In our seemingly constant stream of innovations and change that may change a little for the older children soon. My wife Judi emailed me an interesting article about how one of the top High Schools in Kenya prepares it's students for exams. The 'traditional' way to do it is to make the kids get up incredibly early, make them cram and revise all day then do the same again until late at night. Six in the morning until ten at night isn't uncommon. The government banned 'holiday tuition' for school students a couple of years ago. 'Tuition' meant that the students who are preparing for public exams got to spend their holidays slaving over a hot text book as well as the term time. (It was also a great opportunity for the schools to make a bit more money by charging the students for the privilege).
The full text makes an interesting read.
Kenya High School: Saturday is a working day, but no tuition here.
At Kenya High, ranked seventh with a mean of 10.6, the syllabus is covered by the beginning of May. Thereafter, candidates embark on group discussions which are guided by the teachers.
“It is a learner-driven approach with teachers only guiding to ensure the bar is raised to our standard,” said the school’s deputy principal Ms Lucy Mugendi.
Lower classes should have covered the syllabus by October of every year before embarking on the next class’ work.
The school timetable runs from 6.20am when students attend preps up to 7.20. During this time teachers of compulsory subjects attend to the students.
“They do this for free as we have not asked parents to pay us something,” says Ms Mugendi.
They then go to a 40 minute morning devotion before beginning normal classes which run up to four. They also go for evening classes, which run up to nine in the evening.
“We want our students to have enough rest. Indeed by 10.30pm the lights are out,” she says.
The school, which has a population of more than 1,000 students, has two games days, Mondays for Form Three and Four, and Friday for the lower classes.
Since the holiday tuition was banned by the government the school now has classes up to Saturday. “Classes begin at 7.30am and run up to 4pm. “Teachers get a small token per session, but mostly it is sacrifice and love for the students that drive teachers,” said Ms Mugendi.
Two internal CATs per term and random assessment tests, which are either set internally or sourced from outside depending on the subject heads, are also administered.
Chess and scrabble are encouraged to sharpen thinking capacity and build on their word power. However, holiday time is strictly for relaxation.
Here teachers work hard to cover the syllabus on time and give the students time to revise and interact to improve their weak areas.
For a student to be promoted to the next class, the deputy principal said, he has to meet what the school calls The 3C’s Policy— Character, Class work and Conduct.
We will be having a staff meeting on Monday to discuss our approach to homework and teaching on Saturdays. All of the top Kenyan High Schools have the 'advantage' of being boarding schools. This makes it easy to implement a regime like the one described above. Having attended boarding myself in the 70s I remember 'preps' and fairly structured time management. In the UK wealthy parents still pay for the privilege of having somebody else put their children through the ropes at boarding schools. It obviously delivers results.
We will be trying to set up a timetable that gets the best of both worlds – creating an environment which encourages our students to be disciplined and successful in their studies and allows sufficient 'play' time to prevent them from becoming 'dull' boys and girls. It will be a very interesting staff meeting. All of our teaching staff have been drilled through the study till you drop school of academic rigour. I'm optimistic that we will deliver a good result. Last August, during the school holidays, all of the teachers happily abandoned the traditional approach to 'tuition', (which they all agreed had been a complete waste of time when they did it as students themselves), and embraced a completely different approach to preparing the oldest pupils for their public exams. We are all up for a change to 'the system'.