24 February 2013

Tanzania: Do Not Be Frightened By Exams

THE National Form Six examinations are gradually coming to an end. On Friday, February 9, 2013, Radio One aired through its programme called 'Kumepambazuka' a discussion about the examinations.

The issue for discussion was how the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MOEVT) was prepared to curb dishonesty and examination leakage. The radio announcer set the ball rolling by conducting a telephone interview with the MOEVT Minister, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa.

The Minister said that preparations were going on well and the National Examinations Council of Tanzania (NECTA) had taken the necessary measures in ensuring the examinations were conducted and done according to the governing regulations.

He gave the following message to the candidates; "Be calm and confident. Guard against involving yourselves in fake exams. If you have prepared well, you should be able to do well. Don't panic." Some people do not like examinations. Sometimes exams become a menace to the learner. Exams are to a great extent not friendly. Examinations can create fear to the candidates who are not prepared.

But exams are evaluation instruments for learning. They measure the extent of achievement of objectives. Some teachers use exams as weapons. They threaten the learner, sometimes make the learner drop a subject. For example, one lecturer in a certain university said, at the end of the year, "about half of you will be killed, a quarter of you will be wounded and the rest will escape with minor injuries."

What the lecturer meant was 50% of the students would be discontinued from schooling, 25% would be required to sit for supplementary exams and 25% would scrap through (probably not with A's or B's) to the next year. The lecturer realized that students would still make it to the next year if they escaped the course and do well in the other courses. "There will be two papers," said the lecturer.

"You have to pass both papers. It is not a question of averaging. This is mathematics. If you think you are lost, just walk out slowly through the back stair. Nobody will bother you" Fear of exams can produce unexpected outcomes as shown in this ordeal narrated by one candidate: "I think and nothing comes from my brain. This is a deciding day of my life. It is going to be a pass or fail.

A certificate or no certificate. Further studies or no further studies. Job worth or not job worth. All these have to be determined by my performance in this examination! Since I entered the examination room my mind has been blank. Maybe I am panicking. But I am not supposed to panic. This will destroy everything. I am not supposed to be nervous either. The examiners won't know it.

There is nowhere specified for anxiety or anything related to it in this paper. They will just decide according to what I have written. But up to now I have not answered a single question! Maybe I should try next question. I could come back to it later. So here I go. Oh! This one is even more difficult. I am familiar with the names Pythagoras and Archimedes. They were both great mathematicians.

However, this question demands the knowledge of History. I need to know who lived earlier than the other. I know about Pythagoras theorem. I can even state it correctly. You don't believe I can? Here I go: THE SQUARE OF THE HYPOTENUSE IN A RIGHT ANGLED TRIANGLE IS EQUAL TO THE SUM OF THE SQUARES OF THE TWO REMAINING SIDES, yes, I told you I can. Do you believe me now?

But this is different. My colleague has been writing since we started. Actually she likes exams. She spends most of her time in reading books. We call her 'bookworm'. I wish I could glance at what she has written. I only need to stimulate my memory. "That is not fair," a strange voice seems to warn me at the back of my mind. "You claimed to have done your revision and your homework. Now show us." I can hear birds singing. Birds sing nicely.

I also sing nicely. I belong to the school choir. Why don't they ask me to sing instead? I would surprise them. I could even become a super star. I admire singers like Professor Jay. He did not become famous by passing exams. Even the word's famous pop singer, Michael Jackson. He may not have gone through examination of this sort to become a world star. No. Not like this. It is a torture. Suddenly I fell asleep.

I dreamt about my former mathematics teacher. He used to talk a lot about Pi. He even taught us songs about Pi. He later wrote a book called Pi Day. In that book he hinted about Archimedes. I was awakened by his invigilator. He shook my shoulder and said, "What is wrong?" I looked puzzled. "Yes sir, I uttered. "I am feeling sick," I lied to him. I realized that I was still in the examination room.

"Okay," he told me. "Don't mind." He walked away shaking his head. I realized I was in trouble. I was going to fail. "Up to now I have not answered a single question. I quickly looked at the next question. It was a straight forward question. I answered it fast. This encouraged me and I went back to the first question. The answer came back to my mind. The dream had helped me to recall the answer.

As I prepared to write it, the invigilator announced, "You have five minutes." I could not write again. I fainted. My senses came back when I was in the university dispensary. A lot of my classmates had gathered around me. It was an awful sight. They sighed with relief when I recovered. This episode has shown that examinations can take a candidate to a place he/she would not expect. It is advisable to make friendship with exams so that they may take you where you want to be.

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