GCE ‘O’ LEVEL 2008: FAKO NEWS CENTRE ANALYSIS
A copy of this report and tables 1,2,3 and 4 have been sent to:
The President of
The Prime Minister of
The Secretary of State for Secondary Education
Honourable Adolph Ngale, MP for Buea Urban(elected)
Honourable Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, MP for Buea Rural(elected)
Honourable Jacob Mbange, MP for Fako East(elected)
Honourable Rachel Lyonga, MP for Fako East II(elected)
The Delegate of Education for the South West
Humphrey Monono, Registrar,
All school/subject inspectors, Fako Division
Charles Mbella Moki, Lord Mayor of Buea(elected))
Daniel Matute, Mayor of Limbe Urban Council(elected)
Johannes Njie, Lord Mayor of Muyuka(elected)
Richard Fombon, Lord Mayor of Tiko(elected)
Andrew Motanga Monjimba, Lord Mayor of Limbe II(elected)
Samuel Mokate,Lord Mayor of Limbe III(elected)
Prof. Vincent Titanji, Chancellor of
The Governor of the
The Senior Divisional Officer for Fako Division
The Divisional Officer for Buea
The Divisional Officer for Limbe and the West Coast District
The Divisional Officer for Muyuka
The Divisional Officer for Tiko
The Bishop of the Buea Diocese
The Catholic Education Secretary
The Baptist Education Secretary
The Presbyterian Education Secretary
Principals of all secondary schools in Fako Division and their staff
Parent Teacher Associations(P.T.A) of FAKO schools
The FAKO Community in
The FAKO Community in the
Other FAKO Communities in the diaspora
The editor-in-chief, The Post Newspaper, Buea
The editor-in-chief, the Entrepreneur Newspaper, Buea
The editor-in-chief, The Sun Newspaper, Limbe
All the Radio Stations in Fako Division
The general public, through their Mayors and media organisations.
I. OBSERVATIONS, FINDINGS
Education is of the greatest importance in Anglophone
Every student must have at least four GCE ‘O’ Level passes including English Language in order to gain entry into
ANALYSIS: SUMMARY OF TABLES 1 TO 4
GCE ‘O’ Level results for 2008 in Fako Division throw up some revealing facts and figures concerning performances particularly in English and Mathematics:
Ø Overall, the probability (chance) of a student passing in 4 or more subjects including English is 47.68 per cent (Table 2), which means that 52.32 per cent of students in Fako Division have to re-sit ‘O’ Level English if they want to go to university.
Ø Overall, the probability that a student passing in 4 or more subjects including Maths is just 18.10 per cent (Table 3), which means that there is an 81.90 per cent chance that a student in Fako Division with the minimum 4 passes will fail in Mathematics.
A further analysis according to the way the Cameroon Government groups schools in three categories helps break things down.
Ø English: (a) a student in a Catholic/Baptist/Presbyterian school has an 86.26 per cent chance (Table 2) of having 4 passes including English; (b) a student in a government school has a 43.61 per cent chance of having 4 passes including English (which means that 56.39 per cent of these students have to re-sit English just to gain admission into university); (c) a student in any other type of private school has a 22.23 per cent chance of having 4 passes including English (which means that a whooping 77.77 per cent of these students have to re-sit English just to gain admission into university).
Ø Mathematics: (a) a student in a Catholic/Baptist/Presbyterian school has a 47.18 per cent (Table 3) chance of having 4 passes including Mathematics (which means that they have a 52.82 per cent chance of failing in Mathematics); (b) a student in a government school has only a 14.83 per cent chance of having 4 passes including Mathematics (which means that there is a staggering 85.17 per cent chance that if they pass overall they will fail in Mathematics); (c) a student in any other private school has only a 6.42 per cent chance of having 4 passes including Mathematics (which means that the student has a dire 93.58 per cent chance of failing in Mathematics even if they pass overall).
Well done to
Well done to
Congratulations also to St Joseph’s College, Sasse; Bishop Rogan College, Small Soppo; and Baptist High School, Buea, for attaining Grade A status overall. The five schools named in this section are the GRADE A schools in Fako Division.
