Thursday, 22 August 2013

8-4-4: The transformation of ambition.

8-4-4. It begins with you being ambitious then practical and realistic then finally
being open-minded. In primary school, a pupil aspires to be all sorts of careers. The fancier the career, the better. A vox pop of primary school kids always reveals that perceived larger than life professionals such as neurosurgeons, pilots, doctors and lawyers inspire our kids. It is big ambition, its all about being number one, it's about making your cousins green with envy and your parents pink with delight by being top of your class. Being a top-grade student was a promissory affair, you work hard and you will be bought a new bike. Next term, be number one and that Playstation you have moaned about will be your reward. It was not really about understanding what the teachers taught but passing exams to get your hands on that promised reward and that is where parents contributed to the exam-driven culture of the 8-4-4 system. Motivation is to pass exams is good and encouraged then reward is deserved but it can also be a poisoned chalice.

The fear of repeating classes also made pupils work their socks off, a repeater was a laughing stock among his peers and an embarrassment to parents. Again pupils did not study for understanding but to be promoted, this time teachers contributed to the pass-exams-or-nothing culture where falling short is unacceptable and is wrongly used to determine somebody's future, that makes the final exam such a high stakes affair to a young mind. That has damaged the education system.The KCPE is the red sea of primary school education where you either cross it and get to the other side or you get drowned as KCPE's victims have taken their own lives stung by hopelessness. The exam-driven mentality ruins the ambitions of a number of pupils once the results are out, the fortunate to score high marks go to secondary school.

At this stage, its all about being practical and realistic. A career choice is altered on an individual's competence of certain subjects. The high-flying ambitions of some are brought crashing down hard. As subjects get more technical and deeper, a student realises his dream job of a pilot cannot materialise because he is weak in Maths and Sciences. Another is advised to drop Biology because their ambition of being a doctor is compromised by poor performance. The good thing is that an exit is an entrance to somewhere else, so a student will be advised to polish his well performing subjects and drag his dismal subjects to perform as they discover they are not good in Sciences but they score highly in languages and humanities. You are tutored so that you get the right balance of your weak and strong subjects to get a good grade and land in university. They get practical and change career choice and help you choose a course in university. The pass-exam mentality has by this time been embedded in the students' DNA. They write exams with the end in sight but the means is justified, no matter how far they go.

University beckons and here one's mind is cracked open. You view ideas in a broad light. It is about making the most of what you have. There is no competition from within, there are no class rankings or gradings displayed for all to see and admire. It gets individualistic. In primary and secondary, your performance mattered to your school, your peers, your teachers and parents but in campus it really matters to you. Here the exam-propelled culture has serious consequences hence the half-baked graduates refrain that denies graduates opportunities in the wildly competitive job market. Once you are out, you may find yourself attached to a career your young ambitions had never thought of.

Now, the ambition is different, you desire to use what you have to get more money and be in a better position. It's about being not only booksmart but streetsmart. It comes down to getting the right connections that may have a louder voice than your perfect grades in order to succeed.. It's not for anyone's pleasure but yours alone. From motivation by promises to balancing your strong and weak subjects and to finally working to get the right connections, the chain of the 8-4-4.. Of course, some people have made their professional desires come true right from primary school and not all students are exam-minded, there are bright students but this argument is for the numerous who discovered to come out a relevant person, you have to be flexible, realistic and ambitious.

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