IT is that time of the year when results of the national examinations are coming out. Predictably the release of the results has raised parentsâ€™ temperatures and feelings of anxiety and excitement, as well as fanfare from the top schools. The media, especially newspapers, have over recent days been awash with pictures of the best performing candidates along with anecdotes of who or what inspired them to perform well.
However, the continued national obsession with excellence at examinations raises some serious questions about our priorities in education.
One sign that we have got it all wrong is the narrow view of life that the best performing students have expressed. The majority of those interviewed invariably said they want to become doctors, lawyers, MPs or join some other â€˜traditionalâ€™ profession. Why donâ€™t we see any talk about becoming journalists, agricultural researchers, authors, songwriters or some other â€˜non-traditionalâ€™ profession?
The second issue is to do with the choice of schools. Again invariably, the best students in PLE and UCE put Kingâ€™s College Budo, Mt. St. Maryâ€™s Namagunga, St. Maryâ€™s College Kisubi, Namilyango, Gayaza and other â€˜traditionalâ€™ schools as their first, second, and possibly third choices. Other schools follow some distance behind.
Perhaps most important is, what do we do with the remaining children who scored aggregate eight, ten and so on, and cannot therefore get to the â€˜first worldâ€™ schools? Are they garbage?
The children are gutted if they cannot go to Gayaza, they are considered to have failed and are therefore not good enough for anything else.. Consequently, such parents do not only have to think of plan B, and probably C, but have to do a lot of damage control to repair the self-esteem of children who might otherwise go around feeling like they are second rate citizens. What will it take to restore their confidence and self-belief?
Why are we so obsessed with passing exams and completely blind to other performance indices? Isnâ€™t it time for an alternative education that gives our children more options and more realistic choices based on their abilities and interests?
How many Ugandans today are into their professions by accident rather than by design? The truth is, given the opportunity, a lot of people would change careers and professions. This explains the lack of love and passion for what we do. The argument here is that in this country, we go to school for the wrong reasons. Selection of schools and career is largely based on where you are more likely to pass highly, the fat job that comes with a â€˜goodâ€™ degree and, of course, the prestige that comes with attending good schools. Kingâ€™s College Budo, for example, has often been described as the â€˜Eton of Uganda.â€™ This is to do with the history of Budo, a school of the â€˜aristocrats.â€™ The myriad private schools that have mushroomed after liberalisation have not helped matters either.
We should note that the world today is led by industry, innovation, and enterprise, not blue blood. In response to the trend, prestigious schools like Eton College and Harrow School in the United Kingdom have began a systematic revolution, admitting â€˜working classâ€™ people and teaching the aristocrats that they have to compete for everything with everybody else. None of our â€˜leadingâ€™ schools in Uganda are doing that.
What many of us would like to see is an education that allows individuals not just to get jobs, but to realise their potential and feel confident, capable and relevant.
The writer is a lecturer at Makerere University
Time for alternative education system