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ACADEMIC GIANTS AND DWARFS:

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th August 2008 03:00 AM

BY HENRY TUSHABE

MANY secondary schools in Uganda still practise the culture of streaming students according to their perceived mental ability.

BY HENRY TUSHABE

MANY secondary schools in Uganda still practise the culture of streaming students according to their perceived mental ability.

BY HENRY TUSHABE

MANY secondary schools in Uganda still practise the culture of streaming students according to their perceived mental ability.

But should we only adhere to teacher-learner exchange of knowledge and forget the learner-to-learner-centred learning? How can one spend six years of secondary life being told that one is an idiot and thereafter hope to gather enough self-confidence and esteem to become a responsible leader? What happened to people like Fagil Mandy, who used to point a finger at bogus education systems?

At teenage and adolescence, children are trying to impress their peers but the great teachers with their degrees and Psychology passes are pulling all this down. Do teachers ever place themselves in the shoes of these young people to experience the effect of being told that they are silly?

- recently had a chat with a headteacher of a school where the practice is going on. He said the practice helps the fast learners to move at their own pace, as the slow learners get extra attention from their teachers. Streaming students is common in many schools, including those on the Universal Secondary Education scheme. Most of them believe that the practice yields positive results. But consider this:

- A class teacher streams students according to results of the previous term but since schools have some part-time teachers, who spend less time with the slow learners, ultimately they spend equal time with both streams, despite the slow pace of one of the streams.

- The teacher-student ratio remains the same in both streams, with no assistant teacher to guide the slow learners.

- The same exam is given to both streams, despite the weakness of the slow learners and at the end of the term, the same yardstick is used to gauge who is in first and last position.

- The same notes are presented to the students in both streams, without simplifying the language or even better, using some local languages to expound on the technical terms so that the slow learners may understand better.

Ultimately, the frustrated students change schools and when push comes to shove, those who are undisciplined think of arson to vent out steam.

I carried out an experiment to find out what happens when slow learners are mixed with bright ones. I went into a rural classroom to teach English Paper One (composition writing). Note that one of the aspects considered in good composition writing is the use of well-punctuated dialogue and direct speech between characters in the story. In the first week, I taught students how to use dialogue, how to keep it in reported speech and how to add quotation marks to each statement. I also taught them how to place the speaker after what he has said;

e.g. “Get out of my way!” shouted the passenger as she pushed the conductor from the taxi entrance. The other passengers watched the old lady wrestle the ill-mannered conductor. “Tomanyila, sooka oleete ekikumi kyange; don’t get too familiar with me. First bring my one hundred shillings,” barked the conductor, as he set himself loose from the firm grip of the old lady.

In the second week, I gave them an assignment in the same sitting positions I had found them. I asked them to write a one-page composition highlighting dialogue. Some were able to do the exercise well, but others, seated in one specific corner, failed it. So I changed the sitting positions of the weak students and mixed them up with the bright ones. I asked the bright ones to guide them on how to go about the work. Their weakness was that they would put the speaker before the speech and put the quotation marks in the wrong positions, as below:

“The passenger said get out of my way” to the conductor as he pushed him from the entrance of the taxi.

Others did not remember to put the quotation marks at all. But after mixing the weak students with the bright ones, the latter guided the former as they exchanged ideas at the same wave length, free from the stress of the scary bespectacled teacher who reminds some of their tough fathers at home. The slow learners were excited to get a “Good” in their books for the first time that term. This made them love the subject.

Francis Tabu, the Bethany High School deputy headteacher in charge of academics, said streaming students according to perceived mental ability arose from the need to create competition among learners. “Slow learners never bothered to improve, as teachers didn’t focus on them, because there were bright students over-shadowing them,” he said.

Cathy Nampeera, a teacher, agrees. “In a class where bright and slow students sit together, when you ask ‘have you understood?’ the bright ones will overwhelmingly shout ‘yes’, and the rest will keep quiet,” she says.
The writer is a graduate teacher

BENEFITS OF STREAMING
- In order to boost competition amongst the students.
- He also added that It was a strategy that would help his office to identify the weak students to boost their academic performance.
- It would also help to identify the bright students so that appropriate teaching methods could be enhanced to teach them at their pace.
- He also wanted to co-relate and high light the issue of discipline and academic performance.
- He however added that the subject teacher who was the final implementer of the learning task had a greater role to play after all the streaming was done.
- Has a polarising effect on learners. Slow students get negative attitudes towards school.
- Hinders free interaction among students, as the ‘bright’ ones don’t mix with the slow learners
- Streaming on the basis of ability induces fear among learners, as they dread the repurcussions of failure
Compiled by Henry Tushabe & Conan Businge

WHAT STUDENTS THINK
- Derrick Serwanga, Kyambogo College School, S.2: I not support it; because the students in lower classes are given the impression that they cannot make it.

- Sharon Mutoni, St. Peter’s P.S Nsambya, P.6:
I don’t support it, because teachers spend a lot of time on the fast learners; leaving the slow ones to play.

- Milly Nantale, St. Mary’s SS Kitende, S.4:
I do not agree, because the clever students use such separations to put others down. They use their privileged position to wrong slow learners

- Esther Onyok, Kalinabiri SS, S.3: I don’t support it, because it makes slow learners think that they can’t make it. They lose focus.

- Fred Kuta, St. Peter’s P.S Nsambya, P.4: It is good to separate pupils because it helps the teachers gauge their performance

ACADEMIC GIANTS AND DWARFS:

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