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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Examinations do count a lot

Many times our education system gets a bashing for being obsolete. It is defined as a conveyor belt for job seekers who in many cases have been found unable to even write a decent letter to ask for the jobs they want. Others go on and on about how the system can hardly produce the critical thinkers our society needs, instead it creates fellows who are only good at memorising theories.

Another category will jump on how useless the examinations are. How they fail to test so many qualities of the student but simply focus on what he/she can remember in a space of about 3 hours the things he spent years studying.

On this front, the argument is that eventually the whole education process is directed at merely passing examinations. Well, I hate to break it to you that all the above are true about our education system. And yes it would be nice to overhaul the system to capture more than just one’s ability to reproduce what was taught over the years in beautiful language on a piece of paper.

And by the way it is not just the “analysts” who think there is something wrong with the education system. The students (or call them the victims) also feel it is not fair that they are treated this way. One is in school for several years, attends class almost daily, plays football in the evenings and may also join the school choir but in three hours the focus is on things like the periodic table or historical phenomenon that barely concerns him/her.

Some students even go ahead to express this disgust for the examinations. I still remember a student of mine called Amos who during a French language examination simply wrote that “To hell with French. Wacha wewe!” To this day I still don’t know whether this boy continued with his studies.

A journalist friend based in Tanzania recently told me of the story in the Tanzanian media of the boy who wrote what appeared to be lyrics of a rap song on an examination answer sheet on how the education system does not accommodate the interests of ‘Bongo Flava’ hip hop enthusiasts.

All said and done, examinations are still an important way of evaluating whether learning has taken place. It is also a way to certify this learning and much as the changes are needed, the fact is that right now no serious changes have been made by those who are in position to do so.

Therefore in the meantime we need to tell our children and students to prepare well for these examinations even in their current state. The reason I say this is because our society still places a huge penalty on those who fail these examinations. In the first place, failure throws one off the education train.

No matter how many goals you can score in a football game or how sweet your voice sounds as you put in your efforts for the school choir failing exams will have many blaming you for doing what actually you know best.

As students wait for the day when we have a more holistic education set up that does not place so much emphasis on passing examinations they need to pass the exams given to them today.  This requires them to be prepared and well read.

Consequences of not being prepared are quite grave as they may mean having to repeat the whole year or miss a chance to join the university to pursue a degree course of your choice. Teachers should also play their role to assist the students in the best way possible.

After all many of the people who bash the education system and its examinations are people who sat for their examinations and actually passed them. They too knew that they had to pass if they were even to be listened to as they complained about the system in its current state.

By Allan Senyonga

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