Form Two Exams Make a Return

In an article posted today in the Guardian, it has been reported that the Form Two National Exam is coming back.

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I see the dismal pass rate at Form IV the past couple years as a product of the removal of the Form Two exams. Without the exam weeding out unprepared students, Forms Three and Four were full of too many students who were not prepared and/or motivated to learn the more difficult material. In a rural school, this could be 75-80% of the students in those forms, making for a difficult learning environment for the remaining students who were ready to learn. Due to peer pressure, there are often excellent students who just drop off completely in Form Three, since they do not want to stand out.

While in theory, the re-introduction of the exam should ensure a more prepared Form III. This, combined with the new Form I entrance exam for basic literacy announced by the Ministry of Education, will definitely act as a filter for students who are capable. The problem is, cheating is so rampant, that many students will probably continue to get through. In recent years, with the increase of technology, cheating has gotten even worse. All it takes is one unscrupulous headmaster to release the exam papers ahead of the date and thousands of people across the country can be quickly relayed the exam questions by text message. With a pass mark of 30%, just a few questions can go a long way to getting a student to pass. The tests need to be taken seriously by students and teachers. Teachers need to invigilate the exam with proper diligence and reduce the incidence of cheating.

Finally, the fact that a large number of rural students will be failing their Form Two exams is really an indicator of a larger failure in the educational system. Way before they ever get to Secondary school, many of these students are already set up for failure by having a grossly inadequate primary education. It’s not that they do not have the capacity to learn the material, but that their foundation is so weak, they are totally lost in secondary school. The language shift from Swahili to English definitely does not help, but even Swahili scores are not as good as one would expect. More needs to be done to improve primary education to reduce the failure rates at secondary schools.


Another article about the reintroduction of the exams

Tanzania Teacher Shortage

“Government Moves to Ease Shortage of Teachers” This article discusses the shortage of teachers that is being experienced in Tanzania. A major factor in the shortage at the secondary school level is the rapid increase in enrollment that has taken place over the last few years.  The article reports that the number of students entering Form I has increased from 134,964 students in 2005 to 477,554 students in 2009.  This rapid increase is due to the addition of many new schools and expanded enrollment in existing schools.  It would be interesting to see these numbers for previous years as well.  In 2004 Hagati Secondary, where I taught, expanded the number of Form I students from 80 to 120.  In addition to this, the government built or took over three or four more schools in the area from which Hagati had formerly drawn students.  So I imagine that 2004 saw a great increase in enrollment as well. The increased number of students at secondary schools isn’t even fully captured by numbers given.  In 2008, I believe, the government abolished the rule that students had to pass an examination in Form II to continue to study.  As a result the number of students in Forms III and IV have likely increased by an even greater percentage. While expanding access to education is wonderful, it would be nice if during such expansions as much effort was put into increasing the number of teachers as in increasing the number of students.  If the number of Teachers’ Training Colleges were similarly expanded at the same time as, or, better yet, prior to, the secondary school expansion, then perhaps the shortage of teachers would not be so great.  Instead an already existing shortage of teachers was greatly exacerbated.  I only hope that the quality of education has not diminished too much as a result. Full article available on The Citizen Website

A-Level Results

Form Six results have been released for 2010. Available either on the Ministry of Education website or here:

Also of note, examination fees for all Tanzanian students have been waived in 2010 for Form II, Form IV, and Form VI exams. Seen largely as a popular move in an election year, it does reduce the burden on families, as examination fees are equivalent to a year’s school fees in a government day school.

A-Level Selection

Congratulations to Kornel Mbele, one of our sponsored students! He has been chosen to study CBG (Chemistry, Biology, and Geography) at Ndanda Secondary School for Advanced Level High School, a two year continuation of secondary school, before entering University.

For A-Level selections, visit the Ministry of Education website.