Thousands rejected by BGCSE point system

• 88 000 have failed to make the cut for tertiary education since 2015

Thousands rejected by BGCSE point system

Over 80 000 learners were rejected by the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) point scaled system over the last five years, the Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Machana Shamukuni, disclosed this week.

Shamukuni was responding to questions raised by the MP for Molepolole, Oabile Regoeng, who wanted to know how many students failed to be absorbed into tertiary institutions over the last five years and what interventions were available to them.

“Administrative data on the total number of students who sat for BGCSE is sourced from (the) Botswana Examinations Council and is used to calculate the transition from senior secondary education to tertiary education,” he said. “Currently, the statistics collected over the last five years show that out of the 148 009 students who completed senior secondary, 88 112 were not admitted to tertiary education.”

This means that since 2015, only 59 897 students who completed their secondary school education were absorbed by universities and other higher education institutions.

A breakdown of the figures shows that in 2014, the total number of BGCSE candidates who sat for exams was at 37 334 while 14 934 enrolled with tertiary institutions against 22 450 who were not admitted. The transition rate stood at 39.9 percent. In 2015, there were 38 790 candidates but only 15 708 made it to higher education. But there was a slight increase from the previous year as 23 082 did not go further than secondary school. This was a transition rate of 40.5 percent.

Statistics show that from 2016 to 2018, a total of 104 305 students sat their BGCSE exams and the new intake by tertiary institutions cumulatively stood at 29 255. “As we speak, analysis is ongoing on the total number of students who transited to tertiary education during academic year 2019/20 and (is) expected in the last week of January 2021,” Shamukuni said.

He noted that although there are privately sponsored students, government remains the main sponsor of students at tertiary level. “The budget allocated for student sponsorship each financial year determines how many students can be sponsored to access tertiary education in that particular year,” he explained.

But the point scale system of BGCSE has been criticised for denying students who excel in practical subjects by grouping subjects to make the final 36 points. Against this background, the ministry says it sponsors students who attain the cut-off mark, suggesting that there are alternatives for students who fail to reach the mark. “But universities and colleges can admit students who attained down to 30 points at BGCSE or equivalent,” Shamunkuni told Parliament.

He disclosed that the government is working on technical colleges increasing their enrolment and that a student financing policy currently is also being developed. “The ministry is at an initial (stage) of developing the e-learning policy which will enhance opportunities for more students leaving senior secondary education to access tertiary education through distance and open learning,” the junior minister added.

Mixed reactions to point scale system

In order to understand the impact of the system on ordinary citizens, The Business Weekly & Review interviewed a few people who gave mixed reactions.

According to Kitso Modisane, a Computer Science graduate of the University of Botswana (UB), the system is still relevant for this day and time. “It is still relevant,” Modisane said. “With six Cs, you can (still) go to university. Unless there is a system more lenient, this one will do.”

An official of the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) who preferred anonymity said the system still exists largely because there are limited education opportunities in Botswana. “The problem is that we know as a country that we have limited education opportunities at tertiary level and so we came up with a system that can the trim numbers to fit the capacity,” the official said.

A respondent who gave his name only as Kagiso said the system has denied many learners an opportunity to get university education. “The system is not worth it,” he said. “Why do we judge people according to their academic performance rather than their real life capabilities?”