Another year, another batch of hundreds of thousands of pupils sat their end of primary school education examinations. Another cycle of threats. Another show of might.
It may be too soon to say this but it is a near-fitting crowning of all that has been happening in the education sector.
When it wasn’t teachers on strike, it was teachers ousting their chairman or the teacher’s employer deregistering the very same chairman! But perhaps the highlight of activity in the sector was the roll out of a new curriculum.
Why a new curriculum? What is wrong with old one?
A lot. We have to keep up with the times. The information being fed to learners in our institutions is not adequate for a young adult to survive. Technology has created opportunities even as it has rendered some skills obsolete.
The soon-to-be old 8-4-4 system was filled with so much information that at the age of 10 years old, a pupil’s school bag was half their weight.
Homework was an everyday affair. The system thrives on too much cramming; we overemphasise on examinations at the expense of life skills.
Cue Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). This is one system that is heavy—and rightfully so—on learning about life skills, allowing children to explore. Gone are the endless exams.
This is a great move considering the amount of pressure children had to endure. Some gave up and took their own lives.
There was a case of a girl who committed suicide because she got one B in a forest of As when she was to work hard and get all As. Rather than face her father, she left a note, saying she did not want to disappoint him.
The irony is not lost on some of us that at a time we are talking about shifting our education system from standardised tests to life skills, Cabinet secretaries and government heavies are monitoring the examinations.
What is the obsession with KCPE examinations? How are we talking about reducing the pressure on the examination while in the same breath having high level officials present at these schools distributing test papers?
The high security and armed officers walking in with the test papers is terrifying enough. The only thing we take that seriously is an election.
There are children who sat examinations this past week and are now dreading the day the announcement is made that results are out. The announcement is done in an evening more terrifying way; it is ‘breaking news’ nationally.
Threats are issued every year to students to not even dare to cheat. When it is reported that there were no cases of cheating, officials carry a smug pride.
However, no one really cares why people would go to such extremes to make sure that a child passes their exams. Why would parents collude with headteachers to get the examination before hand? Or why would a student try to cheat their way through academics, as high as the stakes are?
For a country that is supposedly moving away from standardized tests, and ranking, and the pressure that it comes with, or the stereotypes we place on our children on what career is viewed as successful, we are definitely not practising it.
There is nothing encouraging about having a cabinet secretary chat you up before an examination. It puts even more pressure on you. This is a classic example of preaching water and drinking wine. Our cabinet secretaries have other more pressing issues to focus on, rather than gallivanting to primary schools distributing examination papers.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW