Culture, Africa

New system of testing students in Zimbabwe promotes logic, say experts

New assessment system introduced in schools during COVID-19 helps to inspire reasoning, critical thinking

John Cassim   | 14.01.2022
New system of testing students in Zimbabwe promotes logic, say experts

HARARE, Zimbabwe 

As countries observe World Logic Day on Friday, experts say a blessing in disguise came for the southern African country of Zimbabwe during the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were shuttered for most of the time.

Instead of pursuing an annual examination system, the country introduced a new system based on students’ reasoning, logic, and critical thinking skills, thus opening a new chapter in the country’s education system.

Logic, based on the principles of reasoning, has been studied by many civilizations throughout history and played an important role in the development of philosophy and science.

In 2019, UNESCO proclaimed Jan. 14 to be World Logic Day, as that date coincidentally marks the anniversary of both the death of Kurt Godel and the birthday of Alfred Tarski, two of the most prominent logicians of the 20th century.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Paul Mapfumo, vice chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, said innovation, creativity, and design thinking that stimulate logic are necessary for the country’s development.

“We normally say logic comes to the same, which means the same kind of solution while solving problems. It doesn’t matter where you are geographically but if we’re using the same logic, then we will arrive at the same answer,” Mapfumo said.

He linked the country’s introduction of continuous assessment to test the students in pandemic times as an example of promoting logic.

Continuous assessment learning activities (CALA) is a form of testing students by evaluating their progress in various disciplines throughout the course, rather than assessing them by sitting in a single exam.

“The argument is that the government is advancing a philosophy, a policy that supports the use of logic in schools, and the obvious example is the launch of innovation hubs, industrial parks in universities. This has stimulated the private sector to have its hub, meaning we have a convergence of a nation under one vision to promote logic,” said Mapfumo.

Gains for engineers

He said the introduction of continuous assessment learning activities has brought gains to engineers, as it helps them maintain the required skills and promote standards relevant to the industry.

According to Thami Mpala, head of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers, the introduction of logic has raised the character and status of the engineering profession, while ensuring that practicing engineers continuously develop their skills to come up with sustainable, innovative engineering solutions.

“Therefore, the use of logic and critical thinking are very important aspects to help develop such skills for engineers in an ever-changing world,” he added.

Students also maintain that the introduction of CALA has helped them to face challenges and undertake research and get exposed to reasoning rather than just memorizing to pass their tests.

“The introduction of CALA helped me a lot as I was presented with challenges to solve and during my research,” said Vanessa Phiri, a student.

“I ended up getting extra information that I also found useful in answering my commerce final examination papers.”

She added: “It pushed me to think critically and exposed me to data by several scholars besides the authors of our school books on various topics.”


Critical thinking

Ruvimbo Bvindi, another student in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, also commended the introduction of CALA, saying he had taken exams in 10 subjects.

“I discovered that what I researched and presented during the CALA gave me the impetus to think critically and answer final exam questions that required explanation in all the subjects,” said Bvindi.

When the use of continuous assessment was first introduced last March, it faced opposition from various quarters, including teachers.

“Our teachers told us that there was no time for assessment during the year owing to COVID-19 lockdowns,” said Tedious Jack, a secondary school student.

“But the government insisted, and then we realized this was a very important learning program, as it enhances the use of logic.”

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