COMPARISON ACROSS PROVINCES
How does the division with the highest number of schools in the
Although we at FAKO NEWS CENTRE did not analyse the results of schools in Mezam Division, we noticed that their government schools did slightly better than those of Fako, especially in Mathematics. Christian schools in the two divisions performed similarly. We had to go down to primary schools to find those in Fako performing slightly better than those in Mezam.
COMPARISON ACROSS PRIMARY
Overall the primary schools in Fako Division performed well across all sectors (government, Christian and other private), based on the results of the First School Leaving Certificate examination. Congratulations to all the teaching and non-teaching staff in primary schools who always appear to do a good job preparing children for secondary school.
The good results produced by primary schools go a long way towards confirming that the problems with GCE performances are not down to the students primarily, but to the teachers and their methods. Two children of equal ability from the same primary school in Buea headed for different secondary schools in the same town, say, Presbyterian Comprehensive Secondary School and Cambridge College of Arts, Sciences and Technology respectively, would have a hundred per cent chance (a probability of one) of having the minimum 4 passes at ‘O’ Level in the first instance, compared to only a fifty per cent chance (a probability of half) in the second instance of achieving the same result (Table 1). Clearly, the student in the latter case is not being given every opportunity to fulfil their potential.
One reason for the relative success of primary schools is that teachers often have a class to themselves and teach all subjects, whereas secondary school teachers are supposed to be single subject experts. An under-achieving primary school examination class would therefore leave little doubt as to where the finger of blame would be pointed, the class teacher, whereas in secondary schools many teachers hide behind collective failure.
THE WORRYING TREND OF OSTRACISATION
Ostracisation has to do with exclusion from privileges; it is used here to refer to the practice by some schools of entering their students for the GCE as external candidates if they think the students have a high chance of failing with a view to boosting their(the schools) pass rate. So, what is wrong with this practice?
It beggars belief that a student would go through five years in a school, possibly paying high amounts of fees, only to be asked to register externally for the GCE. Often, the school has failed the student but turns the table on the student by labelling them a failure. The full extent of the psychological damage this potentially causes has yet to be grasped fully. Moreover, this practice distorts the accurate assessment of schools.
The practice of ostracisation should be declared illegal. All schools that enter students for GCE exams MUST enter all their students as internal candidates, irrespective of how poorly the students are performing. Schools that carry out such practices should be charged with bringing the teaching profession into disrepute, dishonestly wanting to gain an advantage over other schools in the performance tables.
FAKO NEWS CENTRE interviewed 80 teachers across Fako Division, made up of 40 men and 40 women, in order to elicit their views. All agreed (in the face of facts and figures that could not be contested) that results in certain areas were unacceptable as they compromised the chances of many ambitious young people gaining admission into
The recommendations made by the 80 for remedial action showed a distinct binary divide according to gender. The female teachers, all 40 of them, recommended the introduction of a rigorous method of teacher assessment by government. The male teachers, however, were split on this, with only 25 out of 40 wanting teacher assessment. Their counterparts, the remaining 15, voiced concerns with a system of assessment that would only potentially find out that all teachers are really good. This directly contradicted the view of their female colleagues who stated that some teachers work well and others do not, and expressed frustration with incompetent teachers trying to take credit for good results.
FAKO NEWS CENTRE spoke to some students and parents also, and found that private tuition is big business in
The majority of parents in
The number of secondary schools in
The findings detailed above show vast discrepancies within Fako Division which are replicated across the country in terms of affordability, accessibility and quality of education.
Whenever GCE ‘O’ level results are released, the majority of the general public does not realise that you do not assess schools only on ‘passed in any four or more subjects’, you also look at the number of students who passed the core subjects, English and Mathematics ( in Anglophone Cameroon).
FAKO NEWS CENTRE, having decided to look in detail at the quality of all the passes we normally hear of whenever GCE results are released, also decided to look at good news and bad news concerning the three groups of schools.
Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian schools do very well overall, as attested by the fact that they occupy the top 8 positions overall (Table 1) as well as monopolise the Grade A status positions (Table 4). Reasons for good performances include the following:
Ø Many of these schools have rigorous forms of teacher assessment even where they are not described as such. Crucially, the results in each subject are supposed to reflect the success of a teacher’s methods, meaning that the teacher is held to account if results in their subject are poor.
