In typical African tradition, it is “bad manners” for a junior person to audaciously contradict an idea mooted by their senior or elder. Nonetheless, I would like to politely disagree with Prof A.B.K Kasozi’s insinuation that our A-Level education cycle deprives the country of the opportunity to maximally produce scientists (see ‘Govt asked to scrap ‘wasteful’ A-Level’ in the Daily Monitor of March 12)!
He takes A-Level to be a “wasteful” bottleneck in our educational pipeline that prevents many potential aspirants from pursuing science disciplines at tertiary levels.
According to Prof Kasozi, therefore, elimination of such bottlenecks (particularly the “cost-ineffective” A-Level one) and adoption of Kenya’s 8-4-4 educational model will allow for easier and unimpeded progression of desirous and deserving science students to higher institutions of learning.
True, but also false. Quite admittedly, a pyramidal structure of an education system is (by its very nature) inherently wasteful. Advancement from the bottom-heavy educational rungs to the topmost elitist educational echelons in such a “tall” structure becomes progressively more difficult. Many students will have to fall by the wayside.
However, it is conceptually misleading to singularly attribute poor enrolment for sciences at higher education levels to the existence of A-Level tier.
To do so would be to totally misunderstand the causes of poor uptake and retention of science students at tertiary levels. The under enrolment of science students at higher educational grades in our country is a function of multiple logistical and pedagogical factors.
Chief among them is the failure to construct and maintain fully functional science laboratories with adequate supplies and equipment. Science is different from any other subject. In order to understand its concepts, one has to look beyond the books and conventional classroom teaching.
Effective teaching and learning of science involves seeing, handling, and manipulating real objects and materials. This experimentation approach encourages learners to gain deeper understanding of the otherwise complex scientific concepts, to retain longer the knowledge so gained, to get first-hand learning experience, to develop interest in scientific research and inquiry and to get their reasoning skills honed.
Above all, the “show and tell” pedagogical approach makes the teaching and learning of science self-fulfilling fun. In short, the teaching and learning of science needs to go beyond the traditional talk-and-chalk and book-reading ritual to embrace a student led activity-based and ICT-backed interrogation of scientific knowledge.
But, in a situation where there is a dearth of computer-literate science teachers; acute shortage of adequately qualified and properly oriented laboratory assistants, etc, students’ learning achievement in sciences is bound to remain disappointingly minimal. Hence the dismal student performance in sciences and poor progression to higher education.
Henry Edison Okurut,