The covid19 holiday has been an eye-opener. I have had to get my hands dirty to teach the young ones. I have been amazed at the kind of questions American, Asians, and European Schools set in the exam.
To pass any question, the candidate must have understood the principle. There is no shortcut. And by far, the questions apply to the real-life environment.
Below is a typical sample question from one of the exams for Form 8, the equivalent of Senior Two (S2) in Uganda.
Blueberries are sold at a local fruit shop in three different punnet sizes: small (400g) for $5.00, medium (600 g) for $7.80, large (800g) for $8.80. What is the cheapest punnet size if you are purchasing 5 kg of the berries?
In Uganda exams, the question asked would be as follows:
Blueberries are sold at a local fruit shop in three different punnet sizes: small (400g) for Ugx. 500, medium (600 g) for Ugx. 780, large (800g) for Ugx. 880.
How much money do you need to purchase 800g of the small size, 1,800g of the medium size, and 2400g of the large size?
As you can see, the intellectual rigor in question sample 1 is different from that in sample 2.
To solve sample question 1, the candidate must first convert kilograms to grams. From the simple formula, 1 kg = 1000g, we know you need 5 x 1,000 kg. In total, one needs 5,000g.
To determine the best pack sizes to buy, one must compute the cost of buying the total 5000g desired quantity per punnet size quoted. Whichever gives the lowest cost, is the best option to buy.
Here we go:
To buy 5000g, I need 5,000g/400 punnet size = 12.5 punnets x US $5 = US $62.5, total costs.
To buy 5000g, I need 5000g/600g = 8.333 punnets x US $ 7.8 = US $ 65 total costs.
And to buy 5000g, in sizes of 800g, I need 5000g/ 800g = 6.25 punnets x US $ 8.8 = US $55.
From the above, the cheapest pack size (punnet pack) to buy is that of 800g at the US $8.8.
As you can see, this kind of question tests the student’s ability to reason. The skills can easily be applied to day to day life. Every day we send the children to the market with money to buy toothpaste or food. With this reasoning power, one can make decisions to save the family money quickly.
Now compare with the typical Ugandan exams set.
The testing rigour is not that advanced.
The child is made to believe real-life problems are easy like the exams that do not require intense thinking and logic to make decisions out of the options available.
In question sample 2, the candidate is not challenged to convert anything. To find the answer, the candidate just divides 800g/400g x the cost = 2 x Ugx. 500 = Ugx. 1000, plus 1,800g/600g = 3 x Ugx. 780 = Ugx. 2,340; plus 2,400g/800g = 3 x Ugx. 880 = Ugx. 2,640.
Total money needed = 1,000 + 2,340 + 2,640 = Ugx. 5,980.
As you might have noticed, it is easier to answer question sample 2, than it is to answer question sample 1.
It is not the education system. It is the kind of teaching methods and general pedagogy in teaching instruction that is the issue which must be changed.
The government must invest more in education. Provide better salaries to the teachers to allow them to think, explore, and have peace of mind to find creative problems. Until teachers are paid well such that they are motivated to do what they do best, teach, we shall continue having finalists who are unable to think critically and have the presence of skills to solve real-life challenges.
As a CEO, I know that work challenges require creative thinking. The quality of exams students do influence their reasoning rigour and on job success.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.