Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA)

Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) is a student assessment regime that was set to be implemented during the second term in preparation for November 2021 Zimsec examinations. The first phase of the regime was set to run from July to September 2021.

CALA is any learning activity or assessment that requires learners to perform, demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency.

Under the regime, Zimsec candidates’ physical and behavioural skills are assessed continuously (coursework) to contribute 30 percent to their final marks. Summative or knowledge skills assessed during examinations contribute 70 percent to the candidate’s final grade.

External candidates wishing to sit for their exams in November will have to approach their examination centres for assessment.[1]

Background

In March 2021, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, MoPSE announced the urgent revival of the continuous assessment framework for 2021 candidates. The government said the framework would be implemented for grade 7, form 4 and Upper 6, 2021 candidates. The programme is part of the 2015 adopted new curriculum but had been shelved because of lack of resources among other challenges.

Chief director (Secondary and Non-Formal education) in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Peter Muzawazi said CALAs would be

"...examining three domains – the cognitive domain, which is the knowledge domain we have always been doing – as well as the psycho-motor and affective domains. This will start with effect from November 2021. The Grade Seven, Ordinary and Advanced level teachers’ training is now complete. The coursework will contribute 30 percent of the total examination mark with effect from the November 2021 examinations. It is actually an advantage to learners, over and above Maths, Science and English, we are broadening the curriculum to give them an opportunity to excel in other areas. We are moving into a situation where assessment has to be holistic and authentic because a learner’s potential is not only what they keep in the head, but involves other skills. The new competence based curriculum is now broad, things like sport and visual performing arts which used to be extra-curriculum activities are now part of the curriculum. We now intend to develop the skills of every learner. A student can write a composition and answer comprehension questions in one and half hours, and then get an A in English Language; but how many people write a language as much as they speak? People speak much more, so we will be adding the speech component so that learners get an opportunity to make presentations before their peers, share a poem or song. These assessments will be part of CALAs."

Reaction

National Association of Secondary Heads Letter

In June 2021, the National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) wrote to the ministry of education advising it to delayed the implementation of CALAs until at least January 2022.

Part of the letter by the heads read:

Given that the education system has been heavily affected by Covid-19 and national lockdowns in 2020/2021 hence a lot of catch-up is required, NASH feels that implementing CALA in 2021 is inappropriate and very difficult. NASH is greatly concerned about teacher incapacitation and the current low level of teacher morale and motivation in schools. The level of teaching and learning in schools in low at most schools and the current atmosphere is not appropriate for such a demanding programme.

The heads also objected to the number of projects per learner saying they would not only overwhelm the learner but also the teacher. Part of the letter read:

The number of projects per learner – five – is alarming. If a learner does eight subjects for example, it means within the remaining period of the year before examinations, the candidate must cover 40 projects. This is not realistic, unless NASH is not comprehending CALA properly. It also follows that for a class of 40 candidates, a teacher marks 40 x 40 projects, and if the teacher teaches five classes of 40 learners each, the teacher is obviously overwhelmed and the whole process is compromised. It would then not be a surprise to come across adverts in the streets like, ‘we sell CALAs’.

Below is the NASH recommendations to the ministry of education signed by the union’s president, Arthur Maposa:

RE: NASH OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO MINISTRY ON THE PROPOSED IMPLEMENTATION OF CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT LEARNING ACTIVITY (CALA) IN 2021

The National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) fully supports the idea of implementing the updated curriculum with continuous assessment as an integral component of the curriculum. NASH is, however, concerned about the timing and implications of the proposed implementation of the Continuous Assessment Learning Activity in 2021. NASH, therefore, wishes to highlight challenges relating to implementation of CALA in 2021 as well as make recommendations to ministry on possible approach that can assist our education system.

OBSERVATIONS, CHALLENGES AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM NASH ON IMPLEMENTATION OF CALA

Timing of the Implementation of CALA

Given that the education system has been heavily affected by Covid-19 and national lockdowns in 2020/2021 hence a lot of catch-up is required, NASH feels that implementing CALA in 2021 is inappropriate and very difficult. Term one has already ended. The number of projects per learner, five (5) per subject is alarming. If a learner does eight (8) subjects for example, it means within the remaining period of the year before examinations, the candidate must cover 40 projects. This is not realistic, unless NASH is not comprehending CALA properly. It also follows that for a class of 40 candidates a teacher marks 40 x40 projects, and if the teacher teaches five classes of 40 learners each, the teacher is obviously overwhelmed and the whole process is compromised.

It would then not be a surprise to come across adverts in the streets like, “we sell CALAs.”

Recommendation:

NASH recommends that CALA be implemented, possibly starting January 2022, after thorough training of Heads of schools and teachers so that the programme is properly implemented. Workshops need to be properly planned and not rushed like what is happening now.

Involvement of educators through their various structures on such issues of national importance is paramount. Nash feels programs like these should adjust and respond to unforseen problems. Let us not rush to meet the target of implementing Zimbabwe Curriculum 2015-2022. No one ever foresaw the Covid-19 pandemic and the level of teacher incapacitation which we are experiencing today.

Funding of Workshops and Welfare of Teachers

Teachers and schools are being forced to fund workshops that are called at short notice yet schools are reeling under financial challenges due to poor payment of fees by parents. The welfare of teachers is heavily compromised. There is no proper accommodation and T and S for the incapacitated teachers. This compromises the whole training programme and implementation of CALA.

Recommendation

Funds should be mobilised and workshops properly planned rather than the current situation where the whole programme appears to be rushed.

Standardisation and Moderating of Marks Mechanisms

Learners and teachers need financial resources and time to carry out meaningful task and there must be proper and standard processes of awarding marks that pass validity and reliability tests.

Recommendation

We appeal that the programmme be deferred to January 2022 to allow for training and mobilisation of resources as well as conscientisation of stakeholders for a buy in from the public.

Out of School 2020 Candidates

Thousands of out of school 2020/2021 candidates who were disturbed by Covid-19 and lockdown need to supplement by writing in November 2021. What is their fate now?

Recommendation

NASH recommends that 2020/2021 candidates who need to supplement their ‘O’ and ‘A’ level passes should be given an opportunity to do so in November 2021. At the moment it appears the door is closed on them.

Teacher Incapacitation

NASH is greatly concerned about teacher incapacitation and the current low level of teacher morale and motivation in schools. The level of teaching and learning in schools in low at most schools and the current atmosphere is not appropriate for such a demanding programme.

Recommendations

NASH is appealing to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to influence the relevant Ministries and departments to urgently address the incapacitation of teachers to help the system recover and function properly. The current environment in schools is deeply disturbing and needs urgent redress.

Heads need a more thorough training on CALA so that they come to grips with what they ought to supervise on the ground. This piece meal training would compromise the whole process.

Cancellation of Holiday Lessons for the First Term 2021

We appeal to Ministry to re-consider its position on the cancellation of holiday lessons for first term 2021. Schools look at holiday lessons as an important component of the catch-up programme hence our appeal that applications for such programmes be accommodated by the ministry. The alternative methods encouraged by Ministry are suitable in environments with internet services, radio stations etc, yet a huge number of our institutions are not capacitated with these.

Conclusion

We humbly request ministry to consider NASH observations and recommendations with respect to the timing and other constraints related to implementation of CALA for the good of our education system.

[2]

References

  1. Samuel Kadungure, Coursework for Nov 2021 exams, Manica Post, Published: May 28, 2021, Retrieved: July 2, 2021
  2. School heads want ‘inappropriate’ continuous assessment delayed until 2022, ZimLive, Published: June 21, 2021, Retrieved: July 1, 2021