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Education Minister's update to Parliament on 2010 examinatio...
Education Minister's update to Parliament on 2010 examinations

STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT ON THE 2010 EXAMINATION UPDATE

STATEMENT

MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT (MS VENSON-MOITOI): I thank you very, very much Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, thank you for according me this opportunity to brief this Honourable House and Honourable Members on the conduct of the 2010 examinations. These examinations will end next week on 24th November 2010.

Botswana Examination Council Mandate

Madam Speaker, the Botswana Examination Council (BEC) is a duly constituted body established by an Act of Parliament as a professional examinations body with a mandate to conduct national examinations at Primary, Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary levels. It is a State Agency and has been delegated the authority to conduct examinations and award certificates (or qualifications). As part of fulfilling its mandate, BEC determines the manner in which examinations are conducted. BEC also regulates the conduct of examinations in all examination centres (private and government schools). BEC periodically engages teachers for short term contracts (1 to 3 weeks) to perform some examination tasks such as moderation and marking of examinations. Out of the whole population of teachers which stands at 26,000, only about 6,558 are usually required to undertake these tasks, translating into 25 per cent of the teaching force.

The Conduct of the 2010 Examinations

Madam Speaker, the 2010 examinations were conducted under very difficult conditions. While examinations in most schools across all levels were conducted under a peaceful and orderly environment, there were incidents of disturbance that have been recorded in some schools. It is indeed true that mistakes were committed by some invigilators, some possibly deliberate whilst others were legitimate mistakes. There are procedures that are in place which are employed to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged.

It is important to note that most, if not all irregularities such as the swapping of papers or the use of a provisional timetable, occurred in schools where examinations were supervised and invigilated by experienced school teachers (managers and invigilators) in their own schools. Such mistakes cannot, therefore, be attributed to the process of engaging invigilators who are not practicing teachers.

Madam Speaker, 94 per cent of primary school teachers participated in the 2010 Examination while 44 per cent Junior Secondary teachers participated. Only 38 per cent of the Senior Secondary school teachers participated in the conduct of the BGCSE Examinations.

Madam Speaker, occurrences of irregularities and incidents of examination malpractice are common in all large scale assessments. Examination boards or councils all over the world face this challenge. Within our context, such unwelcome practices have always been detected and dealt with as a result of the vigilance of the Botswana Examination Council. We have had cases of impersonation in 2008 and 2009 which were dealt with in accordance with the regulations. In 2009, there was also an incident where one of the centres leaked papers to students. In another incident in 2009, an officer in one of the centres stole papers and sold them to candidates and appropriate measures were taken to deal with this matter. The already mentioned incidents did not receive much publicity compared to those that occurred this year. The perceived magnitude of the malpractice that occurred this year was as a result of the hostile environment within which the examinations were conducted. That as it may be, what the public missed was the vigilance BEC exercised resulting with more of these malpractices being detected and remedial action instituted.

I am pleased to report that the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) marking has been successfully completed. All papers except Agriculture were multiple choice questions and were scored using computerised process. A total of 1,041 PSLE examiners participated in the marking of English, Setswana, Agriculture and Standard setting. These were all practicing primary school teachers. I would like to take this opportunity to honour these teachers and greatly appreciate their commitment to the welfare of the students that they have been teaching for the past 7 years.

Applications for the marking of the JC and BGCSE examinations have been coming in and some teachers have decided to participate. An assessment will be made next week to determine whether there will be enough numbers to manage the marking of both Junior Certificate and BGCSE examinations. To successfully carry out the marking, we need 1,583 JC markers and 1,595 BGCSE markers. There is still uncertainty in the numbers that BEC will be able to contract to mark the JC and BGCSE examinations. Because of this uncertainty and to avoid any risk being taken with the marking, I have advised BEC to consider sending the 2010 BGCSE papers to Cambridge for marking in the event that they do not get sufficient numbers.

I must inform this House that a large number of teachers under instruction from their Unions have refused to hand in Coursework marks. I still have hope that this matter will be resolved.

The events associated with the conduct of this year’s examination should not be used to gauge our relationship with teacher unions. Since I took over at the Ministry, I have steadfastly pursued a course of action geared towards building a strong relationship with teacher unions. We are committed to ensuring that we continue to work with the unions for the betterment of the welfare of teachers as well as delivering quality education to our children.

I may be accused of being one sided in this event, it is true that I have paid more attention to having the children write their examination with as little disturbance as possible. Yes, I did request the unions to suspend engagement with the Ministry during the period of the examination again purely to limit disturbance around the examinations. Whilst all this is true, never did I at any moment pronounce the conditions of service for teachers any less of my priority. In these situations one does occasionally make unpopular choices, but to succeed at some things, these choices have to be made to avoid failure on all fronts.

I am very much aware that some might not be comfortable with what His Excellency, the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama said during the state of the nation address as he stated that examinations went well. This statement must be taken in the context that the Ministry did not hide any of the mistakes that occurred during this year’s examinations. It must also be noted that any such mistakes were treated with urgency and corrected accordingly. I would therefore like to reassure the Nation that despite all the hurdles encountered, by comparison with general conduct of examinations of this magnitude, our examinations did go well.

I am happy to announce my conclusion that the 2010 Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) will be released later on today by BEC. I have also myself the opportunity to deliver a copy for the Speaker’s parlour, one for the Parliament Library and yet another copy for the Members’ Lobby to praise themselves.

Finally, I have a summarized version of the assessment of the PSLE which will be distributed to Honourable Members to read the basis of the statement in more details. I thank you Madam Speaker.

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