The Zambian Ministry of Education (MEdu) applies a mixed method approach to national examinations. At Primary School, at the Grade 7 level, a ‘progression’ (non-fail) method is applied, and at the Secondary School examination level, Grade 9 and 12 utilise a ‘pass/fail’ method. An analysis of grade 7, 9 and 12 learner statistics that is publicly released by MEdu, would appear to indicate that Primary school learning is sound and Grade 9 to Grade 12 learning are needing to be addressed. The reality is that poor outcomes from learning at the Primary School level is resulting in low Secondary School outcomes.
A study of 2022 Grade 7 national exam outcomes provides clarity to where the challenge lies. Outcomes are divided into four score groupings called “Divisions”. Division 1 is the top scoring group of learners while Division 4 is the bottom scoring group of learners. If there were no places at a secondary school level, learners in Division 4 would not progress from Primary School to Secondary School. As there are places for Division 4 learners, even if they are not academically ready to do so, these learners are progressed into secondary school where there are high fail rates at Grade 9 and 12 levels.
The primary challenge facing the MEdu is how to improve the overall Grade 4 (Start of Primary School) to Grade 12 (End of Secondary School) pass conversion above the current ratio of 22%. This low pass ratio impacts many stakeholders in the short and long term. As stakeholders are diverse, it may be beneficial to have a collective common vision that would provide a focus for all. An example of a collective common vision could be to achieve a Grade 4 to Grade 12 pass learner conversion rate of 80% rather than the actual 22%. This common vision could connect the stakeholder network into a collective mobilisation of resources, policies, and actions, thus, simplifying the basis of decision-making and preventing conflicting paradigms.
Stakeholder and donor initiatives favour the ‘Teach the Teacher’ model as it is reportedly the most impactful in a cost-return analysis of donor spend to outcomes. The issue is that current publicly released educational outcomes illustrates no improvement in Grade 4 to Grade12 learner pass rates.
Edulution runs a hands-on e-learning Numeracy programme in Zambia (“Teach the Learner”) that is embedded within Schools where grade 7 examination results have seen a marked improvement in learner divisional outcomes. A comparative between MEdu Grade7 exam outcomes and Edulution learner exam outcomes shows a marked shift in the curve of learning outcomes with the majority of Edulution learners scoring in Division 2 and 1. An Edulution learner would therefore seem better prepared for entry into secondary school then their counterpart.
The Edulution Programme has been an out of school led by young, enterprising coaches to date but a change in this methodology is being piloted in South Africa during 2023 where teachers have been included in the delivery of the e-learning numeracy programme. The impact of including teachers in programme delivery has not been evaluated as yet but the feedback has been extremely positive and it is our belief that their inclusion shall further compound the outcomes achieved. In Zambia, the Numeracy Programme is tiered to address Grade 4 to 7 learning, utilising Khan Academy video and exercises matched to curriculum grade levels. Edulution Learners have a deep and structured exposure to topics they explore at their own pace as well as frequently exposed to exam conditions and different exam structures.
In 2022, Edulution Zambia delivered 1,048,544 contact hours, to 8,500 Learners helping 34% reach their Grade level. In the national Grade 7 exams learners who have been beneficiaries of the Edulution Programme scored in higher division gradings than the national learner average showing an overall 20 percentile rank shift from their peers.
An Edulution is far more likely to succeed at Secondary Schools with a well-established foundation in mathematics. The Edulution model is currently only being applied to maths but can in the future be applied to other subjects. It is a transformative learning process designed for the developing world that is enabled by technology, data and facilitators - be they coaches or teachers. Keeping children in school for as long as possible benefits their well-being and future prospects and creates a brighter future for themselves as well as within their communities and for Zambia as a country.