Examinations should not be a do or die affair

Let your child compete against his or her abilities. [File, Standard]

The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results are expected to be released this week. Parents, guardians and the candidates must be very anxious right now, as all eyes are on them. The pupils are under pressure from their parents or guardians to post impressive results.

Some of the parents expect the results to earn them bragging rights among their peers, relatives and perceived competitors and enemies. To some, it has really nothing to do with the future of the child. 

Other parents, on the other hand, mean well and pray for their children to have a brighter future by acquiring quality education now. However, in this endeavour, some of them put undue pressure on the children to perform beyond their abilities, which leads some pupils to cheat and ruin their future.

As has been the norm with the previous examinations, when the results come out this week, the results will show the top performers and what most people would consider "failures", regardless of the condition under which they studied and eventually sat the national exam. The top performers will be feted and featured in the mainstream media as they celebrate the "hard work and God's favour", while nothing much will be said about the poor performers.

We have had reports in previous examinations of children committing suicide after being scolded by their parents or guardians for not attaining marks or grades expected of them. Others find it difficult to recover from failing to get admission into their dream secondary schools or degree courses. It does not have to get this far.

Granted, exams are an important transition tool in Kenya's education system but that does not make them a do or die affair. It is understandably because of this blind competition in national exams that the government developed the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) that abolishes ranking and does not gauge the student's abilities based on one national examination.

Parents, guardians and the pupils alike need to understand and accept that not all of them will score 400 marks and above or grade A in the case of KCSE candidates still going on with their exam; that not all of them will be admitted to Alliance or Maseno or Starehe or Mang'u or other national schools.

It will also help if the parents understand the circumstances under which their children sat the exam. For instance, on the first day of the examination, pupils at a primary school in Baringo were interrupted by sounds of gunfire as bandits attacked the village in broad daylight. Other candidates schooled in dire conditions with barely enough teachers, no classrooms and other basic amenities such as latrines.

One does not expect these pupils to compete favourably with candidates in, say, a high-flying private or public school in Nairobi where buses pick them at their doorsteps and drops them back.

Let your child compete against his or her abilities. With the 100 per cent transition policy, every pupil will eventually get a place in a secondary school and proceed to be what they desire in life. The government should also not overemphasise on unfair competition.