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Abolition of the CPE?

Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater

Forget about 9-year schooling. The expiry date was 2002 when 11-year
schooling was introduced ---- free and compulsory between the ages of 5 and
16. In 1980 a Certificate of Junior Secondary Education examination was
being planned following the construction of 15 Junior Secondary Schools with
assistance from the World Bank. A detailed Regulations and Syllabuses was
published by the MIE. I reproduce below the subjects to be examined:
Core subjects:
English Language, French Language, Social Studies, Mathematics, Integrated
Elective (Optional) subjects:
Agriculture, Home Economics, Commerce, Visual Arts, Creative Design and
Technology, Communication Graphics, Music and Dance, and One additional
The question papers had already been printed. But the examination never
took place. A certain lobby killed not only the examination, but indirectly the
whole Junior Secondary School project.
Now there is a new agenda: Abolish the CPE ---- not because of the harm the
cut-throat competition for admission to a few secondary schools is doing to
the all round development of the child, but because too many children fail
the exam! We should not, as the English say, throw out the baby with the
bath water, but transform it into an instrument for evaluating the
performance and potential of the child in her/his overall development.
We should instead abolish ranking, in a disguised form or not, and
abolish the Pass/Fail notion.
Let us see how we should proceed.
Step 1: Abolish A+.

Step2: Abolish the Pass/Fail concept in the CPE and transform it into a
comprehensive profile of the child after 6 years of primary education. We
would have been far ahead today if we had not turned the clock back in
2005, relegating some important aspects of educational development to the
history books. This will take some time to materialize but eventually the
physical, aesthetic and social development of the child will become as
important as her/his academic development, and will be important
components to be reckoned with in the new CPE, by whatever name we call
Step 3: Use a grading system of A to E with E being the lowest grade and
without an F or U grade. This system can be gradually extended to such
areas as Health and Physical Education, Art and Craft and other nonacademic fields.
Step4: Keep the written papers as at present, but gradually introduce an
element of school-based assessment (say, 10 % of the total to start with,e.g
the oral aspect of a language). This will open the way for the new areas of
education to be evaluated by the teachers with external moderation. It is
important not to do away with written papers at the end of the primary cycle
as these carry a greater degree of objectivity.
Step 5: Carry out admission to form I of secondary schools on a regional
basis (6 to 8 regions) with pupils having learning difficulties being catered for
in smaller classes (about 15 children per class). Admission should still be
carried out on a grade aggregate basis, but one group of 15 students with
learning difficulties will have to be reserved for them in a neighbouhood
school without the pre-voc label being attached to them.
Step 6: Transform the most sought-after secondary schools into semispecialized Upper Secondary Schools. They will admit students as from Form
IV following the Form III Exam. Selection at this level is healthier than at the
age of 11 and is necessary for orientation purposes. We should not be blind
to the fact that competition is a fact of life and a degree of healthy
competition is desirable.
Step 7: Schools which had admitted students in Form I will be free to
continue with Form IV and beyond depending on the student population and
a cost effective use of resources.

What is perhaps more important is what happens after Form III. Statistics
Mauritius has raised the alarm concerning employment among young
persons between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2012. The highest number of
unemployed is among those who have left school without an SC (35%) with
those who have had a tertiary education coming close second (25%). It is
therefore extremely urgent to review our skills development strategy, if we
have one.

Step 8: After the Form III National Examination students who are more
competent in manual skills should be channeled to education and training
institutions for two years to be trained in manual skills without losing sight of
the need to improve their basic numeracy and literacy skills. The training
centres of MITD and of the private sector need a complete overhaul to meet
the new challenges.
Step 9: Some of those who complete the School Certificate should be able
to move to Polytechnics for a 3-year diploma in technological fields or middle
level management (in Singapore they account for 40% of a cohort}.
Step 10: The rest will move on to HSC and then to University. The HSC
Professional and HSC Technical are not an answer to the requirements of a
fast changing technological world environment which requires specialized,
bur flexible, human resources.
It goes without saying that mobility is an important fact of life in the modern
world today. The possibility to move on should always be there and should be
The above is just a sketch of what we should be doing in the best interests of
the children and of Mauritius. But we have to put our heart in it and proceed
after a careful planning. Otherwise we will fail our children once again.
Surendra Bissoondoyal