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NCE and Extended Stream : “Failures in the waiting”…

RAJENDRA SEWPERSADSING

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In a report (Nov. 2018) entitled “A Process Evaluation of the Grade 7 Extended Stream”, I alerted the authorities concerned, namely the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), that if the students of the Extended Programme (EP) are to sit for the same National Certificate of Education (NCE) exams as their counterparts of the mainstream, then, there is no doubt, practically all the EP students are “Failures in the waiting”

Practically all the EP students will come out of the education system as failures at the age of 16 without any certificate of achievement or attainment. Whereas, previously, the students of the Prevocational (PV) stream were awarded a Certificate of Attainment after their 4-year course (three years in a secondary school and the fourth year at the MITD).

In that same report, it was evidenced (through the views of the Educators) that the prescribed textbooks for the EP do not lead to the NCE. More than 75% of the Educators were of that opinion.  How come the EP students are exposed to a curriculum that does not prepare them for the final exams?  Another pertinent question:  Is there a final examination, in any education system throughout the world, whereby the candidates are prepared for ONLY part of the syllabus and whereby candidates are expected to answer ONLY part of the exam question paper?

YES.  And it is in Mauritius, where the MIE has come up with a programme to prepare the students of Extended Stream for ONLY some questions in the final exam because the MIE is fully aware that the EP students do not have the ability and competence to answer ALL questions on the exam question paper.  Despite, the authorities are adamant and obstinate to go ahead with the programme, not showing the least concern to the EP students and their education.

Requirements for the award of the NCE

The NCE will be recognised as Level 2 on the National Qualification Framework.  To achieve that Level 2 qualification (ie to be awarded the NCE) the candidates (students of the mainstream as well as the EP students) should choose ONE of the following options:

Option A – obtain at least a Grade 6 (35 marks or above) in SIX CORE SUBJECTS and at least Intermediate Level in TWO NON-CORE SUBJECTS

Option B – obtain at least a Grade 6 (35 marks or above) in SEVEN CORE SUBJECTS and at least Intermediate Level in ONE NON-CORE SUBJECT

Option C – obtain at least a Grade 6 (35 marks or above) in EIGHT CORE SUBJECTS

In all the three above options, English, French and Mathematics are compulsory and should be included among the core subjects.  The core subjects are to be assessed through written examination after 3 years (Grade 9) for the mainstream students and after 4 years for the EP students.  Whereas the non-core subjects are to be evaluated through School Based Assessments.

The Students of the Extended Stream

To achieve the minimum requirement and be awarded the NCE, the EP students have Option A as the best and most appropriate option available to them.

What does this option A consist of?  The EP students (through the advice and guidance of their respective school) will have to take English, French and Mathematics, then choose any THREE subjects from List A and any TWO subjects from List B.

As pointed earlier, the core subjects will be assessed through written examinations whereby the EP students will have to read, understand and interpret the questions. If properly read and understood, they will, then have to produce an answer in the written form. But, many EP students have big reading difficulties – no one can deny this fact – and still bigger writing problems. Consequently, practically none of the EP students will be able to answer correctly the questions on the exam question papers.

The Ministry of Education and the MIE will never agree to this reality because they do not want to show that they were wrong in their design and implementation of the Extended Programme.

Specimen Question Papers for the NCE

The MES has published on its website, specimen question papers for the NCE scheduled for Oct. 2020, but re-scheduled for 30 March to 8 April 2021 because of lockdown.  In my report of Nov 2018, that is, one year after the EP has been implemented in secondary schools, based on analysis of data collected from stakeholders, I concluded that that the EP could NOT be given the stamp of approval to go ahead.

But the authorities paid no heed; they were indifferent and unresponsive to criticism (and suggestions) from all sides.  Now, the specimen question papers for the NCE have confirmed my apprehensions and also of all those who have shown concerns about the extended programme.  I will not be able to produce copies of the specimen papers here (visit the MES website), but I will produce some screenshots to prove that the NCE exams are NOT to the ability of the EP students.

I have chosen one question for each of the three compulsory core subjects viz. English, French and Mathematics and the questions are reproduced hereunder.  Anyone who is familiar and aware of the profile of the EP students, will agree that such questions do NOT meet the ability of the EP students.  ONLY the authorities are of a different opinion.

I would wish to add that the Science is split into Biology, Chemistry and Physics and the EP students will have to sit for three different papers, all written exams.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would make an appeal to the Ministry of Education to re-consider the mode of evaluation for the EP students. Mainstream and Extended are two very different streams; how can we evaluate both streams by the same examination. EP students have the same profile as the students of the prevocational stream; they have the same learning difficulties and they come from the same social background.

The PV students were evaluated partly by continuous assessments, which consist of oral and practical assessments carried out in Kreol Morisien to check on acquisition of basic concepts, simple knowledge and desired skills and attitude. The continuous assessments make up to 50% of the total mark. The written exams carry the other 50% of the mark.

All PV students were awarded a Certificate of Achievement to prove that they have completed the 4-year course. That certificate was then replaced by a Certificate of Prevocational Education and was awarded jointly by the MES and the MITD. That certificate was of great use to PV students when applying for semi-skilled jobs.

What about our EP students?  They will practically ALL come out, after TEN years of compulsory education as TOTAL FAILURE without any attestation.  There is more than one year before the EP students sit for the NCE exams.  There is still time to re-consider the whole issue.

Put aside all pride and prejudice and save those EP students.  I extend my plea to trade unions, especially those in the education sector.  The struggle of trade unions should not ONLY be better pay packet and/or additional fringe benefits.  They should also fight for a better service to the respective clientele and the whole nation.

The EP students deserve a better education to safeguard their future in particular and the Mauritian society at large.  React now before it is too late.

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