Echoes of Zambia

11th July 2008 at 01:00
On February 23, 1991, The Times of Zambia reported a marking fiasco
On February 23, 1991, The Times of Zambia reported a marking fiasco. The Grade 7 exam results could be delayed by up to a whole term. As a teacher in Kitwe at the time, I read with interest as the tale unfolded. ETS Europe, the company in charge of administering key stage exams in the UK this year, might be interested too - if only because, by comparison, they have loads of time left, because that wasn't the end of the matter.

The trouble started when the Ministry of Finance decided to buy a new optical scanner to replace the old IBM model that had been used to read and mark the old Grade 7 papers. They duly bought one, but because they had a large stockpile of IBM paper, they asked to have their machine modified.

The new Opscan 21 model 75 bespoke version broke down. Lo and behold, as a savings exercise the ministry had failed to take out a maintenance agreement.

To make matters worse, the franchise holders who were supplying the repair kit wanted their fee in US dollars. The ministry didn't have a lot of those, so a protracted wrangle ensued.

Exam results were promised for the end of April, which meant pupils losing a whole term of schooling. Fast-forward to May 26, 1991 and Terence Musuku, a reporter, told us in The Times of Zambia that the Grade 7 examination results had been delayed by two terms. The upshot was that when pupils reached their new schools, they had just 63 days to do a year's work.

It seems, even with the arrival of ETS, there is nothing new under the sun.

David E Norris, Name and address supplied.

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