Stakeholders criticize CALA for downgrading education standards
By Alois Vinga
STAKEHOLDERS in the education sector have criticized the Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) recently introduced and implemented by the government this year with the aim of capturing course performance for learners in the basic education.
In terms of education, CALA refers to various learning activities or assessments that require students to conduct detailed research activities in specific areas where they incorporate practical activities such as data collection through training. ‘interviews, questionnaires, checklists, observations and experiences.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) issued a circular to all schools directing continuous assessment to be carried out.
The review body said that after the successful roll-out of the 2021 exam skills-based curriculum and training, all teachers are expected to start implementing CALA.
The implementation of CALA is now a policy for all primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe. Learners must complete 3 CALA components per learning area.
âThe components and respective grade grids should be kept at the exam center for moderators to access. The moderate average score out of 100 for the three components of CALA is expected to be submitted to ZIMSEC on November 30, 2021, âZIMSEC said.
The examining body has warned that failure to submit the full set of CALA scores for any candidate will result in no results in the learning area.
Under the new provision, candidates who excel in the program will be awarded a total of 30 points before taking the exam.
However, surveys conducted by NewZimbabwe.com this week found that learners and teachers at several learning centers are already busy implementing the program.
But what is more concerning is that some teachers are providing answers to students and, in some cases, doing the work on their behalf.
âNext year we will definitely pass our O ‘level exams because our teachers guaranteed that we would get good grades. Other than that, a lot of the exercises we write are prepared by our teachers, so we’re not going to fail, âsaid a student (name withheld) from a college in Harare.
Many teachers who spoke to our post on CALA said that the implementation of the program has been hampered by an extended lockdown period and will not really reflect learners’ abilities in the final symbol.
Other science teachers have said that the curriculum is very difficult to implement for some subjects.
âI teach math and physics, which makes it difficult for students to get practical areas on which to do assessments. There has also been very little exercise training which makes it more difficult for us to implement. But anyway, who are we to determine the course of events, we just have to do what’s necessary, âsaid an anonymous high school teacher in Harare.
What raises other questions about the program is the ability of ZIMSEC to oversee program implementation carefully as the body has been involved in payment issues with its markers year after year.
The very low morale of teachers who have staged sit-ins and protests against low wages creates another risk of low-quality work that will increase national pass rates without corresponding skills and knowledge among learners.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com about developments in schools, the president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Takavafira Zhou, lamented the haphazard circumstances in which the program is being implemented.
âCALA should never be imposed on teachers but introduced at an opportune time such as, for example, around 2023. This will allow the right conditions to be put in place such as the required budget allocation, appropriate teacher training, standardization and ‘interoperability.
“However, its application in 2021 is unfortunate, ill-conceived and will not benefit teachers, students or the education system,” he said.
But the communications and advocacy director of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Taungana Ndoro, dismissed the fears, describing them as âyouth issuesâ with very noble development.
âIt is quite unfortunate that some stakeholders do not appreciate such a noble development. CALA does not disadvantage learners who panic during exams, experience the negative impact of social circumstances such as bereavement during exams and, in turn, underperform.
âThe strict three- or two-hour exams where students had to prove their worth in the past didn’t reflect everyone’s abilities as much and that’s what CALA came to tackle,â he said. declared.
Ndoro added that the program is already being implemented in higher education institutions and has come a long way in producing truly informative results.