Curricular Alignment

Alignment: Malawi National Exams &
Andrea Sterzuk
Curriculum Development & Evaluation in Technical & Vocational
September 30, 2013
National Exams in Malawi
 “In 1969, the Malawi parliament enacted a law that created
the Malawi Certificate Examination Board (MCE Board). This
Board was charged with the responsibility of developing
and administering the Malawi Certificate of Education
(MCE) examination in conjunction with the Associated
Examining Board (AEB) of the UK. The first such examination
was administered in 1972.”
 “Seven years later, the MCE Board became the Malawi
Certificate Examinations and Testing Board (MCE and TB).
The MCE and TB continued to administer the MCE
examinations with the AEB until 1989 when the handover
was completed.” (Chakwera, Khembo, & Sireci, 2004, p. 1)
National Exams in Malawi
 “Following an evaluation of examinations in Malawi in 1984,
it was decided that all public examinations should be
developed and administered by one central authority.
Consequently, in 1987, parliament approved legislation
merging the examinations section of the Ministry of
Education with the MCE and TB, thus forming the Malawi
National Examinations Board (MANEB), which currently
operates the major educational testing programs in Malawi.
 “In addition, MANEB took over the responsibility of
developing and administering Teacher Certificate
Examinations and Craft Examinations for technical schools”
(Chakwera, Khembo, & Sireci, 2004, p. 2).”
National Exams in Malawi Trades
 UNESCO indicates that there are currently three parallel
qualifications frameworks in TEVET in Malawi: The National
Trade Test, administered by the Ministry of Labour; The
Malawi Crafts Certificate, administered by the Ministry of
Education; The Competence Based Education and
Training (CBET), introduced and managed by TEVETA.
 Question: What do you know of these qualification
frameworks? How closely do these tests align with the
curriculum of your schools?
National Exams in Malawi
 PSLCE: Most children start formal education at primary
school at the age of six.
 Primary school takes 8 years from Standard 1 to 8 at
the end of which pupils write the Primary School Leaving
Certificate examinations.
 Students must pass this exam if they are to attend
secondary school education in a government secondary
National Exams in Malawi
 JCE & MSCE: Secondary school education takes 4 years
from Form 1 to Form 4.
 Students in secondary schools sit two examinations, a
Junior Certicate Examination (JCE) at Form 2 and a
Malawi School Certificate Examination (MSCE) at Form 4.
 MSCE examination results are used for certification (i.e.,
certifying successful completion of secondary education)
and selection into the university and other tertiary
National Exams & English
 In all three national exams, “English is the passing subject.
Not only are students expected to pass a certain number
of school subjects, but English must be one of the
subjects passed to qualify for a certificate and advance
to the next level of education.”
 “That is, if a student excels in all other subjects but fails his
English paper, she or he is considered to have failed and
cannot get a certificate, let alone advance to the next
level of education” (Matiki, 2001, p. 206).
Curricular Validity & Test Washback
 Chakwera, Khembo, and Sireci (2004) explain that “the
examinations in Malawi are so important that they have
assumed a “gate-keeping” role in the system. Because of
this importance, the examinations exert considerable
influence on what goes on in schools” (p. 9).
 How does this happen?
Curricular Validity & Test Washback
 Washback refers to the influence of testing on teaching
and learning.
 In a sense, the high-stakes test takes the place of
 The test determines the activities that occur in the
classroom, not the official curriculum.
Curricular Validity & Test Washback
 Chakwera, Khembo, and Sireci (2004) explain that “with
so much emphasis on passing examinations it is not
surprising that the instruction has become examination
oriented. Thus, curricular validity of Malawian exams is a
contentious issue” (p. 9)
 What do the authors mean by the ”curricular validity of
Malawian exams?”
 As a learner, were you aware of any washback effect of
these exams on your own learning? Do you remember
your teachers speaking of the exams? Do you remember
how taking the exam felt?
 As a teacher, do these exams influence teaching and
learning in your classroom or school in any way?
Curricular Validity & Test Washback
 Chakwera, Khembo, and Sireci (2004) explain that
“MANEB is aware of the demands of the curriculum, but is
unable to meet them because of inadequate resources.
In some subjects the number of examination papers was
reduced and practical-work in some subjects was scaled
down to cut down costs. For example, assessment by
project method had to be discontinued.
 “This resulted in a mismatch between the examinations
and course objectives because only selected parts of the
curriculum are assessed, and therefore taught” (p.9).
Curricular Validity & Test Washback
 Chakwera, Khembo, and Sireci (2004) indicate that
“when projects were removed from assessment to cut
down costs on project inspection and scoring, the
schools no longer felt the need to teach by project
method, even though it remained an important part of
the national curriculum” (p. 9).
 Chakwera, Khembo, and Sireci (2004) warn that “if
teachers are to cover the whole curriculum, then
examinations must cover the curriculum” (p. 9).
 By not covering some parts of the curriculum, the
examinations limit the scope of instruction” (p. 9).
If Malawi moves in the direction of vocationalizing
primary education, what kinds of implications might this
have for the the Primary School Leaving Certificate
Given what you know about curriculum alignment &
the potential impact of high-stake exams on classroom
instruction, what kind of relationship is necessary
between the Ministry of Education curriculum
developers and the Malawi National Examinations

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