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Are we not overrating examination performance?

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Added 14th March 2018 11:20 AM

We need to demystify examination result as a measure of schooling success. Children are not machines that must perform in the exact and same manner

Are we not overrating examination performance?

We need to demystify examination result as a measure of schooling success. Children are not machines that must perform in the exact and same manner


By Ismail Ntegana Lukwago

Newspapers and other media houses are quick to show us the ‘shining stars' each time examination results are released by the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB). This comes with excitement to those perceived to have excelled and agony to those labeled to have failed.

As a country, we never take time to plan for those labeled to have failed or dropped out of school. Recent media reports show that only less than 10% of students who enter Primary One complete "A" level with their cohorts.  What happens or happened to the rest seems not to bother the policy makers or the citizenry.

I know one school in Lukaya town council, Kalungu district that had half of its O' level districts sit their examinations from Kijjabwemi Secondary School in Masaka Municipality so that the few who sat from this said school all get grade ones.

This is a common practice, especially in private schools and surprisingly, parents have allowed this vice to grow and do not feel insulted at all. Such schools emerge the best in their districts and sometimes at the national level.  The schools will be sought after and fees will be raised in the process.

Other schools, especially primary schools, rank their pupils in term one and extra efforts and drills are put onto those from where aggregate 4 or 5 are expected from. It is, therefore, not about learning to understand and succeed in life after school, but to pass the examinations and appear in papers in order to get more students and raise tuition.

Some schools call up media houses such as local radio stations and give them wrong statistics in order to deceive the parents. It is common to find that the results announced on radio and those at school are different. All this is done in the name of competition and cheating the parents.

Some media houses have abused this process; have heard some calling upon parents and the students to report to their offices to have their photos taken in order to appear in the papers.  Therefore, it is not surprising to see many people appearing in papers yet in my view, they shouldn't have.

As a country, we need to demystify examination result as a measure of schooling success. Children are not machines that must perform in the exact and same manner. This kind of thinking only promotes cram work and knowledge accumulation but not knowledge application. Knowledge that cannot be applied is as useless and having no knowledge at all.

Why can't media houses search for the whereabouts of those star performers who are supposed to have graduated and employed and see if they are any different from those whose results were not publicised. Is our workforce any better now that students who are going to universities seem to perform better than those in the past?

If yes, why is there rampant recycling of employees and stagnation in most sectors? For example, the current crop of radio and Television personalities is nowhere better than that in the past! Who can compare with people like Allan Kasujja, Alex Ndaula, Juliana Kanyomozi or Karitas Karisimbi? I see none.

I have worked with university students for 10 years now and it is always a norm to ask each of my new learners in first year which schools they attended and their grades.

It is common that majority come from private schools and have ‘better grades'. But, these grades are often not reflected with equally the same grades during the final year yet students from rural government schools that came with fair grades given the same conditions are easier to work with and often get better grades.

How can we assist the majority of our children that join Primary One but cannot complete the school cycle as the statistics have consistently showed?

 Can we introduce basic technical education in our primary curriculum so that whoever leaves or drops out of primary school can easily find some sort of work from which to earn a living?

Can the primary curriculum handle issues such and environmental degradation, domestic violence, health and sanitation and other vital issues that are affecting us as nation?  After all, majority of the learners at this level may not have chance of learning  thereafter.

Examination results, however good they are, are not worthy if they cannot be reflected in better work ethnics and abilities.

The writer is a lecturer at the International University of East Africa, Kampala

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