The Botswana Examination Council is conducting a two week-training workshop on High Order Thinking Skills for its staff at the council’s premises in preparation for an education system that would produce an advanced crop of leaders in the future.
Enlisted for facilitating at the workshop is a renowned educational consultant, Dr Jennifer Bryce, a senior Research fellow from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).
The workshop is divided into two phases. The first started on February 4th and ended on February 8th and it targeted 30 BEC’S and Product Development and Standards officers, whereas the next stage will take off on February 11 and is set to end on February 15th. The second batch will comprise 170 teachers from about sixty primary and secondary schools across the country.
The motive of the workshop is premised on that Botswana requires manpower that is capable of thinking critically and that would be adequate to the task of solving complex problems arising from the ever changing nature of our society and development in general.
To achieve such a mindset, Dr Cyprian Cele, Director of Research and Policy Development at the BEC, said they believe the classroom is the ideal place. Students must be exposed to learning methods that are aimed to achieve this outlook at an early age.
Likewise the examinations set at any stage in the course of their studies should reflect that approach; questions should be structured in a way that spurs them into critical enquiry, and investigation of problem issues, with the ability to draw independent conclusions.
According to Cele, the participants in the first session, 4-8 February 2008, would, on completion of their workshop, and as part of their practical assignment, assist the consultant in training the 170 teachers. Product Development Officers were trained to prepare examination materials which challenge the students to apply the skills they have acquired during their studies in a way that allows them to employ their full potential. The PDSO is to prepare assessment procedures, organize item writing, which includes training teachers who are to write items, and they are also responsible for compilation of items into text papers.
“Although the present examination questions have always been tailored along the line that is proposed by the ongoing workshop,” Cele said, “it is intended that this workshop will up lift us from where we are, especially with respect to items demanding higher cognitive skills. It will increase the capability of BEC to produce an even better question paper”.
He further said that the High Order Thinking Skills Items will eventually improve the quality of their examination papers and, therefore, unprecedented impact on our education system.
BEC is mandated under section 5 of the Botswana Examinations Act No. 4 of 2002, “to conduct school examinations and any other examinations for the Ministry and issue certificates in respect of such examinations’.
BEC’s key business activity is the development, administration, accreditation and certification of school examinations in the primary and secondary education sub-sectors.
One of the reasons it was established was to avoid a situation where the ministry of education did both the syllabus and acted as examiners of their own syllabus thus improving the quality and standards of education, as is the practice in other countries.