Emphasise learning not passing

Monday January 28 2019

Pupils of Bright Junior School celebrate their

Pupils of Bright Junior School celebrate their good performance where 42 of the 43 candidates were in first grade. Education experts have said, good grades are worth celebrating but pupils need to be equipped with several skills such as problem solving than just grades. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA  

By Dorcus Murungi

Selection for Senior One students has ended. But some parents and students are yet to get over the fact that they did not score Aggregate 4 in Primary Leaving Examinations.

Tales of parents counselling inconsolable pupils who passed with 8, 10, or 11 have been making rounds on social media. In some cases, like was with musician Desire Luzinda’s daughter, children were scorned for scoring what people termed as poor aggregate. Luzinda’s daughter passed with Aggregate 11. Bobi Wine’s son was in 2017 also ridiculed over the same.

The trend is, you either pass with four or five or you have “failed”. In fact as other students were jubilating after the release of PLE results, Paul Mugisha, a former candidate, who sat from one of the good schools in Kampala was in tears after it emerged that he had scored Aggregate 7. His parents, however, were excited.

“I failed the exams; how could I score 7? I expected Aggregate 4. I read so hard. I wish my parents can allow me repeat Primary Seven,” he shared.

According to Anthony Kato, the headteacher Global Junior School Mukono, it is not true that a child only excels when they get a four.

Kato explains that every child who scores a first grade or even a second grade is considered to have passed and can carry on to other levels of education.

He encourages pupils that have not been able to score Aggregate 4 to calm down and believe in their abilities. “Actually, some very bright pupils often fail to score Aggregate 4 at PLE and those we least expect get the fours. However, this does not deprive the bright ones of their ability to perform elsewhere,” he observes.

Other determinants
To John Tinka Byamukama, the head teacher Buhinga Primary School, there are various factors that determine a pupils’ performance.

Among the factors are the studying environment and the anxiety of students, teachers, school administrators and the parents. According to Byamukama, these factors have often dictated the final scores.

“Some students are put on so much pressure that they end up panicking and failing to score the expected results but this does not mean they are non-performers,” he says.

Immaculate Nakalema, the head teacher Cornerstone Junior School in Mukono, says some schools encourage pupils to work towards scoring Aggregate 4 as a way of encouraging positive competition among students and also among schools.

She says this encourages pupils to get out of their comfort zones and concentrate on their studies.
“In learning we always aim at getting the best results and that is why we encourage students to work towards getting the best, which in this case is Aggregate 4,” she says.

Think long term
According to Patrick Kaboyo, the National Secretary Federation of non- state Education Institutions ( FENEI), it is high time pupils and the community learned that it is not all about scoring Aggregate 4 at PLE but the achievement accomplished in learning.

Kaboyo says if the student is able to comprehend the knowledge acquired and successfully move on to another level, that is more than scoring Aggregate 4.

He observes that some students who fail to score four at primary level have been able to get first class degrees at university, which is proof that it is not all about the four but acquiring knowledge that one can use in advanced stages of life.

“We need a holistic type of education, so four is just an aggregate which should not be fronted as the most important part of learning,” he notes. Kaboyo also appeals to government to change the assessment model in learning such that the system of using exams to assess somebody’s abilities is phased out.

“The national assessment policy needs to be changed. I believe we need to have a summative model of assessment where a student is assessed basing on their continuous performance,” he says.

Kato observes that the issue of emphasising a specific score for pupils may traumatise them and discourage them from pursuing higher goals in future, thinking they are undeserving or not brilliant enough.
“Pupils need to know that it is not getting a four that guarantees somebody success in future, one can succeed even when they score a second grade,” he says.

The process
Ugandan National Examinations Board executive secretary Dr Dan Odongo explains that unlike what has been done in the past years, in 2018 names of schools were not included on the scripts so as to avoid possibilities of bias in marking. He disregarded claims from some city schools that are accusing Uneb of under marking their pupils.

“Our scripts were treated in the same way whether a candidate sat in a Kampala school or a school in another district. Names of schools were not included on the scripts this time around as it has always been. This is an effort to remove an element that may bias a marker so that every person marks papers without knowing the school they are marking,” he says.

Whether undermarked or biased grading, it is time we learnt that there is more to being successful in life than just good grades. The grades are not an end in themselves, that is why students should also be examined on other competencies.