Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cameroon GCE Syllabus Reforms: Brightening and Equipping Students for Success in Life

Monono Ekema :GCE Registrar

By Christopher Ambe Shu
The review of some subjects of the Cameroon GCE may have come late. But the review has brought commendable syllabus reforms, intended to prepare students for success in life, and not merely to pass certificate examinations.
The review, carried out recently in Limbe during a three-day conference organized by the Cameroon GCE Board in partnership with the Ministry of Secondary Education, was opened by Bapes Bapes Louis, Minister of Secondary Education.
 The minister who justified the review, challenged participants to emerge from the conference with syllabuses that keep pace with changes in policy orientation and are capable of propelling Cameroon into an emergent economy by 2035 as per the aspiration of the Head of State, President Paul Biya.
That is exactly what was done. And participants went home satisfied, now awaiting the implementation in the near future of these reforms.
“Created in 1976, the Cameroon GCE is 35 years old in 2011. For the first 17 years it was managed by the Ministry of National Education. Since 18 years it has been managed by the GCE Board under government supervision,” remarked Professor Ivo Leke Tambo, Secretary-General in the Ministry of Secondary Education, in his keynote presentation at the GCE Review Conference in Limbe, which held from April 4-6, 2011.
“During these 35 years, the GCE system has undergone some changes, especially in management and administration, but it has remained essentially a university preparatory examination in a school system where less than 10 percent of secondary school leavers go to university,” said Professor Tambo. “This situation creates a psychological problem for school leavers who fail and tend to see themselves as failures in life. Either the GCE system is modified to take care of the majority of secondary school leavers or another system of validating graduation from secondary school will emerge to take care of the 40-50 percent of the students who fail the GCE each year.”
The GCE system has controlled examinations that lead to graduation from English-speaking schools and therefore curriculum and teaching in those schools, said Professor Tambo.
 He challenged the GCE Board to “undertake reform that would open up learning avenues in schools so that these schools abandon teaching for success in examination and embrace teaching for success in life"
Professor Tambo, whose proposals to guide the review were applauded, thought that to ensure effective implementation of the reforms, the GCE Board should forge new partnerships for capacity -building and for sourcing of resources available within the Ministry of Secondary Education and other government departments.

