Over thirteen thousand children will compete for less than a thousand allocated places at the senior secondary schools in the country. This in effect means that almost ninety per cent of students who are currently sitting the National Grade Six Assessment will be forced to attend the general secondary schools or in some cases primary tops where no such schools exist as in many of the hinterland communities.
Those who can afford it will exercise the option of sending their children to private schools, but for the vast majority of children they are condemned to a substandard quality of education delivery in public secondary schools.
This is what makes the examination so deadly competitive to a point where children even in their young formative years are grilled to the test rather than given the opportunity to play and recreate. It is not uncommon for children to become oversaturated and exhausted which could have an adverse effect on their later performance. The adage ‘too much work makes Jack a dull boy’ should not be taken lightly.
This is why it is important for the government to expend more resources to upgrade the quality of the education delivery in all public schools throughout the country and by so doing phase out the highly competitive nature of the examination. Instead of competing for the limited places in senior schools, all children should be offered secondary schools in close proximity to where they live, thereby minimizing transportation costs while at the same time providing them with an opportunity to benefit from a reasonably good secondary education.
This is essentially what reforms in secondary education initiated by the previous PPP/C administration were intended to achieve. Indeed, this is key and critical to any attempt at democratising education and making it accessible to an increasing number of post-primary students.
The perception that children who failed to make it to the few top secondary schools are academically less endowed is unfortunate and fails to take into consideration the fact that some children are late developers and that a significant number are ill prepared for the exams for a multiplicity of reasons, not least of which is the home environment to which they are exposed.
The time has come for a shift in the way we measure and evaluate student performance which in my view should not be based on a single examination but on a continuous assessment modality starting from early childhood education which should encompass the full range of the knowledge domain.