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PSAC Examiners’ Report : performances in decline in most subjects

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Last week, teachers’ got hold of the yearly Primary School Achievement Certificate (PSAC) examiners’ report published by the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate (MES). The report, based on the 2018 exam performances, has enabled them to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Grade 6 students. In 2018, 78.77% of the 11,949 candidates who took part in the exams passed. However, English and French languages are on a downward trend. 

English: Writing remains the most challenging skill

The report says that nearly 80% of students achieved at least numerical Grade 5 in the subject. “It is worth pointing out that most candidates have acquired the fundamentals for further learning. Most of them have displayed the ability to read with understanding and to write basic sentences in English, although a disparity can be seen in levels of achievement. In reading comprehension, whether at an elementary level or advanced level, candidates perform well when it comes to the location of explicit information.”

However, the report reveals that some candidates still struggle “in tasks requiring higher order skills such as making inferences, offering a personal response to the text or giving the meaning of vocabulary words.” In addition, “while tasks requiring candidates to deal with common vocabulary were satisfactorily done, it was disappointing to see candidates’ performance at tasks dealing with vocabulary in context and which required applying knowledge of vocabulary in writing.”

Most importantly, the report indicates that writing remains one of the most challenging skills for Grade 6 students. “Many candidates have had difficulties in writing tasks, be it at the basic level where they have to, inter alia, produce negative and interrogative structures properly, separate sentences adequately, write individual sentences using given words or at a higher level, where they had to write composition creatively using correct grammar, rich and varied vocabulary and sophisticated sentence structures.”

For example, in Question 5 in the English examination paper which evaluates candidates’ knowledge of syntax in writing at sentence level, the report underlines that “the influence of Kreol Morisien or French syntax were visible in the transformation into the negative and the interrogative, in the positioning of adverbs as well as in sentence writing.” The report states that the following items “were found challenging by a significant number of candidates.” 

Correct sentence writing

Candidates were expected to write a sentence with the given words in this item. Meaningful, syntactically correct and grammatically accurate sentences were positively awarded. One example of such a sentence was: I was late to school because I missed the bus. 

Certain issues were visibly noticeable.

  1. Some candidates mistook ‘miss’ for the honorific ‘Miss’ instead of as a verb. In cases of correct sentences in terms of syntax, grammar and meaning full marks were awarded despite the misunderstanding.
  2. In some cases, candidates failed to conjugate the verb correctly resulting in loss of marks. 
  3. In a minority of cases, the adjective late was transformed to the noun lateness which resulted in the loss of marks. 
  4. Several candidates made use of the given words in different sentences instead of one sentence only, which is penalised. 
  5. Many candidates faced the difficulty of finding the appropriate preposition, often saying arrived late for school instead of at.

French: Decline in the quality of writing 

The report states that the general performance in French was satisfactory with passing rate of 82.12%. In terms of grammar and vocabulary, the report indicates that the majority of candidates have acquired basic grammar skills. However, it underlines that students faced difficulties in questions 7A and B, in which they needed to apply the rules of grammar. In terms of reading comprehension exercises, the report found out that the majority of candidates were able to read and understand. However, “they encounter difficulties with higher skills such as inference or give their opinion/appreciation.” 

Moreover, the examiners’ report highlights that it has noted “a general and disturbing decline in the quality of writing. It was also noticed that a very large number did not punctuate their writing.”

Maths: Not able to meet the requirements

The report indicates that the pass rate of students in the PSAC 2018 examination were nearly the same as in 2017. “The percentage of school candidates who achieved a numerical grade 5 or better in PSAC Mathematics in 2018 was 80.42% at first sitting, compared to 80.86% in 2017.” However, the report underlines that “roughly 4,000 students were not able to meet the requirements of the PSAC Mathematics assessment in each of its last two editions should be a matter of concern.”

Despite the fact that the report does give the impression that performance in Mathematics has been particularly poor, “a majority of candidates were able to show sound knowledge acquisition and understanding, and to demonstrate that learning has taken place quite satisfactorily.”

Science: Basic concepts still misunderstood 

The report indicates that “76.56% of candidates achieved numerical grade 5 or better in Science for the PSAC 2018 examination session at first sitting.” It found out that compared to previous years, “pupils seemed to have had more exposure to practical science” from the answers they’ve given. “They understood, for instance, the importance of having a control in an experiment and many were able to explain this correctly.” However, “some basic concepts are still misunderstood by some candidates, like the concept of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.”

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