LAST WEEK saw the Rwanda Education Board release the results from last year’s Primary Leaving as well as the O-Level examination results. Soon they will also release the results for the A-Level section.
Like has become the norm in Rwanda just like in other neighbouring countries, the release of the exams tends to take on a ritualistic pattern that we are now used to: The photographic pose as the results are being handed over to the Minister of Education.
This is then followed by the predictable media coverage of the best students and best schools. As the days go by we are presented with the success stories of the star students and, in some cases the star teachers or their schools in general revealing their secrets to success.
Eventually the dust settles and we all return to our usual life schedules as we wait for another cycle of the same examination results phenomenon. What we seem to ignore is that in the life of a student there are several examinations and tests to be done. In fact in a very competitive environment one may lose count of the examinations they have to sit during their time in school.
Examinations are set to test the level of understanding that students have acquired over a given time. Once the exams have been marked and the grading is complete one can then see the top performers, the average minds and the failures if any. The important question for teachers and to a large extent the schools is, what do you do after acquiring the above information?
Do you just move on as though everything is usual? Of course not. It is very crucial at this point in time to recognise and where possible reward the top performers. There are various ways of doing this, ranging from very attractive prizes to mere mentions.
There is a school in Uganda that is now famous for handing over a car to its best performer! I can only imagine the competition spurred by this gesture as students prepare for examinations knowing very well that excellence could result in receiving car keys and its log book.
Where it is not national examinations in question, some schools are known to offer scholarships the best performers. For example, Riviera High School offers partial scholarships to its top performers every year.
Other incentives have also been used elsewhere. I know of a certain school with a hostel whose accommodation is based on one’s performance. Being a day school every child wishes to stay in the hostel close to the school but that can only happen if you are among the top students in a term. If you are in the hostel and your performance declines, you are thrown out of the hostel.
At the very least where a school cannot afford to offer anything tangible, a mere mention can do wonders. You can spice it up with the ubiquitous certificate of excellence. I remember in my former school, the top performing student in each particular subject would be recognised in front of the whole school and we always envied these people and thus worked hard.
Schools should make it a policy to recognise their best performers every now and then. At the end of the term, instead of just handing out report cards, why not announce the top two or five students in each class to stand up for recognition.
A person named will strive to be named the next time while the one not recognised will also struggle to get into the enviable top five for that coveted mention. In life we always love it when our efforts are recognised. The same principle works for students at all levels and all schools ought to embrace it. Being among the best in the country of course sees one featuring in the main newspapers as well as other media outlets and nothing beats such a feeling.