The main research tool for this study was the
Mauritius Examinations Syndicate’s Report on the
CPE examination for the year 2000. This yearly report
usually gives an idea about how students have
performed in the different subjects, excluding the
Asian language. It contains all the examination papers
for the year and a detailed analysis of the quality of
answers for each question. The percentage of pupils
giving the right answer is specified. This allows an
evaluation of how the candidates perform in the
different types of questions, especially in terms of
ELCs and DLCs.
The analysis of the CPE text-books for the core
subjects allows one to check whether information to
answer the questions asked at the examination can
be found in the text-books.
Additionally, some primary school teachers were
interviewed in a group and others individually and
privately. I must add that I have gained a good insight
into primary school teaching through my own past
research experience and through my interaction
with primary school teachers during the course of
my lectures where they usually talk freely about their
classroom practice. I also asked a group of teachers
to answer a short questionnaire but I was not too
satisfied with the answers as they seemed to think
that they should be answering in the ‘right way’. They
said that they practised all the teaching strategies
which they had learned about during their training
and this is in complete contradiction with what they
say during classroom discussions when attending
lectures at the MIE.
The analysis of performance of the core examination
papers reveals a striking common feature: a high
percentage of the CPE students are not successful in
Section B. Section B tests the DLCs, the higher-order
thinking skills of primary school children. According
to the MES report (2001:5), this section is used for
discrimination purposes and is meant to be more
difficult than Section A. An analysis of the answers
to the questions in Section B speaks volumes about
the ability of our children to tackle questions testing
higher-order thinking. The number of children who
can tackle the questions in Section B dwindles
dramatically. Few candidates make a really successful
attempt and although more able candidates start
answering questions rightly, only a minority produce
complete and correct answers.
An in-depth analysis of the CPE examination results
of the year 2000, raises issues about the quality of
teaching and learning in the primary school. Children
show the following deficiencies:
l Low skills in analysis and synthesis
l Weakness in creative writing
Poor performance in Section B, testing DLCs
l Difficulty to think divergently (divergent
thinking allows for several different and correct
l Poor problem-solving skills
l Poor literacy skills
Low analysis and synthesis skills
Analysis and synthesis are two higher order intellectual
skills which most of our primary school children do
not seem to possess. This is demonstrated by their
failure to answer questions set to test DLC in Section
B of the papers correctly.
After studying a diagram showing the ‘water cycle’,
students are called to answer a question like:
8.2 Why does water vapour condense to form
clouds at point X?
8.3 WhyWhy is the sun important in the water cycle?
Pupils’ understanding of the processes in the water
cycle depends considerably on the quality of teaching
if the answers are not directly answered in the textbook.
Their inability to answer shows that they do
not have higher order skills.
For question 8.2, only 1.5% of pupils could answer
correctly while for number 8.3 only 7% of students
(MES Report P.47)
Even when answers to questions can be traced back
to the prescribed text-book, when there is a question
which demands divergent thinking, the students get
In the French paper, it is again...