Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Schools inflating marks, Canadians say in report

MOST, if not all, secondary schools in the country have reportedly been inflating the marks scored by students in examinations, The National reports.

This has been going on for years and the Department of Education also does the same with Grade 12 examinations, The National had learnt.

The marks were inflated by as much as 40%, according to two top Canadian teachers who had taught in PNG in two separate periods.

In a damning report of the country’s education system made available to The National, they said that at one well-known school they taught, teachers were required to submit marks for all the students each term.

The students would be given A, B, C, D and E “with no regard to the actual marks they attained for their classroom performance”.

The two science teachers, who first arrived in PNG about 40 years ago, and then returned recently for another five-month stint, said that as a consequence of the practice, students were less competent than their awarded term mark would imply.

“Local teachers, accustomed and unconcerned with the regular boosting of students’ marks, never question it.

“Teachers know the Department of Education uses the same practice when determining students’ final Grade 12 marks,” they said in the report.

When they first arrived in East New Britain from Australia, the teachers, who had been trained in curriculum development, were impressed with the conditions and facilities of the school.

A year later, they were transferred to Lae where they also found science department facilities well maintained.

Schools then used the New South Wales syllabus which the two teachers felt were producing acceptable results.

After PNG, they returned to Canada where they continued to teach and were also involved in curriculum revision.

In June this year, the two retired teachers returned to the East New Britain school as volunteers and were saddened to see the poor conditions.

“Our hearts were saddened as we realised that students are now experiencing the results of an education system in failure,” they wrote in the report.

“These students are survivors of an education system rife with government corruption and plagued by inadequate funding, poor English skills of teachers, low curriculum standards, inappropriate assessment practices and lack of teacher competence and professionalism.

“Instead of graduating with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become solid, contributing citizens in PNG, they were shortchanged in their educational experience.”

Using last year’s national biology schools as an example, they said the lower cut-off pint for an “A” grade was 47% when it should have been 80-85%.

“Students who scored 47% were awarded an A. Regular boosts of 30% or more occur for other subjects as well.”

The report said that as school leavers proceeded to post-secondary institutions, their knowledge and skill level were far below what their marks indicated, or what was required for success,

“What do colleges, universities and technical schools do with students who have such low levels of competency?

“How does PNG hope to educate and train the leaders and professionals it needs when such assessment practices paint a false picture of what students actually know and can do?”

The report also said that this year’s final examinations in biology and chemistry contained questions that were not covered in the syllabus.

Some questions were too long for students to fully understand, resulting in many not attempting to answer them at all.

The teachers also noted that questions from previous examinations were periodically recycled.

“Such recycling leads to teachers reviewing past examinations as their primary teaching technique.

“This replaces practical activities and other solid classroom science learning that needs to take place.”

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