Imagine that you are a seventh grade student. Whether or not you continue on in school depends on your ability to perform on a one time series of four tests (one per core subject, and the social studies test includes questions about the history and culture of your religion). Now imagine that these tests cover all the material you were to have memorized in all of your schooling to this point (every science question, history detail, etc).By the way, the test is short answer. No multiple choice.
We have three children at Ddembe who are in P7 (7th grade) now, and they will sit for their national exams at the end of November. Schools in Africa are divided into primary (1st-7th), and secondary (our high school). Secondary school is four years, then you sit for more national exams. At that point, you choose vocational training or two more years of secondary school in hopes of moving on to the university. The national exams are of utmost importance, because that's what allows you to continue schooling. School quality in Uganda is so varied that grades cannot be trusted as a measure of what a student has learned in primary, so your scores on four exams is all that matters for getting into secondary school. No pressure. The scores are given a ranking (based on your performance, not scaled based on the performance of others) and then totaled to give you the "division" you are in. The great news is that secondary schools are interested in attracting top students, and many offer scholarships for students who pass every exam. And just in case you think it might not be that tough to pass a seventh grade exam, here is an except from the practice test I was looking over with Moses (the child) tonight.
In our previous scenario, imagine, too, that schools (which are chosen and fee based) are judged on the performance of their P7 students on exams. This might lead the teachers to decide the children need more studying, so all P7 students go to school on Saturdays as well. Knowing that most students do not have educated support at home might lead the schools to decide that the best use of a student's time was in school learning. Many schools are now asking their students to come on Sundays too. Some are even extending their hours so that the P7 students arrive at 6 and leave at 9:30pm.
will sit for their national exams at the end of November. They are already hard at work studying the way you might if you only got one shot at the SAT and there were no multiple choice questions. In truth, though, it feels more like we are preparing to be contestants on the show 500 Questions!
Please keep them in your prayers as they gear up for these tests!!
All of the children have midterms tomorrow (God always sends us when they need extra help studying, and while it makes the nights less relaxed, it also makes me glad to know that we are here to help!)
Today Robert, Moses, and I toured three possible secondary schools for the children. It was like an episode of House Hunters. We visited them all, then sat at our favorite Jinja cafe to discuss the pros and cons of each and choose our favorites! Two of the schools were secondary schools that Moses attended. It was like touring A&M with me. "This building used to be... This teacher has been here forever... We didn't have that when I was here...They are still driving the same bus!" At one school, a former teacher of Moses' is now the headmaster and he gave us a personal tour. Robert knew right away which one was his favorite (he is getting good at school selection these days!). I was very impressed with two of the schools. The schools we looked at were what Moses called "middle level schools." There are more expensive schools for sure, but Moses likes a "mix." He was speaking my language! I also explained that even if we could afford it, it would be tough for our children to go to school with kids whose lives had been very different from theirs. We only looked at co-ed schools, in hopes that our children can attend school together. One school had high standards for admission. The other two basically said, "we know not everyone has the same opportunities, so we are willing to work with someone who is promising." (My favorite part of this is that they mean "promising to work hard," not "showing promise!"). It was exciting to see signs advertising the different clubs at the schools.
And, of course, the signs that encourage clean living. Think we should start posting these at our high schools?
The science lab, where they experiment with live mice...
As you can tell, these schools are equipped! The teachers and students were friendly and welcoming, and I think we have some great choices for our kids!
Thanks for praying for us through this, and especially for praying for our kids!!
Robert baked them brownies while they were studying tonight! (It's one of his top "study strategies!")