Science Foundation programme not an A-Level qualification

With reference to the article which Masvingo Mirror (February 18) headlined “MSU introduces A-Level crash programme”, ZIMSEC is not aware that university is now an awarding body for school examinations.If MSU is not an awarding body for school examinations, how is it going to be able to set A-Level examinations for its one year “Crash Programme” and using which curriculum? What it proposes to offer can never be equated with the current GCE A-Level which schools are following as it lacks national standards.

Best practice is that for each qualification, there should be a nationally determined curriculum whose qualifications are awarded by a nationally mandated awarding body. The Science Foundation Programme cannot be regarded as an A-Level qualification because it cannot be certified as an A-Level after one year.

In terms of course duration, it is equivalent to a subsidiary qualification (Advanced Subsidiary AS) or the M Level which is offered in South Africa and was offered to former Group A Schools in Zimbabwe by the Associated Examining Board (AEB).

MSU lecturers are quoted as saying that “ . . . students under this programme will do two A-Level subjects and the qualification they get is an MSU qualification just like Cambridge has its own O and A Level qualifications”. There seems to be a serious misunderstanding of the GCE qualifications in the UK. What must be made abundantly clear is that there are a number of boards (5-7) all working with a university or universities and examining at the GCE Ordinary and Advanced Levels. The three best known GCE examining boards in Zimbabwe are:

(a) The Associated Examining Board (AEB) now known as Assessment and Qualifications Alliance linked to the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds who used to offer AEB GCE Examinations to former Group A Schools (whites only),

(b) University of London GCE, now known as Edexcel, which used to offer London GCE Examinations.

(c) The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) now known as the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) used to offer GCE and School Certificate Examinations to former Group B Schools (African) and is still offering the Cambridge International Examinations in Trust Schools.

It was UCLES that the Government of Zimbabwe chose to localise the GCE Ordinary and Advanced Level Examinations which ZIMSEC now runs.

All GCE Examining Boards get their curriculum from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), a national UK body that determines and monitors qualifications and assessment.

So far from Cambridge having its own O and A Level qualifications, it examines from a nationally determined school curriculum which is determined by the Secretary for (Minister of) Education through national structures and systems. Cambridge International Examinations is part of Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge with a mandate to examine and certificate at both the primary and secondary schools nationally and internationally.

E S Nhandara




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