Thursday March 27 2014

Rote learning is ‘killing’ education

The Uganda National Examinations Board has released the 2013 Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) results. As is expected, there will be celebration in the circles of those who have excelled while silent mourning will go on among those who think they have performed poorly.

However, in the din of celebration or lamentation, one thing should not escape our notice—the damage that rote learning is having on students. In his address before the official announcement of results, the UNEB Executive Secretary, Mr Matthew Bukenya, pointed out that except for a few traditional schools and elite private schools, many students miserably failed to exhibit skills of comprehension and analysis.

He also pointed out that schools had become heavily exam-oriented, coaching students to pass exams while subjecting them into cramming answers in pamphlets. This revelation by the examinations body must be taken seriously. What Mr Bukenya was saying in a nutshell is that we are producing students who cannot think.

Students who have to cram swathes of paragraphs in pamphlets which they then reproduce in exams are like robots that are simply programmed to carry out certain tasks—unquestioningly.

We all know the dangers of grooming a passive population. All our grand dreams as a country rising to a middle-income country and later a first world country cannot come to pass if the bulk of our graduates are not able to engage in critical thought and be creative.

All the countries we celebrate today, especially the Asian Tigers, which have grown in leaps and bounds did so by not only creating an enabling environment for growth but by also paying keen attention to their human resource. There is no better way to look at human resource than through the education they receive.

Mr Bukenya and others know that the moment we began celebrating students who scored three/four straight As at the expense of other values of education like socialisation and co-curricular skills, is when we killed our education.

It explains the whole rote learning and emphasis on exam results by schools. Fixing this will be a good starting point to addressing the larger questions around our education system.