OPINION: THE 8-4-4 SYSTEM HAS BEEN UNFAIR TO THE KENYAN STUDENT

The announcement that the government will move to end the 8-4-4 system is very welcome and long overdue. By introducing a system that focuses more on continuous assessment over national examinations in addition to placing emphasis on identifying and nurturing talents in students is a great step forward.

We know we are preaching to the converted but nevertheless bear with us!

Although so much maligned, the original intent behind the 8-4-4 system was noble in that it intended to emphasize teaching subjects that would give students practical skills by the time they left secondary school. But as time went on, the system was diluted and completely moved away from this core emphasis and became what it is today – a system whose main goal became preparing students for national examinations.

Due to this, the 8-4-4 system became very punitive to otherwise bright and creative students who were not great exam-takers. With no large emphasis on student happiness, extra-curricular activities, practical training and no-room for out-of-the-box learning, the system has seriously stifled imagination and creativity on the part of students and teachers.

The focus on national examination is highly unfair since eight years or twelve years of work comes down to a couple weeks of testing. God forbid, if a student happened to come down with a bout of malaria coinciding with the national examinations. An otherwise bright student is “sent to the back of the line” in a span of a week or a month with no chance for recourse.

We also know of cases where students have mental blocks due to the stress of studying for the exam or even the near-medical emergencies when nervous students accidentally ingest acids during chemistry practical exams. And not to mention the numerous hours of tuition that took away the all-important extra-curricular activity time from students. And the fact that students being forced to repeat one or two classes in-order to retake exams is just downright judgmental and senseless.