Tanzania Rolling Out Form IV Pre-tests

Tanzania Daily News recently wrote an article, Tanzania: Provisional Form Four Tests in Pipeline, describing the government’s plan to roll out provisional tests designed to help students and teachers assess which topics they should spend more time on before the real national examinations.  The program could be beneficial, though I wonder how detailed the feedback will be.  Form IV students have been doing mock examinations at the regional level for years, though they only receive scores by subject.  Perhaps the schools will receive detailed reports breaking down performance on each question like they’ve started releasing for the national examinations (example for Civics 2013)?

DEO and Headmasters Demoted in Mbinga

Last month Daily News and Habari Leo reported that the District Education Officer and six headmasters were demoted in Mbinga for misusing funds.  Secondary schools receive money from the government (based on the number of students enrolled) and stipulations on how the money is to be spent.  Apparently a lot of money that was intended to purchase books for the schools was diverted to other purposes.
I agree with Marycelina Masha that the punishment doled out to them was fairly light.  I believe that the former headmasters have only lost a position of respect and not received any economic punishment.  (While teaching in Tanzania I was told that salaries at government schools depended only on education and the number of years taught, and that administrators like headmasters did not receive any more money than if they were regular teachers.)  Still, this is better than the more commonly used disciplinary measure of transfering someone to a smaller and/or more rural school.
While the Daily News article states that embezzlement in the education sector is a problem across the country, this case is particularly relevant to TETEA since it occurred in the geographic area where we are focused.  In fact, three of the demoted headmasters teach at schools that are very close to the library we help operate.  The closest, Maguu Secondary, is only a few hundred meters from the library.  Mkuwani Secondary is a bit farther away, though we receive more visits from its students.  Langiro Secondary is less than six miles from the library and its students occasionally go to the library after attending mass at the nearby church or visiting the market on the weekend.  Hopefully the change of leadership will result in these schools being better equipped, but in the meantime I’m glad that the library is nearby to provide access to textbooks for any interested students.

Form Two Results Released

A summary of the 2013 Form 2 examination results was reported by Mwananchi, The Citizen, and Majira. Of the students who took the examination only 62% passed. This is a slight decrease from the previous year when 64% passed. The papers also reported that students will continue with school regardless of results. Last year the government had announced a return to using Form 2 examinations as a gate, allowing only those who averaged at least 30% to continue on to Form 3. Now the government is stating that students who averaged at least 20% should continue to Form 3 as well, though in a remedial section that will review Form 2 material as well. Also, it appears that the government is going to allow students to repeat Form 2 multiple times, instead of having them end their education career after failing twice as was done in the past. While it is understandable that the government doesn’t want to abandon its students, I wonder how many of the students who are being allowed to continue in remedial classes will successfully pass their Form 4 examinations. Not only do they have more information to learn over the next two years because of the need to cover the material from the earlier forms, but I suspect they will also be taught less than their peers in the regular sections. Many periods pass without a teacher entering the classroom in Tanzania, and I believe that a remedial section would be much more likely to be skipped than regular sections. Strong leadership is needed from the government to ensure that the students aren’t just given opportunity to take the Form 4 examination in two years, but are also given the education that will help them pass the tests.

Government Announces Digital Library

Last month, the DailyNews reported that the Prime Minister of Tanzania has announced government plans to create a digital library which would contain all student textbooks and other paper-based materials (for the article, see: http://www.dailynews.co.tz/index.php/local-news/22592-pm-educational-materials-to-go-digital).  It is unclear when these materials will be publically available or even if work has begun on the project, though it will probably be several years before such a program would be fully operationally.   As computers, tablets, and smart phones become more widespread, a digital library could become very useful. Students would be able to access their course materials without having to pay for them. Also, having access to a complete library would allow students to view materials that otherwise would have been unavailable due to the scarcity of textbooks at many schools and the phasing out of old textbooks.   While the project has many potential benefits, there are several issues that should be addressed. First, large segments of the population do not have access to the resources necessary for the effective use of a digital library. Many schools do not have access to the technological aids (computers, smart phones, internet connections) required to access a digital repository; some of these schools do not even have electricity. Such schools tend to serve students who are poorer and who are more likely to be located in rural areas; these students tend not to have access to the requisite technological aids, either.  If nothing is done to improve access to such aids, a digital library might increase the educational divide between the wealthy and the poor.   TETEA maintains that technology can be beneficial and that a resource such as a digital library would beneficial; this belief led us to develop our own resource library at maktaba.tetea.org, where Tanzanian students and teachers can obtain study guides and past national examinations. That said, it is important that one remains cognizant of the potential pitfalls of such initiatives and work to mitigate any negative consequences.  TETEA, for example, operates a rural library which contains all of the materials available through the online resource library, providing access to students who are unable to use the internet.