The 2012 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations, released on Friday, are already attracting criticism from commentators who say the results reflect poor performance and are a waste of resources.
Information from the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) shows that out of 111 781 candidates who sat the exams, 57 906 passed, representing a 51.8 percent pass rate.
Those who failed totalled 53 875, representing 48.2 percent.
Policy and advocacy manager for the African Network on Education Campaign for All (ANCAFA), Limbani Nsapato, on Saturday said the number of candidates who failed to obtain the MSCE certificate have consigned the countryâ€™s resources down the drain.
Said Nsapato: â€œThe amount of wastage for one secondary school year for the nation could range from K1 631 981 500 (about $5m) to K3 771 250 000 (about $10m), an average of K2.7 billion (about $6m).
â€œSince candidates write MSCE after spending at least four secondary school years or more if we factor in repetition, pregnancies etc, we can estimate that the amount of national wastage could be anything from MK6 527 926 000 (about $21m) to K15 085 000 000 (about $45m), an average of K10.8 billion.â€
He said in 2009, the Malawi Education Country Status Report showed annual secondary school unit cost of K30 292, which could come to about K70 000 in 2012 if inflation and devaluation are factored into the equation.
Nsapato noted that since 2000, the MSCE pass rate has always been below 60 percent.
He said the country needs to do more to avoid â€œthis unnecessaryâ€ wastage by, among other things, promoting hard work among students, improving the quality of the education system, improving infrastructure and paying attention to pupils in need, particularly those in rural areas, the poor and special needs children.
â€œOther solutions include investing in early childhood education and improving quality in primary schools. All these solutions require committed leadership and high political will that puts education first, vigilant civil society, and a mobilised general public which is ready to contribute towards improving education quality and fighting wastage in the system,â€ he said.
Maneb spokesperson Gerald Chiunda agreed with Nsapato that the failure rate is unacceptable.
Chiunda attributed the results to problems such as lack of resources like laboratory equipment and books as well as under-qualified teachers, mainly in community day secondary schools (CDSS).
Said Chiunda: â€œThe other issue is the lack of population control which has led to increased number of students relying on few resources available. Government cannot afford to cater for everybody. The other problem we noted was candidates failing to comprehend questions as their response lacked details to warrant full marks.
â€œWe observed a trend of poor writing and manipulative skills, especially for science subjects. Chief examiners noted that most students performed poorly in science subjects, particularly females.
â€œAgain, most schools did not complete their syllabuses and could not respond to questions based on the end of a syllabus. If indeed nothing is done to address these concerns, we shall continue wasting resources.â€