What quality does a school grade portend?

Nyambaria Secondary School

George Momanyi of Nyambaria High School is carried shoulder high on Friday after he scored A plain of 83 points.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Some people are socialised into thinking that children must get grade A by all means.
  • Kenyan children are the single most reliable assurance that the country will exist tomorrow

The expectation of “passing with flying colours”, which the Kenyan society mostly wishes for youngsters, has become the overarching mantra for many parents. Grades D and C are normally frowned upon as B gets lukewarm acceptance. Grade A is everybody’s dream.

Some people are socialised into thinking that children must get grade A by all means. Others believe in a meritorious process, regardless of the grade a child brings home. The latter share in the age-old thought that merit beget success and justice.

Singapore has long been studied for enlivening merit as a determiner of collective success is. Under Lee Kuan Yew, it decided to inculcate into its population ethos of merit as a common good.

To those who may have secured our jubilee with improperly attained high grades in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam, remember there could be some shocking awakening after the brief moments of celebration.

Kenyan children are the single most reliable assurance that the country will exist tomorrow. So, our collective survival is pegged on how smart and diligent we train them to navigate the environments in which we seek to survive as a nation. “Smartness” here isn’t about high test scores but ability to examine decision-making possibilities, bringing advantages relative to other competitors.

Whether or not this KSCE had some improprieties, consequent public debates questioning the validity of the candidates’ result is indeterminately a bad scar not only to the candidates but also the perceptive and/or real value of our education system. Perception can be as important as fact. It can be built or eroded by collective values and ethos.

If we make exams such a cut-throat contest that improprieties becomes one way to secure grade A, we’re surely missing the essence of quality education to our children. Certainly, nobody wants to lie on the operating table of a doctor who carries a real or perceived blemish on their medical school qualifications. Or, equally, occupy a building whose engineer used false high school grades to join university.

In 2018, “Skill Mismatch Report” showed that, of around 10,000 students graduating from universities in the country yearly, 7,000 didn’t have the requisite skills for the workplace. There could be many contingent factors to explain this phenomenon. However, you do not want to graduate with inadequate skills and also carry around school grades that don’t suit your actual abilities and capacities to be trained and become productive in life.

Prof George Magoha (RIP) once remarked that while ‘A’ is a great letter, it is not the ultimate determiner of success. He emphasised that even an average student could excel in fields which many may ignorantly believe are sanctuaries of the A students.

The KSCE cohort will soon be making decisions on our behalf in an increasingly competitive world. Our children need to merit entry into any trade or profession for personal and societal benefit. Our children must be studiously socialised into making integrity, honesty and diligence our national creed.

Mr Kwinga is a political scientist.     [email protected].