By Beatrice Akite Wanyama
It’s that time of the year when learners at all levels are anticipatorily waiting to move to the next level of their education journey. This is when learners have to reap what they have sown. Much as the other learners may not be on tenterhooks to excel as much, the candidates in the country are yet to have the final lap of their hard work for the time they have spent in school. All the learners are busier than a bee working hard to see to it that they are promoted to the next level. However, what happens when one meets hurdles to this very important time in their lives? Thus, when exams become a hiccup for one to move to the next level, where does one turn to? If one asks why they should be examined, then the need to understand examination comes to mind. Exams have become an integral entity to determining one’s successes from one level to another. They are so popular that failure to excel in an exam deems one a failure in life. However, are exams the only tools to determining success of the whole individual, and how did exams become so ubiquitous cutting across schools and universities?
Historically, the first country to implement a nationwide standardized test was ancient China. Called as the imperial examination, established by the Sui Dynasty in 605 AD, it was meant to select able candidates for specific governmental positions. This system was abolished by the Qing Dynasty 1300 years later in 1905, but England adopted this examination system in 1806 for Her Majesty’s Civil Service and was later applied to education, which further influenced other parts of the world gradually. This is how the concept of examinations for students developed. Since the purpose of education varies from person to person, exams should not be to condemn but to enable the examinee to gauge their progress in a particular task. That aside, exams worldwide have become a vent for criticisms which should not be the case. With this background, it is important to understand the objective of education. Luigi Giussani in ‘The Risk of Education’ (1995) clarifies the goal of education which is to help one enter into the totality of the real (p.105) which is always ‘the true horizon’ of our actions. Talking of the totality, education then should develop the whole person and lead them to fulfillment. The learner must therefore consciously experience his own life. (p.134). When one fails to get fulfillment out of education, education and exams are seen as a burden.
To examine therefore according to the dictionary is to determine the aptitude, skills or qualifications of someone by subjecting them to an examination. Consequently, a number of people treat examinations differently.
Hannah Ayiga a candidate in primary seven says failure comes with a lot of disappointment. She says that as teachers feel the learners have not taken what they have taught into practice, failure makes parents very disappointed. I feel like I’ll never pass it again she observes. However, she says that when she fails, she consults with friends or teachers for clarification. She encourages learners not to give up when they fail but look at failure as a challenge to work harder to do better. ‘For you to succeed, you must be determined and you must pray’, she encourages.
Twise Walusimbi, (primary seven) says that when he fails, he feels disappointed but he says it aids him to pay more attention. He encourages all to look at failure as the key to success for when you fail, you’ll learn to do it. He says that when learners fail, teachers and parents feel disappointed. However, he encourages all learners to be disciplined and hard working in order to succeed.
Munguleni Kenneth Kagwa (senior four) says that when he fails, he feels devastated. He observes that failure makes others feel out of place, anguish and regretful for not reading hard and makes parents sad. However, he considers failure as a motivation to work harder.
Fellister Akullu (senior six) says that with various discussions, consultations, prayers, sleepless nights, foregoing meals just to excel, when she fails, she feels disconsolate knowing her dream has not been able to translate into a reality. Though she says she feels sad, she observes that there is light at the end of every tunnel; she urges all not to forget that HAVING HOPE is key. ‘Yes, after failing, sometimes I give up, go ahead and fail but I don’t dwell on my weakness,’ she observes. ‘If others have made it, why not me?’ she queries. She calls upon all to pray until something happens. She is optimistic as she says one has to consider oneself a winner in whatever situation. ‘It is not that I have to be better than everybody else, I have to be better than I thought I could be. Yes, I am a conqueror and I won’t accept defeat.’ She pledges.
Abdul Nasser Semanda (MUBS) says that in most cases, failure in primary makes one develop a low self esteem. He says that when others fail, some even end up abusing drugs and joining bad groups. On the other hand, he says that in the long run, one becomes poor because of unfulfilled dreams, unemployment and in the end failure leads to dropping out of school. Though he suggests changing methods of studying, starting up small businesses and joining vocational institutions when things fail, he says that parents lose trust and hope in their children when they become “unsuccessful”. On the side of the parents, he says that failure could lead to parental negligence, forced marriages as a result of someone failing to make it at that moment.
Some of the educators I interacted with have similar views about failing exams and the inability of learners to excel.
Edna Namara, an educator comments that when one fails, their hopes are shuttered as failure leads one to having a bleak future, frustration, disappointment and lack of what to do next. She observes that though some students are naturally weak, whatever the input, some are just lax which leads to their failure. She observes that whatever the case, when learners fail, the parents feel duped.
Veronica Ntabadde an educationalist on the other hand comments that failing exams leads to learner diversion from the learner’s dream. She says that failure does not only affect the learner’s attitude but more the learner’s perception towards the failed subject. She observes that failure presents a challenge of loss of time in case of repeating which makes the learners lose attachment to friends. In the end, she says that failure does not only affect learners but makes parents disappointed. This comes about as parents lose time and money especially when the learner has to repeat or change school.
Betty Kaigo, another educationalist, says that when learners fail exams, they feel disappointed and when they fail continuously, they feel indifferent and resigned thinking that they cannot make it in life anymore. She says that though others take failing negatively, it should be seen as a challenge to make learners strive to work harder to achieve better.
Joseph Opio Rousseau, an educator and parent comments that before one judges the performance of a learner, they should be able to determine what circumstances surround one’s results. He observes that most times, the learners and parents blame teachers and the school when they fail. However, he says that being a failure in class is not the end of life as life is made of many things. When learners fail, he says that there is a feeling that ‘my future is shuttered’. He encourages learners that real life is not about passing exams but rather passing exams is only a small entity to a successful life.
He says that academic success and life are different and success is not only measured on the basis of passing exams but how one has done in the community among other things and that the misconception parents have that those who pass well in academics are likely to become successful is misleading. He rather suggests that the bigger focus should be on life achievement.
Failing or excelling is individualistic. However, failure comes about due to the ‘I don’t care attitude’. To succeed in life calls for looking at excellence as a long term venture. Like one of the successful people in the world Bill Gates observed; “I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft”. Learners should cling on the idea that it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. It is in getting up a number of times that we can overcome our challenges. Go for your heart’s desire.
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