While talking to a friend on phone, she narrated to me how someone she knew wept in her presence because her daughter had scored ten (10) aggregates in the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). She was all too furious and preparing to launch an assault of ISIS proportions upon her daughter. To her, the young girl had failed. She had let her down despite all the money that was spent giving her extra studies as well as taking her to a top school.
I keep hearing such stories on a daily and they depress me so much. As a parent of a 2016 PLE candidate, I too went through a lot especially in the last term as documented in this article. Uganda’s national examination system has become one that favours techniques as opposed to knowledgeability. Many of the candidates left the examinations clearly convinced that they were easier than the ones they had been accustomed to. However, they too had a problem reconciling the grades they got when the results came out. My son spent some time kinda depressed, his classmate spent an entire day crying out to his mother wondering how he got the marks he got, while an Old Boy of mine narrated the same about his daughter.
For as long as you are educating your child in the local Ugandan Curriculum, you need to ready yourself to appreciate two things;
The examination of the students encourages more of cram work as well as toeing a pre-set line of thinking as opposed to giving candidates adequate breadth to contribute unique ideas and ways of thinking to the global knowledge bank. Why for example would you mark a child wrong for stating that Light bends when it is widely known today that under intense gravity, indeed light bends? The notion that light travels in a straight line has been surpassed by the studies in Astronomy that prove otherwise.
You can never use the exam results of UNEB to gauge your child’s abilities especially when it comes to soft/survival skills. Some of the parents wailing and showing a lot of grief about the failure of their children are the very ones who have in the past praised them for being outspoken, go-getters, critical thinkers etc. Show me which UNEB exam tests such attributes?
Let us analyse my son’s results for example. He got Ten (10) aggregates and the points were spread out as follows;
Mathematics – D2
English – D2
Social Studies – C3
Science – C3
Under normal circumstances, a pedestrian parent will rush to shed a tear and wonder why he never got Aggregate 4. However, let us look at the results in detail. It is very clear that the grading was way up there.
Basing on the information I have from some UNEB examiners, I learnt that a Distinction 1 in Social Studies (which was the best done subject) started at 96%. This clearly means that with a Credit 3, my boy scored in the region of 85% to 90%.
A look at English implies that with his Distinction 2, he definitely scored more than 89%, same with Mathematics. The Credit 3 in Science could very easily have translated to marks between 83% and 89%.
After analysing this, I looked around at the pass marks for most of the professional qualifications that we pursue and this is when I realised that even the much revered CPA exams that professional accountants sit to become chartered accountants have their pass mark as 50%. One of the parents that was so disappointed with their child has sat these exams on two occasions and failed to pass. What moral authority do they have to declare that their child is a failure? Are they trying to imply that they too are failures?
It is an established fact that the level of scrutiny, marking and grading for urban schools especially in Central Uganda is so stringent that pupils who would readily have earned Aggregate 4 are condemned to twice that.
Another issue disturbing parents too is the desire for their children to go to the traditional Giant schools. Most of these are religio-centered schools with over forty years of existence. They are ready to bribe even the gatemen to ensure that their children get slotted into those schools. This is sapping a lot of their energy and lowering the chances for legitimately qualified pupils to access those schools. Imagine a school having to cater for the following interest groups; The Founding Church, State House, Ministry of Education, Old Students, Cultural Affiliation …. the list goes on and on. After those interest groups have taken up more than 75% of the slots available, then the legitimately qualified candidates are considered. Huh!!!!
My son out of peer influence had chosen one of those traditional religio-centered schools and I chose to let him have his way. However, despite being told that he could still get there using other channels, I bailed out when I learnt that it has class streams with upto 100 students, the dormitory setting is no different from sardines in a can, there is no more effort put into extra curricula activities among other things.
I woke up upon this realisation and decided that I will not allow him to kill his sports talent as well as other life skills all in the name of having the privilege to join a top name school. I am glad we are in agreement on this (Mom, Dad and Son) and have already made a decision to take him to a school we regard as offering a holistic package of education under the local curriculum. You want to know the school?
Anyway, back to my point, YOUR CHILD IS NOT A FAILURE !!!!!!!
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Good read with concrete lessons for Ugandan parents that miss out on realities behind the scenes.
Very well analysed! You are quite correct and we must all spread this message as the efforts to modernise learning continues.
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