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History of NECTA

After Tanzania Mainland had pulled out of the East African Examinations Council, in 1971 and before NECTA was established by Law, in 1973, the Curriculum and Examinations Section of the Ministry of Education was responsible for all examinations.  With the establishment of NECTA, the Examinations become its responsibility in accordance with the law.  The Curriculum continued to be under the Ministry of Education and the University College, Dar es Salaam until when it was taken over by the newly established, autonomous Institute of Curriculum Development (ICD) in 1975, which in 1993 was renamed as the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE).

Between 1972 and 1976 the first staff of NECTA were recruited. The former Executive Secretary (Mr. P. P Gandye) was recruited in 1972. The other staff members continued to be recruited and especially so when NECTA’s premises moved from the Ministry of Education Headquarters to the present premises at Kijitonyama near Mwenge. Presently the number of NECTA’s staff is around 160.

The History of Secondary School Examinations on Tanzania Mainland

Junior Secondary Education in Tanzania Mainland started in 1930’s during the British rule. The first Junior Secondary School opened at Tabora in 1934. By the end of the Second World War the number of junior Secondary Schools increased from one in 1934 to eight Government Secondary schools and ten Mission Secondary Schools. At the end of the Junior Secondary Education students sat for an External or Final Examination called the Territorial Standard Ten Examination.

The establishment of Junior Secondary Education in 1930’s was followed by the establishment of Senior Secondary Education after the Second World War. At the end of the Senior Secondary Education Cycle students sat for the Cambridge School Certificate Examination which was sat for the first time in 1947. Further development in Education for Tanzania Mainland, led to the introduction of Higher Secondary Education in the late 1950’s. The first African students to complete the Higher Secondary Education Cycle sat for the Cambridge Higher School Certificate Examination for the first time in 1960. The development in Education for Tanzania Mainland reached climax when Dar es Salaam University College opened in 1961. Its first 14 Law students graduated in 1964 and received their Bachelor of Laws of the East African University comprising Dar es Salaam, Makerere and Nairobi University Colleges.  Before the East African University became a full University, it was part of the University of London.

Continuous Assessment Becoming Part of NECTA’s Examination Certification

School based assessment was part and parcel of the school system since its establishment by the Germans immediately after their coming to East Africa.  During the German Rule, between 1880’s and the end of the First World War, education on Mainland Tanzania (by then Tanganyika) was provided in village Primary Schools and assessment was mainly school based.  After the War, as the Germans were defeated then Tanganyika was entrusted by the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, to the British Government, during the British rule the primary education established by the Germans expanded together with the school based assessment or formative assessment, to monitor the pupils’ progress.  In addition to the school based or formative assessment, the British started external or final examination (summative assessment) at the end of each education cycle.

The Education system before mid 1930’s on Tanzania Mainland was 4-2-3 i.e. Four years of Primary Schooling, two years of District schooling and Three years of Provincial Schooling.  With the introduction of Junior Secondary Schools after mid 1930’s, Senior Secondary Schools and Middle Schools after the second world war, the education system became 4-4-2-2 i.e. Four years of Primary Schooling, Four years of Middle Schooling, Two years of Junior Secondary Schooling and Two years of Senior Secondary Schooling. The introduction of Higher Secondary Education in late 1950’s, the establishment of Dar es Salaam University College in 1961 and the reorganization of Primary and Middle schools in 1960’s led to the present Education System of 7-4-2-3 i.e. seven years of Primary Schooling, Four years of Ordinary Secondary Schooling, Two years of Advanced Secondary Schooling and Three years of first degree courses.

School based assessment or continuous assessment in all education cycles through exercises, class tests, monthly and terminal tests was established in the education system to monitor pupils’ progress within education cycles and to promote them from low classes to higher classes.  Pupils who performed well in the school-based assessment were promoted from lower classes to higher classes; those who performed poorly were required to repeat classes in order to improve their performance.

External or Final Examinations were administered at the end of each education cycle to promote the pupils from the lower education cycle to the higher education cycle which usually had few places and for selecting pupils to different courses and direct employments.

When the Education System was 4-2-3, the end of Education cycle Examinations were Primary Standard Four Examination, District Standard Six Examination and provincial Standard Nine Examination respectively; when the Education System was 4-4-2-2-, the end of Education Cycle examinations were respectively provincial Standard Four Examination, Territorial Standard Eight Examination, Territorial Standard Ten Examination and Cambridge School Certificate Examination, at the end of the present Education Structure of 7-4-2-3,the end of cycle examinations are Primary School leaving Examination, certificate of secondary Education Examination, Advanced Certificate of Secondary Education Examination and First degree Examinations respectively.

The two methods of assessment – the formative and summative – saved their purposes very well until when Mwalimu Nyerere questioned them in his book of Education for Self Reliance in 1967, after the Arusha Declaration.   Mwalimu questioned the two methods of assessment because, although Tanzania became independent, the Cambridge Syllabuses and examinations were still very British in all aspects.  The data and examples in question papers were mainly from Britain.  Hence Mwalimu, knowing that Examinations normally influence the change of curriculum, directed in his book of Education for Self Reliance to make the Syllabuses and Examinations Tanzanian.  TANU’s Musoma Directive on the implementation of Education for Self Reliance in 1974 is the basis if the present Continuous Assessment practiced in all Secondary Schools, Teachers and Technical Colleges.  The directive stated as follows:

The excessive emphasis now placed on written examinations must be reduced, and that the students’ progress in the classroom plus his performance of other functions and the work which he will do as part of his education must all be continually assessed and the combined result is what should constitute his success or failure.

