It is the third term in secondary schools, the homestretch for KCSE candidates. They are running the last lap and this part of the race is very sensitive. Form Fours are like a ship approaching the harbour, which is about to dock. A simple mishap can cause a shipwreck or sink the whole ship. In the Gem of Siaya, where I was born and brought up, our pantheon of philosophers say, Yie podho ka dhi gowo, meaning, the ship or dhow capsizes when it is about to dock.
These are some mistakes schools make on homestretch;
- Thinking about exam cheating
Schools err when they stop working hard and begin preparing how to cheat on their way to the top. Likewise, candidates goof when they stop striving but choose to think about how to access KCSE leakage. For that is what causes some of them to attempt to sneak phones into schools because someone somewhere lied to them that they can access success in the final exam by cutting corners. Yet, lack of exam integrity is a mistake that can plunge the whole centre in a storm. It can lead to cancellation of results. In addition, when candidates choose to cheat in KCSE and scoop good grades, the career placement agency may put them in courses they lack the right attitude and aptitude to pursue at the tertiary level.
- Clamouring for comfort
After completion of the syllabus, teachers should not down their academic tools and say good riddance. We are done and dusted. We are home and dry. Everything is hunky-dory. Instead, they should launch a comprehensive revision programme so that they polish pale parts. Dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Likewise, candidates goof when they prioritize comfort and hence succumb to laziness, lassitude and attitude of finitude.
During the homestretch, teachers pile plenty of pressure on candidates. Sometimes the programmes are tedious and tiresome. Tension tightens like a rope. Candidates wake up early and sleep late. They sit for long listening to academic talks delivered by guest speakers who visit schools to share useful examination tips. There are a lot of tests and trials. Programmes are intensive and extensive. All these activities can invite both body and mental fatigue. Being human, candidates can lust for rest. In such instances, the grievous goof teachers can commit is to listen to collective calls for comfort emanating from candidates. Yet, plenty of pressure is necessary. Even gold and diamond are products of this intense pressure. Ideally, precious things are products of pressure, not pleasure.
- Belittling steaming off sessions
In the process of preparing for KCSE, some schools avoid steaming off sessions and games. Yet, the Form Four team should come up with creative ways of helping candidates to get rid of the academic pressure that piles up. Somewhat, the thought about exams sometimes causes tension to tighten like a rigid rope. As a peripatetic speaker who interacts with schools on a broad scale, I must admit that steaming off sessions are necessary for candidates. As schools pile pressure on candidates to entice peak performance, it is advisable to explore stupendous strategies that can help them steady their nerves, manage stress, overcome fear and be in good shape, both mentally and physically.
Actually, aerobic forms of exercise are very useful in this important debate about steaming off. Somehow, it is utterly wrong for candidates to sit for long hours without engaging in vigorous forms of exercise that can permit them to sweat profusely and allow blood to flow in their bodies with trenchant zest. General body fatigue can cause lassitude.
Psychologists posit that for the sake of wellness, we should allot at least 20 minutes, three times a week, to engage in physical forms of exercise that allow blood to circulate with vim and vigour. Somehow, students are teens rife with life, energy and enthusiasm. No wonder, schools should explore multiple ways of helping candidates expend excess energies. In case we deny them chances to steam off, sometimes they become irrational and irritable. This is what sometimes foments trouble and causes chaos in schools.
- Asking for free time
Consequently, candidates miss the mark when they clamour for free time. Some swell with excess self-confidence and pride. This is when they are tempted to belittle the specialized knowledge and experience of teachers. Then they decide to skive lessons, revision programmes, exams and academic talks and career counselling. Some of them feel that they know better. Yet, some of them know very little, and the little they know, they do not know quite well. Teachers should not entertain such peccadillos. Candidates need strict supervision through it all up to the last minute. Eternal vigilance and surveillance of teachers is of the essence.
- Refusing to follow rules
Moreover, a major mistake committed by candidates is choosing the path of indiscipline. Some of the indiscipline cases committed by candidates include; defiance of authority, disobedience, sleeping in class, refusing to sit for exams, cheating in exams, leaving blank spaces in exams, abusing drugs, wearing the wrong school uniform, having unacceptable hairstyle, usage of vulgar or obscene language, vandalizing school property, boycotting classes, refusing to perform duties, theft, assault, incitement, organizing or participating in strikes and sinking in sinful sexual behaviour. In day schools, truancy or absenteeism is a big issue that dents KCSE performance. Coupling is a mistake that some candidates commit. In the process, administration and teachers waste a lot of time solving indiscipline cases. Instead of channelling the energy into polishing pale parts, they spend eternity in correcting bad or aberrant behaviour.
- Running away from exams
In addition, candidates make mistakes when they run away from exams. For peak performance requires ample practice and preparation. Practice makes perfect. Therefore, schools prone to Best Academic Practices (BAP), run an examination system. For when schools fail to run exams, how will they identify glaring gaps? How will they teach the art of exams? How will they kill fear of exams? How will they steady the nerves of candidates?
- Toying with content mastery
Again, candidates go wrong when they toy with the idea of content mastery. Somehow, after syllabus coverage, it is important to embark on thorough revision. Albeit, it is important to note that it is a mistake to focus on revision of past exam papers without putting premium on content mastery strategies. Candidates should focus on cyclic reading of notes and core-course books from Form One to Four. They should engage in avid reading of KCSE set texts to avoid textual and factual errors.
Reading which is void of reading skills is a big mistake. Good reading that enhances content mastery, memory and retention focuses on re-reading or repetition, textual marking, textual annotation, note making and use of reference materials. Also, there are group discussion activities that enhance content mastery. They include peer teaching, group consultation, group exams, making of marking schemes and research-based learning.
- Examiners doing shoddy work
Furthermore, schools make mistakes when they invite examiners who do not focus on quality work. Schools should only invite the finest to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Value addition is key. Such academic programmes should not feature for the sake of formality, money-minting or passing time.
Examiners should focus on riveting revision strategies, impressive implementation of KNEC reports, and sensitizing candidates on grievous goofs made by previous candidates. Experts should train candidates on the art of exams, which include trends in setting and marking of exams, format of exams, skills tested, test blueprint, appropriate choice of questions, presentation skills, plotting work on paper, language of exams, et cetera.
- Choosing to give up
Candidates err when they choose to succumb to despair. That is giving up. In most cases, discouragement comes after a series of failure in exams. Yet, through several trials, every candidate can repair any form of despair. This justifies the palpable presence of spiritual, inspirational and motivational programmes in the school. No candidate should cry, but try. The classic case is Thomas A. Edison, the American inventor. After failing for 10,000 times in his attempts to invent the light bulb, he concluded: “I have not failed; I have only found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Winston Churchill also observed, “Success is moving from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.”
- Ruling out divine help
Schools that do not ask God Almighty to help them to access success in KCSE should change their stance. The wise man says in Proverbs 21:31 that a horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes of the Lord. This underscores the essence of spiritual preparation, which props up academic and psychological preparations for KCSE. Based on what can work well, schools should settle on wonderful ways of praying for the candidate class to attain peak performance in KCSE. Apostle Paul of Tarsus penned in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
© Victor Ochieng’
The writer rolls out academic, career, leadership; talks and training services.
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