Last Thursday, July 30, 2009, CRTV National Station in Yaounde announced the release of the results of the General Certificate of Education June 2009 session. This was a few days before the first week of August predicted by the Registrar of the GCE Board, Mr Humphrey Monono, in a radio interview not long ago. This is a very good idea.
The question arises: are we competing now with the Francophone Brevet and Baccalaureate? The question may sound stupid, may be because this editorialist my not know how to phrase it. The Francophone exams are marked within two days and the results proclaimed. It is their system. The credibility of their system is questionable in the whole wide world. Proof of it some years ago many of them left to go and write their BAC but in neighboring Chad. What ever mishaps befell them was as a result of the fact that they were not confident of their evaluation system which rendered their certificates non-competitive in the world and equally looked at with a lot of scorn for most of them with their certificates have proven the contrary.
Of recent, in an interview over CRTV, one University professor, who has written a book on the Francophone system of evaluation revealed that there have been situations where candidates have been awarded a pass in the BAC with marks less than 7/20! He said lots of other nasty things about the Francophone exams and that even the coming of the BAC Board (Office du BAC) has not helped the situation in any way. This explains why Cameroon Francophone certificates or diplomas are not recognized outside Cameroon. This must be why in a World Classification of Universities Cameroon does not feature among the first 8500 and in Africa Cameroon does not feature among the first 100! No one needs a soothsayer to explain.
This brings us to the question of the clouds over the GCE Certificates that our Board offers. Most of the pillars that fought hard for the institution of the GCE Board have been thrown out of the marking exercise. At a certain moment people bribed to be recruited as markers (and I am sure it still goes on today). It is obvious that if you buy something you can make good use of it especially because you know the pains you went through to acquire the money. But it is questionable whether if you bribe to do an exercise that requires intellectual prowess this automatically makes you competent to do it. It is also true that the Board has often insisted that markers answer questions before coming to the GCE Marking Centre (to prove their competence). The question arises: If you can bribe to be recruited to mark, what stops you from paying another person to answer the questions for you and you simply copy them in your own handwriting?
Cost of marking
Thus we have had people marking the GCE who, if given the same exams under the same conditions as the students, will fail. No less important is the case this year where there was massive recruitment of inexperienced markers for the flimsy reason that they wanted to publish results quickly. With the large numbers that write the GCE and with the number of Chief Examiners, can they be able to cross-check all the papers marked within such a short space of time? Assuming that they do not bribe too to become Chief Examiners, isn’t it too tedious? The intrinsic reason is that the board wants to cut down cost of marking. The MCQs system has at least reduced the marking time.
Ordinary level question
Reports from the GCE Centers talked of some questions absent from certain subjects, to wit: Geography Paper One Ordinary Level had no Map Reading Question. In the last edition of this paper we reported this fact. “Students who sat for the 2009 Ordinary Level GCE Geography were flabbergasted by the absence of the Ordinary Level question on Map Reading. This may have an adverse effect on geography candidates as many are said to have answered only three questions.
…A source close the GCE Board has hinted the Vanguard that officials are worried and trying to keep the organizational lapses top secret as it may play on the integrity of the Board…
Besides, it was going to take geography students another one year in the first cycle if the entire paper was cancelled. To salvage the situation the Board is reported to have suggested that all marks be calculated on (75 multiply by 1.3) owing to the fact that students were limited to three questions instead four. In this light, if a student scored 40/75, his marks will be calculated as 40/75 multiply by 1.3 to have a percentage score. This will apparently be 52%.
The most intriguing consequence of this is the fact that students who would have scored highest in Map Reading to cover other areas may not make it. This may result in the failure of the student.
It is feared this may adversely affect the results of most geography students in the subject. Even if the Board gave a bonanza to such students because of their organizational weaknesses, the results will not reflect the true objectives of the exercise.”
Also some markers complained that papers were brought to the marking room from the secretariat un-coded, thus you could easily know owner of the paper you are marking. Surely as Cameroonians we can all guess what can happen in this case. Another allegation that leaked from the secretariat is that instead of the computer grading the MCQs it was done by the secretariat workers and since pencils were used to answer the questions and candidates were allowed to blot out a wrong answer and cross the right one anyone can guess what could have happened in the Secretariat. But the introduction of the MCQs was fraught with problems. The fuss over HB pencils, made wealth for the smart ones. A pencil normally sold for 25 francs was sold to innocent Cameroonians at 2000 francs. What a shame!
Defend those “A” grades
Another fear is that since the Board was afraid of being blamed if many candidates failed the grading exercise might have been a very lenient one. This does not augur well. It is a truism that some students have emerged with questionable passes in the past. Leaks from some Chief examiners say some times the pass mark is taken as low as 30% or less, just to give the credibility to who? Thus we have children with “A” grades who can not defend those “A” grades beyond the Cameroon GCE Board.
All in all the defense may be that it was the first year of the introduction of the MCQs. But why precipitate such changes in curriculum evaluation? The evaluation process is a very delicate one. And to test a new process the tested and the tester must be sufficiently educated and given enough time to master the situation. When the Rt Hon Doctor Omer Weyi Yembe introduced his idea of the MCQS he wanted them to start the same year. Thank God the controversial Civil Society leader Nkwenti Simon caused people to march against the idea and it was temporarily shelved.
Save the credibility
With all these and more there are bound to be clouds over our GCE Certificates. This does not augur well for us as this will be a triumph by the Francophones over us. They would have succeeded in their plans which were hatched since 1984 by Rene Ze Nguele – to reduce the GCE to the level of their own exams. The government has deliberately refused to give subventions to the GCE Board, or so they say. It is their country and they have the knife and the yam. If we allow them to cut just anywhere and anyhow the yam will soon get finished and we shall be left with nothing. Our GCE Certificate remains the only thing we have. Can we save the credibility of this certificate?
Our educational standards
However, The Vanguard warns anyone trifling with our most cherished certificate today through the GCE Board that in the event of any such thing those concerned shall pay very dearly. Southern Cameroonians lost limbs and important parts of their body. They were splashed with water canons and bombarded with tear gas and grenades. They marched under the rain and even captured a traditional ruler at the time Provincial Delegate and put him under the rain until the Decree of the GCE Board was modified. Teachers marked the GCE for NOTHING only to get the GCE Board. All these sacrifices and risks were to guarantee and safeguard our educational standards… or at least what is remaining after the francophones with their hired Southern Cameroonian associates have left…
Some of those lording over it today were against the struggle to obtain the board, just as some today are against the Southern Cameroons liberation, but tomorrow they will be Lords in the new dispensation, pretending to be more Southern Cameroonian than even Anyangwe, or Ebong or Chief Ayamba.