Parents challenge elitist and expensive student assessment system

By Bulawayo Correspondent

Residents of BULAWAYO have pleaded with the government to suspend the Continuous Assessment Learning Activities (CALA) program, arguing that the program is elitist and consumes time and financial resources for parents.

CALA is a student assessment system that was implemented in the last quarter of 2021.

As part of the ZIMSEC system, candidates’ physical and behavioral skills are assessed continuously (coursework) to contribute 30% to their final grades.

The summative or cognitive skills assessed during the exams contribute up to 70% of the candidate’s final mark.

Speaking to reporters, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) Administration Secretary Thembalani Dube said that while CALA is a good initiative, most schools and students lack the technological capacity to implement the program.

“BPRA, after consultation with residents, is concerned about the effectiveness and sustainability of the Continuous Assessment Learning Activities (CALA) program. Residents said that while the program is a good initiative, the amount of time, energy and material resources devoted to CALA is disproportionate to its weight.

“Students spend way too much time on it at the expense of summative assessment final exams,” Dube said.

The BPRA official said the program has also created a digital divide within schools and communities.

“So much time and money is spent on the internet, which requires expensive data. Not all students have internet or data access. Additionally, parents lamented the ever-escalating data charges as programs require students to conduct online research, download online materials and print them in color which is another cost,” Dube said.

Dube also noted that most CALA research was done by parents themselves.

“Other parents have also expressed concerns about its effectiveness (CALA) as most of the research is done by parents, mainly due to limited resources in the form of gadgets. CALA questions or tasks protrude into the most cases the cognitive level of the learners,” he said.

CALA has been received with reservations by most parents who feel the policy is proving too costly for learners to afford the materials needed for projects.