deliberation – logic and collaboration

let me tell you about a real winner of an experience i had last week.  it left amanda in tears and me fuming.  a real example of how our school is founded on the tenets of fairness and equality (no nepotism here, no sir), open debate and respect for others’ opinions (not a dictatorship, surely), common sense, benefit of the doubt, and transparency in governance (no suspiciously worded rules or inexplicable decisions made, not in our school).

let’s backtrack though.  after the exams of the last term of the year, students’ grades are computed and a decision must be made as to who will be promoted to the next grade or forced to redo the year.  because students remain with their class much like we did in elementary school, they cannot redo just one or two courses – it’s all or nothing.  teachers grade rather harshly and the top students will have high 60s or low 70s max.  for example, in senior 5 accounting, only two students out of 52 passed math this year (50% is passing).  it’s also normal for students to miss a significant amount of class time due to illness of lack of school fees, which then affects their grades.

so.  after third term exams, the top students are promoted, the bottom are held back, and those in the middle (with overall average between 45% and 65% are oh-so-kindly given the chance to take ‘second session’ exams for the courses they failed.  last week was second session.  some of these exams were only four or five questions.  some teachers passed everyone, some passed no one.  a student’s future riding on the whims of a grumpy teacher or how much sleep they got the night before.

last thursday morning all the teachers and the director met, with the results of second session, for ‘deliberation’.  first of all we tried to set a criteria (gong show of discussion going round in circles, never recorded, never followed).  here’s where things get complicated.  try to stay with me.  apparently, second session nullifies all grades from the year.  if a student got 48% for the year, and 3% on the second session exam, all that is considered is the 3%.  fairness and benefit of the doubt, no doubt.  furthermore, even the courses they passed the first time are no longer considered.  for example, if student A failed two courses in the year and passed only one of the second session exams, that’s one out of two, or one-half.  If student B failed eight courses in the year and passed four of the second session exams, that’s four out of eight, which reduces to one-half.  therefore, these two students are the same.  (clearly. silly english teacher. let me show you the math.)  if that weren’t absurd enough for you, when student C has failed eight courses in the year then passed five second session exams, student C has now done better than student A (5/8 is more than 1/2 – shall i show you the math?).  never mind that student C still has more failures than student A or that student A has a better overall average.  student C passes, student A fails.

at this point in his speech (oops – ‘discussion’), the director very diplomatically asked if any teachers wanted to contribute their thoughts on the ‘criteria’ for promotion.  i very diplomatically tried to point out the flaws in his logic.  he actually laughed at me, as did a few other teachers.  silly white girl.  i know your rules are different in your country, but in our country 5/8 is more than 1/2.  tsk tsk.  mazungu thought 1/2 was more than 5/8.  ha ha.  you – math teacher – you show her the math.

‘deliberation’ then proceeded as follows.  the class teacher read out the results of each student’s second session exams and the director nodded his head in the direction of either the pass or fail pile.  king of musha.  kill this one, let that one live.  all with a nudge of the head.

the next day the students got their report cards.  student A came up to me in tears.  but teacher.  i got 62% for the year.  i’m 17th in my class.  now i have to redo it.  i don’t understand.  i don’t have the money to pay for an extra year.

the director heard cases for the rest of the day.  amanda and i tried to plead as many cases as we could.  we then began noticing that children of the director’s friends were having their decisions reversed.  student D, with an overall average of 47%, who had only passed three out of seven second session exams (3/7 is definitely not bigger than 1/2) was promoted to the next grade.  explain that one.

so yes.  fuming.  stomping.  pulling hair.  nothing to be done really.  all attempts at logical argument batted down easily.  the first failure of this magnitude.

~ by aliciawolcott on November 2, 2007.

2 Responses to “deliberation – logic and collaboration”

  1. I’ve been in read only mode for a long time on your blog. I love reading your experiences, and even more, looking at your pictures.

    Yep, it’s hard to be non judging, open to other cultures, other ways to do things, and at the same time to try to point constructively to the things that could be better.

    When I was in Rwanda, I found very hard to write about the “problems” I saw there. Thank you for doing better than me and letting us know the good (and there is a lot of it as well) and the bad.

  2. […] actually, the benefits to the poor kids in Rwanda who can barely afford school fees to me are only half of it. Just go have a look at the crank-powered laptop’s tech specs: […]

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