The first term of 2014 is now a fortnight old and students are probably adapting to the new classes they advanced to from last year. But as most students advance to a new class, there are those, albeit few who will stay behind for another year as they may not be ready for the next class depending on a number of reasons.
The most prevalent reasons for repeating classes is poor performance which in turn causes teachers, school administration and parents to think that if the student took the class again he would probably emerge a better student at the end of it all.
Though it is mostly done in the best interest of the student, at times it may be interpreted in a different way by the students asked to repeat a class. Few students are comfortable with the idea and see it as unnecessary as they can improve their academic performance as they get on with school. They are uncomfortable with the thought that their former classmates who were promoted will look down upon them and that they may not command enough respect among their peers with whom they will be in the same class.
For some students it could cause them to move schools afterwards as the discomfort is at times too much to bear especially with the taunting from fellow students. Those repeating classes are often given derogative nicknames like ‘grandpa.’
“I went to a private school in Kabale (Uganda) and was asked to repeat a class in my second grade in high school due to my poor performance especially in mathematics and sciences. The school’s administration sat down with my parents and explained that it could cause me to have problems in future. But two terms into the year I was retaking, I was not comfortable at all, I felt inferior to my former classmates and the general attitude of other students towards me, I had to change schools because my parents feared I would suffer from stress,” Fred Irankunda a student at University of Rwanda, College of Business and Finance (formerly SFB) says.
For Irankunda, what began as a move intended to see him improve academically, later turned out to be a reason for stress and loss of motivation.
Pauline Wanjiku a counsellor says that asking students to retake classes could have a range of effects depending on how it is done.
“When you show a student that they are being asked to retake a class because they are not good enough for the next one, they could easily go on with the rest of their life with an inferiority complex and develop hate for academics,” she says.
But Wanjiku says that when it has to be done it should be done in such a way that the student agrees to it without being forced into it.
“The Student should be the one pushing or opting for it, it is also advisable to consider switching schools because though the student may understand the importance of him retaking classes, his/her new classmates may not and go ahead to tease him. A change of environment also gives the student a feeling that they are turning over into a new clean page,” Wanjiku adds.
Although Rwanda Education Board (REB) doesn’t have a set policy as regards to students retaking classes, Janvier Gasana the deputy director general in charge of Education Quality and Standard Department says there is a ministerial guideline which was put in place in 2001 and is currently under revision.
“Though the guideline is a little old, it doesn’t advocate for students retaking classes. Since some schools especially private schools might be motivated to do it to improve their rankings, the board is currently revising the guideline to protect students from frustration,” he said.
Gasana says that schools should not have more than 10 per cent of the class repeating a class as that would be an outright move to market the school as a top performer.
“We ask schools to do enough to prepare the students well in advance for the exam. Waiting until they are ready to advance for them to ask them to retake classes only frustrates students. The poor performance could also be as a result of teachers’ laziness. I urge parents to be watchful about such schools which might want their children to retake classes,” he added.
However some teachers see retaking classes as necessary to ensure standards and reduce problems in future. Jean Michel Habineza, a teacher and the founder of iDebate, a forum that enables students polish their debating skills says that it reminds students to put extra effort to meet specific standards.
“The idea of retaking classes is important for various reasons, when students know that they have to achieve specific standards to move on to the next class, they work as hard as possible to meet the grades expected. The fear to repeat the class drives them to perform better. If you allow the students to advance with whatever standards you are going to have problems in future, as the student will be a step or two behind the others in performance,” Habineza said.
Davis Habimana, teacher
Repeating a class to me is not good because it demoralises a child and makes him or her lose self confidence especially if she is studying with his /her siblings. But if the child performed poorly its inevitable because there is no point in promoting someone who is clearly not ready for the next class.
Goretti Mukamana, parent
It is good to make a child repeat a class because it doesn’t make sense to promote him or her to another level when he or she does not understand the things that will take her to the next level. Making students repeat makes them work harder.
Josephine Uwanyirigira, parent
I am not in support of making a child repeat especially those in candidate classes. It is like a disappointment to them. They should give them a chance to go to the next level because sometimes they improve when they get to another level. There are even children who grow very fast so making them repeat classes and also study with the young ones reduces on their self esteem and in turn negatively affects their performance with some opting to drop out of school.
Massai Kairanga, student
It is not good to make a child repeat a class because it has a great impact on their self esteem. Sometimes the kid is sharp at something else and there is no need/ reason to stop him from advancing claiming that they are still young as some parents do.
Kiba Muvunyi, school director
I am of the view that, the decision of asking a student to repeat a class needs to be taken after analysing different parameters. All in all any decision taken needs to be for the benefit of the student. Repeating can be beneficial to a student if he/she was not able to master the required knowledge/skills in a particular year and yet the knowledge/skills is a prerequisite for the next level. But we should make sure that this is the last option.