Private sector-initiated National Independent Academic Examinations Council (Niaec) has offered to administer Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) and Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations and issue certificates for the same.
The development comes almost eight months after Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), in line with ongoing Public Service Reforms, announced the abolition of issuance of certificates for Standard Eight and JCE to, among other things, cut administrative and certificate printing costs.
MoEST said the JCE examinations would instead be replaced with cluster-based examinations (CBE) as is the case in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, among other countries.
However, education rights activists have faulted government’s decision to abolish JCE examinations, arguing that the move would lower education standards as learners would be demotivated in the face of having no certificates at the end of the day.
One of the brains behind Niaec, Phyles Kachingwe, an education expert, said in an interview the institution has been registered and is mandated by government to work with Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) on examination issues.
She said: “Niaec was born after a research was done that underscored its need and relevance in the current developments.”
Kachingwe, a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants who also holds a master’s degree in change management from Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom (UK), said the research her organisation undertook showed that most people regretted the government’s move.
She said the results pointed out that a certificate is part of education that every successful learner must receive as a motivation for staying and working hard in school.
Kachingwe stressed that it is a constitutional right for every learner to receive a certificate after sitting for examinations, adding that right from the nursery school stage, a certificate adds to a learner’s profile.
She said the results showed that people still favour JC examinations because they are a key check point for students as they prepare for the tougher Form Four examinations.
MoEST Deputy Minister Vincent Ghambi said the non-issuing of the PSLCE was done because “no employers out there require a Standard Eight certificate as an employment qualification”.
He, however, explained that the decision to abolish JCE examinations “was not done by the ministry. It was presented to the Vice-President’s office as part of Maneb’s reform area”.
Said Ghambi: “Government has put in place a mechanism to mitigate any lapses that may have come because of removing JCE. We have, instead of JCE, put in place continuous assessment as a quality control measure.”
He said no formal meeting has taken place between MoEST and Niaec; but Kachingwe insists that some junior ministry officials have, on several occasions, rebuffed her efforts to call for the formal meeting.
Commenting on the issue, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) executive director Benedicto Kondowe said he feels the government did not robustly engage stakeholders before choosing to stop administering Form Two examinations and offering primary school leaving certificates.
Maneb also said unless it is instructed otherwise by the government, it is abiding by the government’s announcement on the abolishment of the Standard 8 certificate and the Form Two examinations