Signs have been there but, because those responsible have chosen to pay little, if any, attention to the problem, it has come to this: One quarter of primary school learners in the country cannot pass Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations.
If, ever, we needed any evidence, results of this year’s PSLCE vindicate our greatest fears that education standards in the country have gone to the dogs.
While others may think that education systems should find a way to sieve students, separating the cream of learners from strugglers, the fact that only 193, 795 out of 255, 583 students that sat PSLCE this year have passed— representing 75.3 percent— is a smack in the face of those who appreciate the role of education in national development.
More so because this year’s results pale in the face of those of last year, when 77.32 percent of candidates passed and proceeded to secondary school. This is not to say we were impressed with last year’s results for, while many went to secondary school, close to one-quarter of the candidates got stuck at primary school level.
To make matters worse, reports indicate that the country has been performing poorly in relation to primary school retention as, as one education commentator has pointed out, even the 255, 583 candidates who sat this year’s PSLCE are just a fraction of those who enrolled in Standard One eight years ago. It is unacceptable that, out of about 900, 000 children who entered Standard One then, only 255, 583 reached Standard Eight.
This means close to 700, 000 have dropped out of school over the years. This is happening when Malawi introduced free primary education, with the aim of increasing school enrolment levels in the country, in 1994.
But, instead of moving forward, we are moving in reverse.
Ironically, those entrusted with the responsibility of promoting access to education seem not to care. This is why, perhaps, they abolished Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations. At the speed we are cruising to nowhere, at PSLCE level, perhaps JCE examinations should have been the last but one check-point before candidates fight for university space at Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations level.
Unless we do something, and now, we can only expect the worst. In the end, it is Malawi that stands to lose out from all angles. Never say we never told you.