Ø Many of these schools provide accommodation for teachers on campus. This in itself resolves the problem of teacher presence and punctuality which is the scourge of the profession.
Ø Many of these schools have an ethos and project an image of a collegiate system whereby teachers play an integral role in school life, integrating with students in extra-curricular activities outside of the classroom.
Ø These schools would frown upon any teacher taking up private teaching because their full-time position within the school precludes any activities outside school done for remuneration during the school term. Any extra teaching done by these teachers would therefore be restricted generally to holiday classes.
Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian schools are still underperforming in Mathematics. With a success rate of under 50 per cent in this subject (Table 3), it means that the probability of a student passing in it is disappointingly less than half. This needs to be put right. Also, some schools from this sector frustratingly find themselves achieving only Status C and even worse, Status D overall (Table 4). Here are possible reasons:
Ø Teachers are often untrained, with some given responsibilities to teach examination classes without any experience. The accepted wisdom is that a degree holder with the required subject knowledge is ready to be thrown at the deep end and asked to ‘get on with it’. Unfortunately, it takes months for some to understand the challenges of the profession, for example, how to interpret a given scheme of work, much less be able to write one. Unsure how to prepare for lessons, many teachers often improvise lessons around the given topic.
Ø Teachers who are degree holders in many instances do have the required subject knowledge even if lacking the required training, but it is not uncommon for schools in this sector to recruit GCE ‘A’ Level holders to teach a key subject like Mathematics at ‘O’ Level. As enthusiastic as these teachers might be, many soon find themselves out of their depth. A degree should be the absolute minimum requirement to teach any subject, if not in secondary school, at least in the examination classes.
Ø Teachers sometimes find themselves overloaded with work because the school intends to cut costs. Teachers therefore sometimes find themselves teaching subjects other than those in which they had their degree, like a Chemistry graduate being asked to teach Mathematics because it was taken as a subsidiary subject at university.
2. Government Schools: The Good News
A glimpse of the enormous potential of government schools is shown by the fact that they have placed 3 students among the top 10 performing individuals in Fako Division (Table 1 – Top Ten Candidates in 2008). These schools remain as popular as ever, with many having long waiting lists even though by far the highest number of new schools are in this sector. The reason for this is not hard to find because it is supposed to be a win-win situation for parents and students: no tuition fees and supposedly the best teachers in the country! If only this could reflect the reality on the ground!
Ø This sector boasts experts in just about every subject, as a teacher would almost certainly not be hired without having gained qualified teacher status.
Ø This sector also boasts just about the only trained teachers in the country, with many being sent into schools as professionals. This combination of a good education and professional training raises the hopes of many schools and their students that they are getting the best teachers available in the country.
Ø The idea that teachers in this sector invariably take up private teaching or are just out to play the system is sometimes a myth. Many of these teachers strive hard and frown upon incompetence, and would welcome a system of assessment to monitor teacher performances.
Ø Civil servants are not always secure in their positions but there is relative job security in teaching as schools still have to continue functioning even in the worst economic climate. These teachers therefore do really have a job for life, a fact relished by those who truly have a passion for training young people and consider their profession to be a vocation or a calling.
Government Schools: The Bad News
These schools appear to be happy to feature at least once in the top ten in all the tables (Table 1 to 4), but therein lies the frustration because the potential of their students is the least fulfilled among all the different kinds of schools. It is frankly inexcusable that those supposed to be the best teachers should have only a 14.83 per cent pass rate (Table 3) to show in Mathematics, for example! Why is there such an anomaly between the calibre of teacher and the poor performances of students?
Ø All the training available does not always equate competence; some teachers just cannot seem to teach to acceptable standards, especially where there is no monitoring system in place to point out shortcomings and suggest ways to improve. Many incompetent teachers are not held accountable even when results are glaringly inadequate, as in at least ten schools in this sector achieving less than even the 14.83 per cent mentioned above in Mathematics (Table 3).
Ø Any private tuition or evening classes done during school time as private business is likely to be done by teachers in this sector. These activities should be banned during the school term. Any extra teaching should be for the benefit of their regular students to help them produce improved performances, and at no extra cost. This is exactly what teachers in Christian schools do – occasionally arrange extra lessons – and receive no additional payments for it. A teacher who engages in regular private business cannot humanly meet the regular demands of teaching, assessing students and planning lessons satisfactorily.
