An Act of Parliament established the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) in 1983 to set and conduct examinations and award certificates to successful candidates. Before this enactment, the Ministry of Education and Culture under the Examinations Section used to conduct the examinations. After the enactment, the section continued to perform the function of conducting the examinations while simultaneously developing an institutional framework and job descriptions.
The full launch and operationalisation of the Examinations Council of Zambia was in 1987 as a semi autonomous public institution (Parastatal).Prior to the establishment of the Council, the University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate in the United Kingdom was the examining and awarding body. The syndicate’s examinations catered for many countries and consequently it was not easy for such examinations to reflect the needs of Zambia. The country was subject to the curricula, syllabi and regulations of the syndicate with little say in the general policy of the syndicate examinations. In view of this, it became necessary to reach a decision to localise School Certificate examinations. Consequential to this was the need to develop capacity in the construction, administration and marking of examinations. This gave rise to the establishment of the Examinations Council of Zambia.The main functions of the Council as stipulated in the Examinations Council of Zambia Act, No. 15 of 1983 are to:
- Award certificates or diplomas to candidates who pass examinations conducted by the Council;
- Carry out relevant research in examinations;
- Advise any public institution on development and use of any system of testing or examining when requested to do so;
- Formulate syllabuses for examinations;
- Promote international recognition of qualifications conferred by the Council;
- Approve or reject appointment of examiners;
- Organise training courses for, or arrange for training of examiners, markers, supervisors, invigilators and other persons connected with examinations; and
- Invite any person or body either in or outside Zambia to assist the Council in the conduct of examinations.
Since its inception, the Council has been able to successfully perform its functions as outlined in the Act. However, there has been no comprehensive strategic plan to guide the operations of the Council. This meant that planning tended to force the Council to concentrate on short-term needs representing narrow sectional interests thus denying the Council the opportunity to run an effective and efficient system for conducting assessments and certification.Because of the lack of a comprehensive strategy to guide priority setting and resource allocation to the Council’s operations, the following emerged:
Lack of medium and long term strategies for the Council to guide investment priorities for funding and implementation
Lack of a coherent planning framework for resource mobilisation and performance benchmarking for assessing accountabilities;
Weakened capacity of the Council to coordinate effectively and to optimise operations
Maintenance of the status quo and emphasis placed on adherence to routine as a virtue and norm.
The challenges above confirm the need for the Council to develop a clear vision for the future and to improve the system for conducting assessments and certification. The Council will take a pragmatic approach to measuring performance of the Strategic Plan based on clearly defined targets and information.
The Council will from time to time devise and revise critical policies that will guide its operations in a number of strategic areas of focus in line with the Ministry of Education policy guidance. Further, this will be in pursuant to the Ministry of Education policy, Educating Our Future that has articulated three main policies specifically relevant to the operations of the Council as articulated below:
To seek evidence that the curriculum, which is comprehensive, balanced, integrated, diversified and relevant to the real needs of both the pupil and society, is well understood, taught and learnt pursuant to vision 2030;
To ensure that pupils master essential literacy and numeracy skills in lower and middle basic education;
To implement a comprehensive programme of school-based pupil assessment and feedback that should be an integral part of the teaching and learning process in every school.
The Council sees itself as playing an important role in achieving these policy statements in a number of ways. Firstly, the Council endeavours to set and conduct the assessment/examinations to seek evidence of the understanding, teaching and learning of the curriculum. Secondly, the Council regularly undertakes assessments (at the moment at middle basic education level) to measure pupil’s mastery of defined essential literacy and numeracy skills as part of a broader diagnostic systemic audit of the performance of the education system. Finally, the Council in 2006 commenced the Continuous Assessment (CA) programme, which is a school-based assessment tool that forms part of the teaching and learning process. Specifically, the Council has and will develop customised micro policies that will guide its day to day operations and these include the following: Human Resource Development Policy; Information Communication Policy; Innovation and Development Policy; Consultancy Policy; and Maintenance Policy.