Over 110 university lecturers and professors, veteran educationists, other resource persons, and some US and British experts converged on Saker Baptist College, Limbe and reviewed the syllabuses of the selected subjects. Other subjects, we gathered, will be reviewed in the future. Such a broad review of subjects was coming decades after the introduction of the GCE in Cameroon.
Justification for Syllabus Review
The Recorder learned that, on the instruction of Cameroon Government, the GCE Board, in collaboration with the Ministry of Secondary Education, organized the review conference to achieve the following objectives:(1) Tailor the syllabuses towards the attainment of President Paul Biya’s vision of transforming Cameroon into an emerging economy (2) Align syllabuses to current global trends and the realization of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in education (3)Ensure that there is smooth transition from the Ordinary Level syllabuses and those of the Advanced Level within the different subject areas (4)Keep pace with changes in education at the tertiary level geared towards professionalization and (5) Render the syllabuses more accommodating to concerns of inclusive education.
Input of Foreign Experts
   For the Cameroon GCE which enjoys international recognition to be reviewed, there was need for foreign experts to be on board. That is why two experts in educational matters came all from the USA and Britain
   From the UK, came Dr. David Davis of Educational Excellence (EDEXCEL). In his brief presentation, he said in the UK, syllabus review is every five years in order to effectively accommodate changing trends in the society and the world. He pointed out that in the UK attention is given to the fact that, not all students are good in English, Science and Mathematics and as such, vocational training is encouraged right up to the university level.
Dr.Davis lauded Cameroon GCE Board for developing a citizenship syllabus, noting that, UK is already moving away from national citizenship to embrace global citizenship concerns. He stressed that university recognition of the work of examining bodies is vital, adding that EDEXCEL is affiliated to many universities in the UK. He urged teachers not to be apprehensive of what will happen to their old notes with the introduction of curriculum innovations -because there is always room for training. He looked forward to continuous collaboration with Cameroon GCE Board, especially in the area of teacher training.
For his part, Mr. Jonathan Sills of Massachusetts, USA in his intervention, recommended a paradigm shift in the quality of education given students. He cautioned that skill development in a curriculum is not a matter to be given to chance, insisting that conscious efforts be made to concentrate on teaching thinking, using content rather than just imparting information
Subjects Reviewed
Monono  Ekema Humphrey, Registrar of the Cameroon GCE Board, in his opening remarks, said due to lack of means only some subjects were short listed for review  now, adding that others would be considered later. He called for a learner-and teacher-friendly review.
The following subjects were reviewed either at Ordinary or Advanced Level or at both levels:
1. Citizenship Education: This new subject is born to the GCE Board at the Ordinary Level. It treats current universal concepts such as human rights, democracy , child labor, terrorism, civic responsibilities, HIV/AIDS,etc aimed at transforming a person into a complete responsible national and a universal person.
2. French Language: It was recommended that, French should be taught in French at all times and not teaching French in English. That emphasis should be placed on Listening, Speaking, Reading and Written skills. Other changes were effected
3. Philosophy: O- Level Logic was born, whose proposed course content is basically introductory. At the A- level, the hitherto overloaded syllabus content was reduced- giving rise to a more focused program.
4. Geography: For O- Level, the geography of Cameroon is now a syllabus area emphasizing human and physical aspects. This reinforces the need of learners to have better knowledge of the country and highlights the potentials for and challenges to the economic growth of the country; now introduced basic ideas of models in both physical and human geography in order to bridge the gap between the Ordinary and Advanced Levels; themes  re-arranged into subject areas. Modification goes a long way to align the Ordinary and Advanced Level syllabuses. The new syllabus has equally put in place the impact of processes on man and the environments as well as their mitigation strategies. Also, more emphasis has been put on aspects such as global warming, desertification, internet communication and poverty spiral so as to stress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Hence the subject is made more applicable and relevant to society so as to make it more attractive.
Field work has been eliminated from Ordinary Level .Its elimination forestalls the school based assessment which was highly subjective.
 For A-Level, the 3-paper examination maintained with the following modifications: Some aspects of former papers 2 and 3 were integrated with paper 2 now based on physical and human geography theories and concepts. Paper 3 now deals exclusively with Cameroon, Map work and Techniques. Formerly, only the human aspect of Cameroon was emphasized, but with the review, Cameroon is considered in its entirety. Case studies in Human Geography have been restricted in order to lighten the syllabus content. Also the scheme of assessment is a novelty in the syllabus plan. Furthermore, to meet up with global trends and the realization of MDGs such as Global warming, desertification, globalization, food security, poverty spiral etc. have been given more emphasis.
5. English Language: A- Level English Language has been instituted and syllabus proposed. New syllabus structured into 2 parts: 1) School- based in the form of continuous assessment involving evaluation of school based projected and spoken English (2) Testing reading comprehension, grammar vocabulary, and summary and text reconstruction, composition and prescribed texts.
For O-Level English emphasis was placed on grammar and vocabulary. A major innovation was the inclusion of a school based project and spoken English to be assessed on set down criteria to avoid subjectivity.
6. Physics: 780 – A- Level Physics: Options added to reviewed syllabus to enable candidates orient themselves towards a career.  Content of each of the three papers modified as well as the weighting.
 7. Computer Science and Information and communication Technology:
– Computer Science (Ordinary Level)
Main innovations: broad scope with 50% of the syllabus devoted to Computer Science and 50% to ICT.
 Change in name from ‘Computer Science’ to ‘Foundations of Computer Science and Information Technology’ to reflect the new content.
 Greater visibility of key foundation concepts and relevance of content to industry.
Introduction of a section on electronic logic gates which form the foundation of computer hardware.
– Information and communication Technology (Advanced Level)
 Main innovations of syllabus are: clear and more precise specification of the practical content of the syllabus; Greater emphasis on the internet as a tool for providing a range of services for the modern economy; Introduction of concepts which facilitate an understanding of e-services such as: e-banking, E-commerce, e-government, e-governance.; need for candidates to develop skills in the use of multimedia; Greater awareness of the predominance of Information Systems including Health Information Systems, Management Information Systems, Library Information Systems.
– Computer Science (Advanced Level)
Main innovations of the syllabus are: Greater visibility of key concepts; Awareness of recent evolutions in processor technology; Awareness of novel operating System models; Greater emphasis on web technology
 8. Mathematics:
570 – Ordinary Level
At this level, the 2 Mathematics were maintained – 570 Mathematics and 575 Additional Mathematics. For the 2 Mathematics, changes were effected in terms of the structure of the examinations and the content. For the structure, unlike in the past, now all questions are compulsory.  Innovations were made to have a bridge between O-and A- Level by introducing certain new concepts.

Advanced Level
All A- Level Mathematics maintained:
          765 – Pure Maths with Mechanics (PMM)
          770 – Pure Maths with Statistics (PMS)
          775 –Further Maths
New topics introduced to adapt syllabuses to those of similar examination bodies and above all, new concepts such as logic and Boolean algebra have now been incorporated to enable candidates compete favorably for professional schools.
 9. Food Science and Home Economics:
 Changes effected to give a scientific background to better equip students for Food science and 740-Nutrition. Others who cannot further their education can be self-reliant. Changes made to take care of students who may not be able to continue after Ordinary levels, making them self reliant.
Course content of other countries was compared to give the content a global view and then adapt it to suit our environment. Emphasis on the practical aspect was reinforced by introducing new topics and also on student based assessment. Assessment Objectives were also restructured in line with Blooms taxonomy level of evaluation to meet technological trends. The structure of the examination was slightly modified as well.
Before the conference rose, participants were all agreed that Cameroon GCE Board is on the right path by professionalizing the courses that it offers, so to take care of those may be unable to proceed academically.
They were also unanimous that the reforms would be effectively implemented if all teachers on the field are recycled; if the Minister of Secondary Education liaises with his counterpart of Higher Education for Teacher Training Schools to incorporate the reviewed syllabuses into their training programs.
It should be noted that the Cameroon GCE board was went operational in 1993 and started its first exams in 1994, with Azong Wara as Pioneer Registrar, then came Omer Weyi Yembe.
Monono Ekema Humphrey, a seasoned educationist is incumbent GCE Registrar while Professor Peter Abety, GCE Board Chair

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