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JC results: Urban schools vs rural schools

Publishing Date : 27 February, 2018

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

The junior Certificate results have maintained last year’s lacklustre pass rate, making a slight improvement of a mere 1.2 percent increase, while the lowest performing school reached an all time low score.


Against the backdrop of growing concern over the negligence of education by officials, the pass rate has for the past six years in a row remained way below the 50 percent mark. The mining town school Orapa JSS reclaimed the top spot, after playing second fiddle to Nanogang JSS for the last three years.  Meanwhile Nanogang, which has been dominant, fell to position four in the Top 10 bracket. None of the schools in the top 10 bracket reached the 80 percent pass mark.


The results also expose the gap that exist between urban and rural schools, an indication which also shows policy failure in offering customised solutions to learners in different schools based on their needs. From the Top 10 performing schools in Botswana; three are from the capital Gaborone (Bonnington JSS, Nanogang JSS and Tlogatloga JSS); three from the besieged mining town of Selebi Phikwe (Meepong JSS, Makhubu JSS and Phatsimo JSS); the other remaining four are from Francistown (Setlalekgosi JSS), Jwaneng (Kgosi Mpe JSS), Orapa (Orapa JSS) and Mogobane (Mogobane JSS), which is a surprise addition to the list.  


Meanwhile the bottom 10 schools are all from rural areas, the worst performer being Tapologo Junior Secondary School in Werda, Kgalagadi District. The recently released results indicate that 90.8 percent of pupils at Tapologo JSS failed to get a grade of C or better.


POVERTY AND EDUCATION

The recent results were released amid diverse published studies and reports indicating that inequality and poverty is having a bearing on whether families, nations and individuals make socio economic progress or not. Several reports including the United Nations Development Programme which developed the Human Development Index (HDI) as a metric to assess the social and economic development levels of countries, indicates that failure to address poverty and inequality may lead to corrosive legacies and sustained poverty.


It has been observed that Botswana, like any other countries experience a link between poverty, education and health. School in urban areas, where there are little incidences of poverty do well when compared to their counterparts in rural areas. This means pupils in urban areas have a better opportunity of progressing to the highest education possible, while those in rural areas are unlikely to reach the top.


A survey from Statistics Botswana released a week ago revealed that Kweneng West is the worst hit by poverty, overtaking Ngamiland which was the worst hit by poverty in previous surveys. Kweneng is the only region according to the survey that has more than 50 percent of its population living under the poverty datum line.


It is followed by Ngwaketse West, Kgalagadi South, Ghanzi as well as Ngamiland. Meanwhile the North East district, Gaborone, Jwaneng, Lobatse, Central Boteti as well as Barolong areas are the least affected by poverty. These findings reflect the link between education and poverty, as evidenced by disparities that exist between people in rural areas and those in urban or semi-urban areas. The bottom 10 worst performing schools (See the inserted table) from the recent JC results are all from rural areas.


Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow last year conceded that there is a disturbing disparity between rural and urban schools, which she said is caused by various factors including the involvement of parents in urban areas compared to those in rural areas. Another aspect which Dow added as a factor is the socio-economic variable.


NO POLICY INTERVENTION

Although the results have been dwindling since 2010, and took a worse turn in 2012, Dow said she has no idea why the schools were performing dismally. Since 2012, after the introduction of a new syllabus and marking system, the JC results which were released never bettered those of the preceding year; actually they are becoming consistently worse in subsequent years.


“In the absence of an in-depth research into the root cause, we cannot certainly pin-point a singular cause for this,” Dow told a press conference last year after release of the 2016 JC results. “A tracer study of the candidates who progress from PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations) for instance can help us understand if pupils improve or become poorer as they transit from primary to secondary,” she said.


Dow said the tracer study would be used to establish various factors among them; if they are accepting into mainstream, pupils who should otherwise be receiving specialized education, if the automatic progression had an impact on pupils who proceed to the next stage before having mastered the one they are currently in, the influencing social factors on the subject choice of young people and how it affects the way they perform in examinations. There was a promise however by Grace Muzila, Permanent Secretary in the Basic Education ministry that government was already working on addressing disparity between rural and urban schools by prioritising resource allocation in their budgeting.


THE NEW MARKING AND GRADING SYSTEM

In 2010 government introduced the revised Junior Secondary curriculum and was first used in the JC examination in 2012. BEC was required to come up with new assessment designs that are aligned to the philosophical and outcome intentions of the new curriculum.


The new grading system has attracted a lot of criticism from the general public with some opining that it is designed to fail the students while some are of the view that it does not reflect the real performance of the pupils. The introduction of the new curriculum came at a point when BEC was in the process of changing the assessment at JC with regard to the way syllabuses were graded. Starting with the 2012 examinations, JC syllabuses were graded using a Standards-Based grading procedure and not the Norm-Referenced grading procedure used in previous examinations.


According to BEC, the move to adopt a Standards-Based grading procedure was motivated by the fact that it provides more informative evaluation of student’s performance and allows year to year comparisons of national performance patterns.
The Norm-Referenced grading procedure focuses on rating a student’s performance relative to that of others in the same cohort, while the Standards-Based grading procedure shows the extent to which the candidates achieved specified outcomes of learning.


This allows for detailed reporting on actual capabilities of candidates since their performance is judged against defined standards. Such reports provide information that is critical for informing the education system, policy and school improvement initiatives. Meanwhile another school of thought is that government should make pre -school mandatory so as to give all pupils a chance to undergo early childhood mentoring.

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