It’s testing day and it’s serious business, observes the St. Gregory teacherby kenya on Jun. 19, 2013, under Life
June 18, 2013
By Cecilia Nicholson, St. Gregory Class of ‘13
Today started off a bit different than previous days. Instead of normal classes at school, we had testing.
I can honestly say that I now understand why teachers dislike testing so much. It’s not just that at the end of the day there is so much work to grade. It’s also that proctoring the tests is one of the most tedious things ever, especially when you have nothing to do but sit and watch students take an exam.
Safe to say my hand is now covered in ink as what was a small doodle turned into a full-blown temporary tattoo. I did, however, find an interesting difference between Kenyan students and American students in how each takes exams.
Have you ever been in a room where it was so quiet you could here a pin drop? Now, ask yourself this, have you ever been in a room full of 12-year-olds that were so quiet you could hear yourself breathing? If not, I must say it is one of the most indescribable situations I have ever been in.
The students here, regardless of age, take these exams seriously. Back at St. Gregory, while we take our exams seriously, there is always some kind of noise in the class. We look around, stare at the clock, stretch, and sometimes ask the teacher for clarification on a question. Not so here. It is all business.
Kenyan students are required to perform at a certain level each year. If they don’t, they have a very slim chance of moving forward to the next grade. Holding a student back in a lower grade is uncommon, but in the sixth and seventh grades, unless one makes the cut, they will repeat the grade.
When it comes to eighth grade, if the student doesn’t pass the exam they will not be accepted into high school. And the better one does on the eighth-grade exam, the better the school they can join. In addition, the students pay for these exams, and a few are sent home prior to the test as they didn’t have the $2 or so for the exam.
This leaves students with a large expectation from parents, teachers, and head teachers to do very well in school. But not only is it the expectations that drives them, but the idea and the belief that if they do well they can go on to college one day and be successful. In America I constantly hear teachers telling their students to do the best they can because it will pay off in the end. But I have to wonder how many kids actually believe or care as deeply about their education.
We have an extensive safety net for those who don’t succeed in school, and a handful of these students are successful in other fields. Heck, even Bill Gates flunked out of college. Here in Kenya I don’t just hear the teachers and parents saying that an education will enable success, I hear it from the students. In fact, I hear it more from the students than from anyone else. They care so much, and that is why today I was astonished that students sitting less than a foot away from one another could and would take a test without cheating off one another, without talking, and without messing around.
I also observed that students would go to great extremes to achieve success. One student took out an uncooked bag of beans to count to help her during the math exam. I wasn’t sure if this was allowed, but since it was a fifth grade exam, I let it pass. Another wrote on the back of his paper, “God will help me with problem–”. It’s inspiring and I wish that I had the drive that these students do.