Ø Absenteeism is one of the biggest problems in this sector. Principals have been known to make radio announcements on many occasions asking some teachers who have a very poor attendance record to turn up for work. One way of resolving this problem is to make it compulsory that teachers live within a certain radius, say, 20 miles, of their school and preferably within the same town or locality. This would avoid the scenario of someone still living in Limbe after having been transferred to Muyuka because of business interests in Limbe. The teacher must choose between teaching and business. Government could also extend the housing scheme that operates in a limited number of cases.
3. Other Private Schools: The Good News
Some schools from this sector have scored well overall (Table 1), finding room among the top dozen schools with passes including English (Table 2), meaning that their students can at least aspire to university studies without having to do a re-sit. Some have also gained an encouraging grade C status overall (Table 4), beating schools from the other two sectors in the process. In many respects, the only way is up for some of these schools!
Ø Well-meaning proprietors often invest heavily and sometimes attract sponsorship to ensure good facilities, many resources, and the timely payment of teacher salaries.
Ø A generally non-selective entry policy means that these schools represent the only hope of an education for those children who do not achieve well at Common Entrance examinations and other criteria used for selection by many schools in the other sectors.
Ø Teachers often work hard to repay the faith shown in them, sometimes succeeding in instilling an ethos of learning that encourages even the most disaffected students. This is why some of these schools consistently find themselves well placed in many of the performance tables.
Other Private Schools: The Bad News
Schools from this sector generally produce the least impressive results in public examinations, occupying almost all the grade E status positions overall (Table 4).
Ø Teachers are often untrained; additionally, some are ill-qualified and therefore even adequate subject knowledge could be a problem at the level of examination classes.
Ø There is a higher rate of teacher turnover than in the other two sectors. This trend whereby teachers appear to be waiting for opportunities to move on does not help provide the stability so sorely lacking in some cases.
Ø Teachers are sometimes well-meaning and enthusiastic but battling against a school ethos and culture of apathy.
FAKO NEWS CENTRE spoke to various principals and other officials within education in Fako Division, as well as to administrative and political figures, all of whom were keen on taking on board the wishes of parents and students concerned about results which reflected the quality of teaching and learning in schools. We call on these officials to lead the cause for change that would remedy the ills of complacency and incompetence, as well as impact on the education system nationally.
We therefore call on the Parliamentarians in Fako Division to take the views of their constituents to the Minister in charge, the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic. Although we are focusing now on improving results in secondary schools, there are many other problems that need to be addressed as well, for example: the use of technology, especially Information and Communication Technology including the internet as a teaching and learning resource; the issue of inclusiveness including provision for those with disabilities, including a system to detect and recognise non-physical disabilities such as dyslexia; other pathways for the thousands that do not end up in university but would have benefitted from, say, vocational training instead of dropping out altogether because they got the wrong results often due to teacher or institutional failures.
The recommendations set out below add to those already made throughout this report. They are intended to give children in our schools the best chance to fulfil their potential and reverse the trend of an ever-widening gap between schools that have the best results and those that have the worst.
The Government needs to carry out its own enquiry into teaching in schools by setting up a commission of enquiry that would be given one year to investigate the uniformity of standards within schools or lack of it, and make proposals accordingly. Although all schools work with the same GCE syllabus in the final two years of secondary school (or should do), practices and standards vary considerably from school to school, especially in the lower classes.
An agency is needed that would monitor performances in schools in two main areas: the minimum passes in four subjects, and passes in English and Mathematics. This agency should be given the resources and personnel to establish minimum criteria and be able to send inspectors into schools to investigate current practice and establish how well the criteria are met.
The agency should also evolve a system of grading schools that take into account standard classroom and other facilities, for example, the availability of a school library; availability and use of resources in teaching and learning, for example, computers; records of student progress including assessments. Schemes of work for all classes should be drawn up within each school for each subject and made available for inspection. Teachers should be given clear guidelines and instructions for completing the said scheme of work, knowing that they will be held accountable if this is not delivered accordingly. The outcome of such investigations in schools should be made public.