NECTA responded to the challenge and formulated the Continuous Assessment package, after consultation with the other educationists within the Council and the Country (The Institute of Education, The Academic Departments of the Ministry of Education, the University etc) and outside the country (China and Korea) in 1976.  The Continuous Assessment package consisted of two-assessment component:  the academic component comprising the Continuous Assessment (weighting (50%) the Final Examinations (weighting 50%) and the character assessment and attitude towards work component (weighting 100%).  The 50% of Continuous Assessment component was to be contributed by:

  1. Exercises – Homework, class tests, quizzes etc. (20%)

  2. Terminal Tests (25%)

  3. Projects – three projects – Form III – IV and Form V – VI (5%).

The Final Examination (F.E.) component was to be administered by NECTA that of Continuous Assessment (C.A.) by teachers in schools/colleges and the marks sent to NECTA.

In combining the Continuous Assessment (C.A.) marks with the Final Examination (F.E) marks the following standardization parameters were to be taken into consideration:

  1. The National Mean for Continuous Assessment (NCA)

  2. The National Mean for Final Examination (NFE)

  3. The National Mean Difference between the National Mean for Continuous

    Assessment and the National Mean for Final Examination NMD = NCA – NFE.

  4. The Centre Mean for Continuous Assessment (CA)

  5. The Centre Mean for Final Examination (FE0)

  6. The Centre Mean Difference between the Centre Mean for Continuous Assessment
    and the Centre Mean for Final Examination MD = CA – FE.

  7. The Adjustment Factor obtained from the Difference between the National 
    Mean Difference and the Centre mean Difference AF = NMD –MD = (NCA – NFE) – (CA – FE).

The adjustment factor was the number of marks (Positive or Negative) added to the candidates’ total marks of C.A. and F.E.  A negative adjustment factor was an indication that the teachers were too generous in awarding C.A. marks, a positive adjustment factor was an indication that they were too strict and a zero adjustment factor was and indication that the assessment of teachers on C.A was as the assessment of Examiners on F.E.

After the statistical manipulation, the marks for each subject and each candidate were graded as A, B, C, D, and F for O-Level examination and as A, B, C, D, E, S, and E for the A- Level examination.

Character Assessment

The character assessment and attitude towards work aspect of the C.A. component was the main important departure from the traditional examination certification. In assessing this aspect teachers had to base their assessments onto the following pupil’s attributes:

  • Diligence: Conduct of applying effort with consistency, enthusiasm, perseverance, efficiency and producing satisfactory amount of work.

  • Valuing Work: Conduct of showing interest in one’s work regardless of its nature

  • Caring for Property: The conduct of applying care in handling property and of safeguarding it from loss or damage.

  • Sociability: Conduct of promoting social harmony and understanding; of showing appreciation and consideration of other people’s viewpoints and feelings, and of being accommodating.

  • Obedience: Conduct of obeying lawful orders willingly and of following instructions faithfully.

  • Honesty: Conduct of being faithful, trustworthy and behaving properly, avoiding cheating and departing from one’s duties only when period of work ends or after completing duty.

  • Cleanliness: Conduct of being neat, orderly and tidy in appearance and presentations well as caring for personal hygiene.

Each attribute was given a percentage weighting for all seven totaling to 100%. The percentages awarded by the teachers to every pupil for each of the seven attributes were to be translated by NECTA and reduced to three categories:

  1. 80% - 100% VERY GOOD

  2. 40% -  79%  GOOD

  3.  0% -  39%  POOR

For the purpose of Certification at O-Level, the candidate had to pass both the academic component at grades A, B, C, or D and character assessment towards work at grades 1 & 2. For A- Level the candidate had also to pass both the academic component at grades A, B, C, D, E, or S and the character assessment and attitude towards work at grades 1 & 2. Failing one component – Academic or character assessment- denied the candidate a certificate.

The revision of the C.A programme, which started in 1976, took place in 1989. During the revision some weaknesses of the programme were discovered. The first weakness was the result from fact the NECTA did not formulate articulate and comprehensive guidelines to help teachers in the administration of the programme. Other weaknesses included the cumbersomeness of dealing with large numbers of exercises, which led to some teachers “cooking” the marks; few candidates being victimized in character assessment thus denying them certificates and the requirement of candidates to produce three projects in two years was too much for them. However, on the whole, the revision found that the C.A programme was very successful.

To improve the C.A programme, therefore, NECTA published a guideline booklet which was articulate and comprehensive to guide the teachers; the exercises as an aspect of the C.A component were dropped, pupils had to produce one project work in the two years of Forms Three and Four and Forms Five and Six and Character assessment and attitude to work no longer applied as a condition for certification, although it is still a condition for registration. After the revision the programme is manageable by teachers for they have to send to NECTA only terminal tests’ and one project’s marks.


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