The MES was established in 1984. The fact that it was going to be a local examining body at several levels, certain people raised all sorts of doubts about the integrity with which it would do such work.
They held the view that, given that Mauritians will be marking the candidates’ answer sheets, the MES might favour some candidates at the expense of others. This rings a familiar bell: it may be recalled in this context that, at some time when the decision was to be taken that marks received by CPE candidates in oriental languages would be reckoned to determine whether they have passed, the rotten allegation was made that the standard of these papers would be lowered in order to create selective preferences. All this to say that the MES had to pass severe tests of credibility in order to be widely accepted as the first Mauritian examining body at so many levels. People would easily overlook blunders of Cambridge as an examining body and such things as persistent rumours that its international exam papers would have been circulated to some examinees well before the exams took place here in Mauritius in those days, but the MES – being what it is — would have to pass muster against a huge wall of prejudices if it were to succeed.
The track record shows that it has indeed succeeded. Many eminent educationists – and this includes prominent personalities like Suren Bissoondoyal (the initiator of the project), Ramesh Manrakhan, M. Rammanohur, and currently Lucien Finette, have headed the institution in the course of the past thirty years. For the MES to make its mark, it was crucial that its beginning needed to be spotless. This is what the competent management by Suren Bissondoyal conferred on the first such institution of its type in the country. Since then, the MES has been conducting examinations at different levels and awarding certificates without any stigma attaching to it. This shows that the foundation was carefully laid down. The institution is today among those of the country which have acquired high-level recognition. It has competently dealt with the job of conducting examinations as also in the assessment and evaluation of candidates participating in the exams hosted by it, jointly with foreign institutions of higher learning for some of the exams. This speaks highly in favour of the quality of leadership it has enjoyed over the years.
Of course, there has always been some healthy controversy from time to time on the role of the MES. On occasion, some have complained, in the case of the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE), for example, that standards would have been lowered to make for a higher percentage of passes. We all know what a hurdle the CPE represents for those students who are not as well-endowed as others and who might develop further, in other than the purely academic field, given the chance to overcome this hurdle. There are bigger dimensions to the MES as a national institution than merely conferring passes and failures. It has to work hand-in-hand with policy makers to open up better horizons for late developers, for example.
Events have proved that negative generalisations are unwarranted. The MES holds a number of exams in collaboration with other reputable international examining bodies, such as Cambridge, and it is bound by international standards to make the assessments for the relevant exams. It adds to the institution’s credibility that it is aligned with various other countries participating in such internationally-set exams based on syllabi of recognised international standing. This opens up the doors for our successful candidates to become internationally mobile and to secure higher qualifications from world-class universities based on the prior qualifications obtained at the level of the MES.
Like any institution having such an important responsibility to inspire confidence into the certificates awarded by it or through its agency, the future depends on tracking closely and constantly adapting to international developments in the field of examinations. It appears the MES is intent on pursuing this course. To mark its 30th anniversary, it has been hosting from 5th to 9th May some events in the company of international examining bodies having supported it all the way. At a time when equivalence of certificates and degrees is much sought after to make for the mobility of individuals in a fast globalizing world, it makes a lot of sense that the MES is busy bonding ties which should fasten its international credibility.
The MES is yet another national institution that has earned its credentials towards improving our educational landscape. By passing on the experience it has gathered in the examination process to developers of curricula, the MES can raise the level of internal coordination and hence contribute to the development of well-targeted education in the country. The more our education system becomes orientated towards its universal practical application, the more stakeholders in the sector will be contributing to avoiding wastage of resources. The MES finds itself at one point of this chain of effective value-addition and it can advantageously share its experience in the field of examinations with other stakeholders to give back the honourable credentials to our entire system of education. It may even afford, in the light of its experience so far, to tie up with regional examining bodies and become one of our torchbearers in this part of the world.
* Published in print edition on 9 May 2014