13 April 2012

Kenya: Our Universities Should Reconsider Their Policies


In the past two weeks or so, thousands of Kenyans who applied to American universities have received either admission offers or rejections from respective US universities.

Good luck to those who got into the most competitive universities, you clearly deserved, and for those who were rejected; it's not the end of the world. Looking at the lengthy admissions process in American universities, I couldn't help but draw parallels with our own admissions system to Kenyan universities.

Grades alone is the determinant as to whether one will get a coveted place to study a course in a Kenyan university, more so the regular government programme. The Joint Admissions Board-JAB, overlooks so many factors that would make for a successful student other than grades. Talent in other areas is rarely ever taken into account. Just looking at the admission figures alone, for instance, of Harvard, 3,000 high school applicants were ranked first in their graduating class. This is more than double the 1260 students that were admitted. So, clearly, a couple of number ones and A students were knocked off. If one examined the SAT scores- a standardised test common for all applicants to American colleges- more than 2,000 had perfect 800 scores in the Math test. So, a myriad of other factors were used to gauge who would get in and who wouldn't.

It wouldn't be so bad if universities began to factor in extra curricular activities to admit students. A class composed of outstanding chess players, business founders, science congress winners, book writers, essay competition winners and athletic and drama champions would surely make for a far much better student experience than the dull A students admitted year in year out. It is perhaps why we keep asking why there is no change despite thousands of Kenyans forking out millions to get prized degrees. They are simply not passionate. The ones who should have been admitted in the first place are out in the cold. Of course, universities are first and foremost academic institutions, but a system that can accommodate the varying talents in Kenya's youngsters would be most welcome.

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