failures is global phenomenon

“As millions of adults struggle with the math’s skills of an 11-year old, campaigners have warned that poor numeracy is ruining lives, and is blight on Britain's economy...” That's according to a recent research by a newly-formed charity   in the name and style of ' National Numeracy.' Reportedly, the NGO is out to “champion better math’s’ skills and the importance of numeracy for people of all ages” among Her Britannic Majesty's subjects.

The findings have the support of the British Govt., whose data reveal that “almost half the working  population of England has only primary school math’s skills!”  As if that weren't enough of a shocker, a bombshell of blockbuster proportions was detonated by “a government spokesman who said poor numeracy was a national scandal.”

But, near-utter destitution of numeracy skills isn't only Britain's disease. Illiteracy is/was also a major ailment. But, the 'National Literacy Trust' formed about twenty years ago has “helped improve reading and writing standards” countrywide.

A 2011 'Skills for Life' survey “showed that the drive to improve literacy was working, with almost six-out-of-ten people in England having strong reading and writing skills” — even as the level of maths skills was declining!” What this means on the grounds that about 40 per cent of Britons have poor or zilch reading and writing abilities in this day and age...

What was the situation like (say) 50 years ago when the Brits granted us the freedom and independence to conduct our own affairs, including Education? Sheesh!  “Only 22 per cent of people have strong enough math’s skills to get a good GCSE (General Certificate in Secondary Education) in the subject, down from 26% in 2003!”

Commenting on the matter, a spokesman for the Department for Education said "we're undertaking a root-and-branch review of how math is taught in schools, attracting the best math graduates into the profession." Perhaps we in Tanzania should do that, too, virtually taking a leaf out of the Department's book. This is with the same overriding objective: to improve upon the methods of teaching maths in our schools, making our pupils zealously take to the subject like fish to water. This'd help raise math’s skills among our people.

But then, no sooner is one surprise taken over and overtaken by another (usually bigger) surprise! As they say in Kiswahili, 'Ukishangaa ya Musa, Utastaajabu ya Firauni...'  One day after the report on Britain's 'poverty' in the areas of math’s and literacy skills, I read another equally intriguing report   titled 'Wanafunzi 2,900 wafutiwa matokeo nchini Kenya.' This was about examination authorities annulling the results of last year's exams for 'cheating.' [Mtanzania: March 2, 2012].

For a moment there, I thought there was a printing error in the headline, believing the country reported upon was 'Tanzania,' NOT 'Kenya' for Chrissake! But, no matter... Look at it this way... Cheating in exams in Tanzania's reported so often, so regularly and so flamboyantly that, for all practical purposes, the habit has become part and parcel of 'Education' in the country — and we seem proud of it!

“Despite improvement in general performance in last year’s Form Four national examination results (in Tanzania),” reported one journalist, “cheating incidents are also on the increase. 3,303 students who sat for the exams last October had their results cancelled after it was proved that they cheated!” [The Citizen: February 8, 2012]. According to the executive secretary of the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA), Joyce Ndalichako, the cheating/irregularities were in nine categories, including  students found with “cell-phones, notes and other reading materials in examination rooms.”

Reportedly, most of the 'cheats' — 2,896 of them — “had their booklets bearing similar answers... While another 155 candidates had either the same handwriting in various booklets, or different handwritings in the same booklet...!” The exam-cheating scenario is equally appalling in Kenya, where 2,927 candidates in 154 exam centres (a steep rise from 534 candidates in 2010) tried to bluff their way through exams.

Cheating methods are practically the same all over, mostly fueled by corruption. It usually involves teachers, invigilators,  relatives/friends, examination administrators: setters, handlers, etc. Indeed, the malady isn't confined to Tanzania. However, the fact that  exams-cheating takes place in other  ountries — and that even 'Great' Britain is home to many people with poor maths and literacy skills — is no consolation. We must guard against complacency, and continue to fight the blight single-mindedly at all fronts. Cheers!   israellyimo@yahoo.com

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Author: Karl Lyimo

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