Interviews should determine admission into secondary school and university
Posted Tuesday, February 26 2013 at 02:00
The Primary Leaving Examination and Uganda Certificate of Education results were released recently. The results, as usual, came with news of excelling pupils and students who had starred and passed highly with aggregates 4, 5 and 6 for the primary school leavers, and, 8 or 9 in 8 for O-Level stars. The media, as it has done before, made it a point to splash the profiles of these students on front pages.
After that initial excitement, the struggle for admission to S.1 and S.5 began, as traditional outstanding schools set their limits and parents started moving left and right, looking for vacancies. News about the same, also made newspaper front pages as schools set the standards according to grades from the national examinations.
With the concerns I am raising below, I will show that selecting which students should go on to join the next level of learning should not be based on the performance of national examination results such as PLE or UCE alone, but, should be revised to include more ingenious methods like interviews on entrance.
There are concerns that inform this perspective. Among the expectations of parents after PLE is that the 4s and 5s or even 6s should perform equally well throughout secondary school, and end up getting 8 in 8 or even 10 in 10 at O-Level.
But are the candidates with aggregates 4, 5 or even 6 the ones who perform very well in secondary school? If the answer is yes, then there is no problem. But if the answer is no, then, there is a problem either at PLE or at secondary school level.
Are the O-Level candidates with 8 in 8 or even 10 in 10 the ones who completed PLE with 4s, 5s or 6s? If yes, then well and good. If no, then there is a problem either at PLE or at secondary school level.
Are there any students who join secondary school with aggregates 7, 8 or 9 but end up with Aggregates 8 or 9 at O-Level? If high performers at lower level are not necessarily high performers at higher levels of learning, are examination results enough to select the academic cream? Also, which ‘magic’ do schools that admit averagely performing students use to turn them round into high achievers?
This given background and concerns are indicators of what is going on in schools and universities, where admission is based entirely on examination results. Some of the best PLE candidates do not perform equally as well in secondary school. Also, some of the best performing A-Level students do not replicate the same degree of high performance when they reach university.
Instead, some of the PLE candidates who get aggregates 7, 8 or 9, and may not easily join any of the national outstanding schools, surprisingly perform much better than those who joined aggregates 4 or 5.
Examination results alone are not enough in determining entry for students into another level of learning. This is made worse by the fact that some students with high performances only manage this through cheating. We need continuous improvement in the screening procedure for different education levels.
Some secondary schools and yes, universities too, are already aware of this, carrying out interviews for S1, S5 and university entrants to eliminate the so-called ‘good’ but fake results. Examples are now many, and they include Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo, where interviews are given to aspiring entrants into S1 and S5, the Law Faculty of Uganda Christian University, Mukono and Makerere University’s law school, plus the Law Development Centre.
Jack Confield, an American motivational speaker, says if you keep on doing what you have always done, you will keep on getting what you have always got. We will need to change our current admission system if it is to tap the best students.
Mr Kiggundu-Mukasa is chief advisor, Crane School, Namanve