By Alusine Sesay
The monthly seminar is in line with WAEC’s policy of close collaboration with schools and stakeholders in education to promote and sustain quality performance of candidates in the Council’s examination.
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, held its monthly seminar at the Government Secondary School (Bo School) in the south of Sierra Leone with the theme: “Attaining Outstanding Performance in Chemistry in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE)”.
The event brought together students offering Chemistry, teachers, school authorities, and policymakers.
The Officer In Charge of the National Office of WAEC, Mustapha Koroma said that the monthly seminar is in line with WAEC’s policy of close collaboration with schools and stakeholders in education to promote and sustain quality performance of candidates in the Council’s examination.
Koroma said that the seminar topic is very appropriate particularly when the performance of candidates in Chemistry is appalling.
He said that school children and teachers were invited to the seminar to learn from experienced and seasoned teacher. He said that the seminar is an opportunity for all to learn different approaches to interpret questions, general needs of students and appropriate responses in an examination condition.
“It is also an opportunity for teachers to learn from the seminar and put into practice what they have learnt,” he said.
Koroma recommended improvement on learning outcomes and better methods that will also improve the performance of candidates.
“Teachers should also be able to form subject associations as it’s done in Ghana. By so doing, with hard work and effective collaboration, they will be able to come up with good textbooks,” he said.
He also appealed to Ministry of Education to put proper monitoring mechanism in place for better teaching and learning, adding that if teachers are monitored, they will do their best.
He said that teachers, parents, WAEC and students all have a role to play to ensure better performance of candidates in examinations.
The acting head of the Freetown Section of the Research Department of WAEC, A.S. Janneh said that the study of Chemistry provides global significance. “Chemistry underpins understanding and progress in almost every sphere of science, technology and industry. It also makes a valid contribution to the economy, commerce, etc. Chemical discoveries and their applications have played a pivotal role in the advancement of humankind, and will continue to have a profound impact on health, the environment, Industry, Agriculture, Science and Technology,” he said.
However, he said, statistics of results revealed that performance of candidates in the subject at WASSCE over the years is terrible. For instance, in 2021 about 29% of candidates had credits while in 2019 about 2% attained between Grades Al to C6 in Chemistry.
“Thus, the organisation of this seminar to help prospective candidates to develop knowledge and skills in attaining outstanding performance in chemistry in WASSCE,” he said
“The Council believed that candidates should be enlightened before undertaking the real testing. It
is also our belief that teachers gathered here today will also learn from this lecture and put into practice, knowledge acquired for better performance of our candidates, as the presenter is an experienced, seasoned and professional teacher,” Janneh said,
He said that WAEC monthly seminars serve as an avenue for cross fertilisation of ideas, dissemination of innovative thoughts to improve the quality of teaching and learning, provision of information tools to school authorities and policymakers for informed planning and implementation of educational programmes, discussion on way forward to challenges in teaching-learning and education delivery, and propagation of research findings of the CounciI.
Today’s topic is on Chemistry and participants will be Informed, sensitized, emboldened to make constructive criticisms and inspired to advance ways forward to tackle problems and issues presented.
“I want to thank the OIC and Management of the Freetown Office for their supports to FSRD in undertaking this important programme, especially so when this event is occurring out of Freetown, which will give live opportunity to candidates in other parts of the country,” Janneh said.
Chairman of the Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools in the South, Edward Koroma thanked the National Office of WAEC for organizing the seminar. He said that weak laboratory infrastructure in schools, and poor monitoring of teachers accounted for the poor performance of candidates in Chemistry examination.
He said that the government recently supplied laboratory equipment and reagents, but they are not enough. “You cannot have quality education without quality teaching,” he said.
Deputy Director of Education in Bo District, Ibrahim Fofanah applauded WAEC for the hard work and commitment over the years to conduct examinations in the public interest and award certificates. He described the holding of the seminar as a laudable venture.
Presenting the seminar paper, Lecturer at the Milton Margai Technical University, Mohamed Sannoh said that Chemistry teachers should teach students how scientific discoveries make an impact on people’s lives; help students develop skills in the accurate use of practical techniques for scientific inquiry and investigation; inspire and motivate young people to learn about the subject; assist the learners to pass examinations, and understand the real concept of what is learnt; have an in depth knowledge of the subject to be able to answer questions from students and teach content contained in school curriculum; and prepare students to pass the WASSCE examination.
He said that poor performance of candidates in Chemistry in WASSCE over the years may be due to the following factors: Some Chemistry teachers did not undergo enough training to enable them get the skills, qualities and enough knowledge of the subject matter and how to impact knowledge to pupils; lack of laboratory facilities in some schools; poor method of teaching; lack of motivation for teachers; lack of teaching and learning materials; lack of recent chemistry textbooks for both students and teachers; and lack of support from school administration to attend science workshop.
Many items in WASCE (SC) 2021 papers 2&3 were discussed in the seminar, ranging from basic Atomic Theories, IUPAC Nomenclature, Periodic Table, Balancing of Chemical/Ionic equations, some aspects of Organic Chemistry, identification of laboratory equipment, and many more.
He suggested that the Chief Examiner’s Report is essential in attaining outstanding performance in Chemistry. According to Chemistry 3 Chief Examiner’s report, the lack of laboratory facilities in schools may have contributed to candidates’ failure to fill tables in Volumetric Analysis, calculate average titre, Identify Cations and Anions, and unable to answer short answer questions which are mainly drawn from laboratory apparatus.
At the end of the presentation, students’ common mistakes in Chemistry were also discussed including failure of some candidates to write the answers to the correct significant figures/decimal places, charges on ions not correctly stated, the correct unit in volumetric analysis not used etc.
Sannoh recommended that, candidates offering Chemistry must pass Integrated Science and Mathematics at BECE before selected to offer Chemistry, candidates should be able to identify basic equipment in the laboratories; schools offering Chemistry should have laboratory facilities; WAEC office should inspect all school laboratories to ensure that facilities are available; life practicals should be reintroduced to enable the candidates to master the subject well; teachers employ to teach Chemistry should hold a degree in Chemistry; school administration should support the Chemistry teacher with laboratory facilities especially for the bench reagents; team teaching should be introduced; government should increase funding for the Chemistry sector; and WAEC office must ensure that Chief Examiners’ Reports for Chemistry be made available to all science schools every year.