On English and Mathematics in particular, every child should be given every opportunity to pass in order not to compromise their post-secondary education. One of the key benefits of creating the agency would be in monitoring performances in these two subjects, especially Mathematics in which
Why should every school not aim for a hundred per cent pass overall? Why should every school not aim for a hundred per cent in English and Mathematics? We do not expect an international body to set targets in these subjects. Government should do it, and then do something about it!
One suggestion would be to consider a year-long English and Mathematics drive across schools in order to instil a culture which accepts good performance in these subjects as standard, with various programmes featured in the Media bringing awareness of their importance. Another suggestion would be for all students to be tested in the same way through a common English and Mathematics examination set in all schools at the end of the third year in secondary school (Form 3). The levels of student attainment in such an examination would reveal how prepared or not a student is for the GCE syllabus.
A few months ago the staff of SONARA celebrated achieving a rating at level 8 of the International Safety Rating System, ISRS. The ISRS programme coordinator at SONARA said the international body evaluates the measures that are put in place to prevent the occurrence of accidents and all types of losses, including manpower, machinery, and finance. He said that ISRS sets standards in twenty domains, and refineries are assessed on those standards. SONARA’s last rating in 2003 was level 5. The ISRS set their next target at level 7. This year (2008) SONARA attained a level 8, smashing their previous record as well as exceeding their set target. What a remarkable achievement! But, why did SONARA achieve so well? The simple answer is that everybody at SONARA knew that their jobs could be at risk if they were judged to fall below acceptable levels. When SONARA organised a party to celebrate their success, top government officials, Mayors and the Governor were all there to join them in their celebrations. Every body can see that people work harder when they are set targets. That doesn’t mean that those who are set targets always meet the targets. For example, if you set a school a target to improve results in English from 23 per cent to 35 per cent, and the school achieves but 30 per cent, the school made an improvement in English although the target was not met. What the school has to do next is to write a report on why the target set wasn’t met . The target-setting agency then visits the school to ascertain that the reasons given by the school for not meeting the target are plausible. If they do not find the reasons plausible, what then happens?.........
Teachers in all sectors should sign contracts before taking up employment in a new school, setting out the terms of employment. This contract should be binding on both parties. Salaries should be paid regularly and promptly so that teachers are not drawn towards private tuition or other engagements that necessarily impact their teaching to the detriment of students, or spend time away from school chasing salaries.
The terms of the contract would ensure that teachers are to be found where they belong on a daily basis, in the classroom. A record would be kept daily, showing attendance and punctuality. The government can delegate Parent Teacher Associations(P.T.A) to monitor teacher attendance and punctuality and pass on attendance registers at the end of every week to the Delegate of Education.
The whole area of teacher training needs to be reviewed if only one sector out of three consistently recruits trained teachers. Surely it would make sense for all sectors to be able to recruit trained teachers? For this to happen, the principal, P.T.A’s and all interested parties would need to discuss proposals for a complete revamp of the system of training teachers. One thing is clear: teachers need to be trained so that they could acquire the skills needed to deliver a professional and competent practice teaching students as well as preparing them for national, international and global challenges of the future.
WHAT PRINCIPALS SHOULD DO AFTER RECEIVING THIS REPORT
We suggest that all school Principals make copies of this report including Tables 1,2,3 and 4 and give to every member of their staff(teaching and non-teaching). In each school, the Principal should hold a meeting with all members of staff, including some members of the P.T.A, to go over the results Tables and analyses. They should look at how their school performed in each of the categories(Tables 1 to 4) and discuss ways of improving the quality of teaching and learning, and exam results. The President of the P.T.A should then write to all the parents explaining the measures the school is taking in improving exam results. For the high-achieving schools, the P.T.A should then write to parents explaining the measures the school is taking in maintaining their high standards. Every body has to remember that it is the legitimate right of every parent or member of the public to know how schools are performing in public exams. The government uses the natural resources of the country and tax payers’ money to employ teachers, hence it is the right of every member of the public to know whether the government and the public are getting value for money.
We thank all the students, parents, teachers and Principals who spoke to us, FAKO NEWS CENTRE.
We thank the Bakweri Community in the
We thank the Bakweri Communities in Fako Division,
FAKO NEWS CENTRE