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Sweeping reforms for education


Pascalinah Kabi


Students from 70 primary schools piloting localised syllabi will not write Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLEs) this year as government phases out the certificate.

However, the learners are going to write National Examinations, which are school-based assessments to inform secondary school admissions.

The decision to phase out PLSEs comes after the Ministry of Education and Training introduced an Integrated Curriculum for Grades 1-3 in 2012.

The curriculum was piloted in 70 schools around the country, with learners going through  Continuous Assessment to monitor and help them improve their performances.

Under the Integrated Syllabus, Grade 1-6 students were subjected to five learning areas, resulting in seven subjects for Grade 7 learners.

The seven Grade 7 subjects are Sesotho, English, Science and Technology, Mathematics, Arts and Entrepreneurship, Life Skills and Social Sciences.

These are meant to familiarize learners with subjects offered in secondary schools under the new Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE).

The seven secondary school (Form A) subjects would further prepare learners to follow three distinct pathways – Artisan, Tvet (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) and Academics- beginning Form B.

Under the localised syllabus, teachers are more concerned about the abilities of each learner and expected to give a detailed profile of each student at the end of the year.

Learners can only re-do a class if the profile explains in detail why they must repeat as fail and pass marks have been abolished.

The rest of the schools will start writing National Examinations at the end of 2017 as government completes the localization of Lesotho’s education to ensure  it responds to the needs of Basotho.

Addressing 70 primary school principals in Berea on Friday, Chief Education Officer-Curriculum and Assessment, ‘Mabakubung Seutloali said government was prioritising education as one of its major “poverty-eradication tools”.

Ms Seutloali said the goal of her ministry had always been to ensure access, quality, equity and relevance in education.

“As a response to the above stated goals, the government has realised Free Primary Education as a significant strategy towards the achievement of Basic Education for All,” Ms Seutloali said.

“It is to this end that the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) developed the Integrated Curriculum and piloted it in 70 primary schools at Grades 1-3 in 2012, while the Examination Council of Lesotho (ECOL) piloted Continuous Assessment in these schools as assessment for learning meant to improve students’ performances,” she said.

“Dear principals, I am making a pause here because my conscience is not clear that we, as teachers under the leadership of our principal supported by the Ministry of Education and ECOL, have done justice to assessing learners.”

She further questioned whether teachers were making sure learners progressed from one grade to the next with clear profiles indicating what each of them knew and could do.

Ms Seutloali said this year, the ministry was piloting Grade 7 under the new curriculum.

“The new curriculum strives to address issues of relevance, coherence among subjects and competencies such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and cooperation, functional numeracy and learning to learn,” she said.

The PLSE, she added, was phased out after realising its main purpose was certification and selection of learners for secondary school entry.

The ministry had since realised that PSLE certification no longer served any purpose and that it was becoming obsolete, Ms Seutloali added.

“This, coupled with the ever-increasing cost of running the examination, has prompted several debates about the relevance and future of the examination,” Ms Seutloali said.

“That is why there was this decision by the Ministry of Education and Training to phase out the PSLE and allow learners to grow within the schooling system while acquiring knowledge and relevant survival skills.

“Ten years of free, compulsory and continuous basic education also implied modification in the role of the PSLE: from high-stake to low-stake. In other words, the ministry wants learners to have uninterrupted 10 years of Basic Education.”

Ms Seutloali further said the Integrated Curriculum was developed to “holistically mould learners” through the provision of a wide range of skills and competences.

She assured the principals that the ministry introduced and administrated Grade 4 end-of-level assessments as part of efforts to maintain and encourage a culture of good performance and accountability by the schools.

“These are meant to check the readiness of learners to proceed to Grade 5. Teachers are also encouraged to use these tests to evaluate the quality of their instruction to reinforce areas of weakness. To date, two end-of-level tests have been administered at Grade 4 level in 2014 and 2015.

“The assessment strategy is also aimed at guarding against possible decline in performance standards in the schools as we pave way for the phase-out.

“It is for this reason that Grade 7 learners will sit an achievement test in the following subjects – English, Sesotho, Science and Technology, Mathematics, Social Sciences and Arts and Entrepreneurship.”

Life Skills, she added, would be assessed through a task in which learners can demonstrate their emotions and feelings.

Ms Seutloali said schools would be provided with the task and teachers observe learners as they perform the chore and evaluate their emotional status and attitude.

According to Ms Seutloali, the results would be sent to ECOL for incorporation into learners’ profiles while Arts and Entrepreneurship are to be assessed through a project.

“Guidelines will be sent to schools and the performance of learners will be completed using a provided marking sheet. This will also be forwarded to ECOL.

“Once the performance of learners has been processed, they will receive statements of achievements indicating their levels of competence in different subjects and content areas,” Ms Seutloali said.

She further noted Grade 7 learners would then proceed to Grade 8 using a catchment-feeder system, where students are to be encouraged to go to identified schools close to their homes to ensure they stayed with their parents.

She further said top performers in the achievement tests would be distributed to identified model schools around the country to encourage them to follow scientifically and mathematically oriented careers.

“At the end of Grade 10, learners will sit an exit examination. At this point, they will have a choice to either continue with their education to certificate, diploma or degree level in Tvet or Academics,” she said.

“Learners following artisan streams can only go as far as Basic Education and obtain Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications.

“Strides have been made in an effort to prepare for the phasing out of the PSLE. Preparations are already underway for the development of achievement tests. Schools should receive sample papers by April 2016 in order to prepare learners for the assessments. However, a lot still remains to be achieved in order to make the integrated curriculum sustainable and valid.”

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