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Friday, 14 December 2012 12:00

CPE – In the wake of changes

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The Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) was introduced in 1978 and over the decades, it has turned into a landmark in the educational journey of all Mauritian children in the public sector.
After 34 years, authorities and stakeholders all agree that the CPE is no more valid in today’s world. Moreover, they admit that CPE does not cater for the holistic development of the child.

The CPE is considered to be one major test in Mauritius. In the past, the capacity of a child has been gauged solely on his performance at CPE: those with good ranks and admission to star schools are the ‘cream’ and future of the country while those with an average performance or poor performance were much downgraded. The perception was quite exaggerating, since those going to star schools were regarded as ‘super intellectuals’ while, for some people, the others had few chances of having a bright future. CPE also strengthened the concept of ‘elites’ and ‘star schools’.

For long, CPE was known for its rat race for admission to the star schools and thus, to form part of the elites. Parents, teachers, schools along with the pupils experienced different levels of stress from the early years to culminate in a much-dreaded STD IV for the pupils. The rat race caused much harm on its way: focus was only on the academic performance of the child, leaving little or no room for the development of the child in arts and creativity.

The harm was done more during the ranking period. Not only the child was given a rank at national level but the results were made public. Parents dreaded that everyone would know the results of their child and would thus categorise the latter as ‘elite’, ‘average’ or ‘failure’.

In 2002, ranking was abolished and regional schools and HSC schools were introduced but in 2006, the HSC schools were converted into National Colleges. This was in a bid to eliminate the rat race. Though the stress is less, the race is still there. Parents still want their child to be admitted to the National Colleges and have their name on the website of the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate (MES).

CPE under review
The CPE is currently under review, as mentioned in the Government Programme. Last year, in December, the minister of Education presided a forum on the subject and, uniting stakeholders and pedagogues, he invited recommendations and suggestions for the abolition and/or transformation of the CPE and a new mode of evaluation at the end of the primary cycle.

Following the forum, five committees were instituted, comprising some 20 members each. The working groups worked on: Review and De-loading of Curriculum; Review of Paper Design and Format; Review of Assessment and Automatic Promotion; Reinforcement of Pedagogy and Remedial Education; Certification and Selection.
After 15 working sessions during three months, each committee has submitted their recommendations and suggestions. The report will be presented during another forum on Monday 17 at Ebène whereby further discussions will ensue until a consensus is reached.

“We recommended a lighter syllabus and greater focus on the holistic development of the child,” says Ashik Junglee, participant of the five committees. He added that they have proposed a dose of continuous assessment (20%) in all fields, including sports, and admission to colleges on a regional basis.
According to Dev Virahsawmy, CPE was introduced to “eliminate those who had not achieved the level to go to secondary schools” due to a limited number of colleges. With the rise in the number of colleges in the country, he suggests automatic promotion to colleges after the primary cycle for all.

New percentages for evaluation of CPE
This year, a new category has been introduced in the statistics for the CPE exams. Prior to the two columns of percentages (1st sitting and 2nd sitting), a third column has been added (cohort).
According to the minister of education, the way the results are usually presented do not reflect the rality of the system. Hence, Cohort will take into account those who passed in the 1st sitting and those who passed in the second sitting (repeaters).

As example, pupils joined STD I in 2006. In 2011, these pupils took part in the CPE exams. Those who passed are found under the ‘1st sitting’. The rest repeated the CPE in 2012 and are categorized under the ‘2nd sitting’. Cohort adds the percentages found under the ‘1st sitting’ for 2011 and ‘2nd sitting’ for 2012 and gives a new percentage.

Repeaters in pre-voc
Those who did not pass the CPE can opt for pre-vocational schools instead of repeating another year. They will have a programme adapted to their capacity. After one year, those who passed will join the mainstream while the others will follow a programme over four years. They will be examined by the MES and will be given a diploma which will be equal to the CPE. The four years will comprise courses form the Mauritius Institute of Training Development (MITD) and the college.

Premita Leelachand

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