Grade seven automatic progression to grade eight: effects on learner academic performance and the provision of quality education in selected secondary schools in Mwense district, Zambia.

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Mwila, Melvin
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The University of Zambia
The main purpose of this study was to investigate the automatic grade seven progression to grade eight focusing on its effects on learner academic performance and the provision of quality education in selected secondary schools in Mwense district. Automatic progression to grade eight is a policy put in place to ensure that learners attain at least the basic education level. The policy advocates for no cut off points for grade seven learners instead it provides for automatic progression depending on the available secondary school places regardless of the learners ability. Nevertheless learner progression might be of quality if the learners’ ability is good. To effectively learn, the learner must possess literacy, numeracy, values, attitudes and prior knowledge unlike automatic progression which ignores such important academic skills. Through a qualitative-phenomenological design, data was obtained from the purposively sampled 1 DESO, 4 Head teachers, 8 teachers, 4 parents and 16 grade 8 and 9 learners. Data from all the respondents was collected through interviews. Schools were purposively sampled. Thematic analysis was used in the study. The findings revealed that the performance of most progressed learners was below average, due to low ability levels. Most progressed learners were not able to read and write nor understand English which was the medium of instruction in secondary school. It also reviewed that most progressed learners lacked prior knowledge to help them build on the new content of secondary school. From the findings it was noted that the morale and self-esteem of most automatically progressed learners was low due to low ability. As a result they were passive in most learning activities and their interest to learn was low. It was also found that the enrolment in classes where automatic progressed learners were taken was high. This affected quality teaching as most teachers failed to give individual learner attention and failed to apply some of teaching methods which were not supported by high enrolment. Teachers and parents views on the automatic progression were also established. The common views were that the policy promoted failing because most progressed learners with low ability learners who got worse in performance once they found more challenging work in secondary school. It was established that automatic learner progression slowed the pace at which the syllabus was moved. It was established that the policy was not useful to low ability learners as it promoted failing especially to the illiterate learners and it also contributed to low standards of education. In this study it was recommended that the MoGE should stop automatic grade seven progression to grade eight and re-introduce a reasonable cut off point for grade seven selection to grade eight to ensure that learners with at least with a certain level of ability and knowledge enter secondary school. It was also recommended that in order to effectively progress learners, the government should consider the ability, literacy and knowledge levels of the learner. The conclusion was that automatic progression affected learner performance. Most progressed learners were found to be illiterate in English which contributed to poor academic performance. The policy contributed to the low learner morale and self-esteem. Most automatic progressed learners were found to be passive in class with less hope to progress to senior secondary school due failure to get concepts. It also contributed to high enrolment in the classes which hindered chance and time for teachers to give each individual learner attention and use of variety of teaching methods.
School progression.