Government Sets Submission Deadline for Continuous Assessments Learning Activities despite Outcries

Government sets submission deadline for Continuous Assessments Learning Activities (CALA) for this year’s examination classes, warning that non-submission of the CALAs will result in candidates having no results in affected subjects.

In a circular, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education secretary Mrs Tumisang Thabela, said learners must submit three CALA components per learning area with an average mark submitted to Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) by November 30, 2021.

"Following the successful rollout of the Competence Based Curriculum and training of 2021 examination class teachers, all schools should implement the Continuous Assessments Learning Activities (CALA) for Grade 7, form 4 and 6 learners," reads the circular in part.

"CALA implementation is now policy for all primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe. Learners should do three CALA components per learning area.

"The components and the respective mark schedule should be kept at the Examination Center for access by moderators.

"The averaged moderate mark out of 100 for the three CALA components should be submitted to ZIMSEC on 30 November.

"All examination centers are required to ensure that they meet the above deadlines."

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What is ZIMSEC Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA)

Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) is a set of student continuous assessment objectives that was set by the government to be implemented for November 2021 ZIMSEC examinations. It is a way to evaluate a student’s progress throughout the final year of ZIMSEC Grade 7, O level or A level course.

Though in some countries, continuous assessment is often used as an alternative to the final examination system, under ZIMSEC continuous assessment is used in conjunction with the final examinations. ZIMSEC candidates are assessed continuously for physical and behavioural skills and the assessments contribute 30 percent of their final marks.

ZIMSEC External Candidates Are Not Exempted

External candidates are not exempted from continuous assessment and they have to approach their examination centres for assessment. However, what is not clear is whether a student will be exempted for continuous assessment in a future rewrite if the student fails the final examination and passes the continuous assessment.


Background of CALA

Early the year in March, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) announced the urgent revival of the continuous assessment framework for 2021 candidates. This gave students less than a year to adjust to the new system in a year that was already marred by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Opposition To Cala

Though the government argued that continuous assessment allows tracking of student’s progress and offers students more support, guidance, and opportunities to improve during the final academic year, opponents attacked the poor timing of the program.

Many opponents of this new learning system attacked not continuous assessment itself but the fact that the government gave students less than a year to adjust to continuous assessment. Some said continuous assessment should have been implemented at Form 5, Form 3 and Grade 6 in order to give students more time to cover both the continuous assessment objectives and the main curriculum. Others argued that 2021 was already a lost year to try anything new for the students since almost half the year has already been lost to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) Letter even advised ministry of education advising it to postpone the implementation of CALAs to at least January 2022, in a letter that 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."

Part of NASH’s argument was that the number of continuous assessment projects per learner saying they would not only overwhelm the learner but also the teachers who will assess the projects.

"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’."


Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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