30% Less Students Wrote O Level Exams Last Year Than In 2017, The High Cost Of An Ailing Economy


According to ZIMSEC statistics provided for the November 2018 Ordinary Level examinations, 239 411 candidates sat for the examinations. This is 30% lower than the 332 473 who sat for the same examinations in the previous November examination season.


A 30% drop is too huge a drop to be ignored. The two issues that spring to mind as possible explanations are the economy and the fact that the November 2018 exam session was the first exam session under the new curriculum introduced by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2017.

The effects of the new curriculum

The ministry of education introduced a new curriculum at the beginning of 2017. The originally intended execution of the new curriculum could have affected students quite much but they changed some things around which should have removed the biggest barrier stopping students from registering and sitting for exams.


Originally, the O Level course was going to be strictly a two year course with students submitting continuous assessment assignments throughout Form 3 and Form 4. Continuous assessment is very noble and allows measurement of performance and ‘work ethic’ throughout the course and not just the rewarding of students who can ‘hack’ exams.

However, continuous assessment requires a lot of resources if it is to succeed. Resources are needed centrally to have examiners in a more permanent state of employment yet for several years ZIMSEC has been struggling to pay part time examiners for marking exam scripts in the June and November examination seasons.

Resources would also be needed by the schools and students to make continuous assessment work. For example, the work that students needed to do for their O Level Accounting included going to a real company and doing a case study of sorts. This requires money and it could be a lot depending on how far you stay away from a business that you could do a case study on. It’s important to remember at this stage that 68% of Zimbabweans live in rural areas where formal businesses are not very common.

The continuous assessment requirement was also going to affect non full time students who would have wanted to sit for the exams and if the ministry had not scrapped off the requirement there would have been a sharp decline in the number of independent candidates who registered for the exams.

So because continuous assessment was silently scrapped, the new curriculum cannot be the major reason why there was a 30% drop in the number of candidates. Of course it affected some because of its sloppy implementation and not enough information as changes were made.

The economy is chief culprit

My bet is that the decline in the number of candidates is mostly due to the deteriorating economy. There has been a sharp increase in the number of students dropping out of school because of no resources to pay the fees and other costs. Even students who have been allowed to continue attending school hit the snag of paying examination fees to register for the exams.

This is really sad. A generation of Zimbabweans is being affected for a lifetime because the economy is in a bad shape. Education is a multiplier so some of these effects will only show up in a decade. Some we will not be able to see because they will be opportunity cost losses which cannot be quantified. Who knows what innovations we will miss because some student could not proceed with education and then got despondent?

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2 thoughts on “30% Less Students Wrote O Level Exams Last Year Than In 2017, The High Cost Of An Ailing Economy

  1. Lost generation…. And the most educated work force and best infrastructure is fast diminishing at the hands of the junta… Soon crime will inevitably rise… We need change for sure

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