Help students make good life decisions

Posted Sunday, February 27 2011 at 19:17

The results of last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination will be announced on Monday.

The minister for Education will fulfil his ceremonial duty with a pragmatic, albeit platitudinous speech.

This will be followed by both jubilation and gloom, depending on which side of the mean score one’s name falls.

Even though the minister will attempt to explain the system’s preparation and plans to accommodate even those students who will have fallen short of the public university cut-off points, the truth of the matter is that the government will have bid farewell to many candidates and they will end up hawking roast maize and “bottled” tap water.

The system has a direct way of punishing non-performance. Even the achievers will soon realise that its smouldering dysfunctions spare none.

By the time the college invitation letters arrive, many will have missed the university of their choice and a handful of others will see dream careers go up in smoke.

Some of the crucial decisions that determine outcomes at this stage are cast in stone. Those whose academic footsteps can be traced through the much travelled path of 8-4-4 will agree that few Form Four students filling university entry forms are aware of the implications.

Most students are overcome with excitement and sheer naivety and are ignorant of the vital academic choices necessary for their career aspirations.

For a long time, tertiary education in Kenya offered a lean list of options. The mainframe of university education was made up of courses like medicine, education, law, economics, easy to identity and with clear prospects.

However, this has changed. The modern day student is finding it more difficult to navigate the career world, a situation further complicated when young people with little experience have to make critical decisions with little assistance.

How many Form Four students, most of them in the rural areas, can distinguish between information technology and computer engineering? How apparent are the differences between the social sciences?

Or how many can tell the differences in opportunities presented by courses in the same gene pool such as nursing, pharmacy, biomedical technology, and physiotherapy?
Many will end up going through academic life at the university like a mandatory rite of passage. And with little interdisciplinary mobility in our public universities, the fate of many such students will be as good as sealed.

The choices we make, as we all know, dictate where we end up in life. At this stage in the academic life we are confronted with make-or-break situations.

To make prudent steps, young minds need direction. The ministry of Education should make the education of KCSE candidates on university academic choices part of its policy framework.

Even the Joint Admissions Board should help by involving candidates right from the time of applying to university.

During this time of reform, policy experts appear to have their eyes set on the log in our eye. The problem is that we risk ignoring the finer details. And being the revolution that it appears to be, it might take too long to come back for the speck!

Mr Oluoch is a communication student at the University of Nairobi. Email: nyakwarma@gmail.com

The graduating Form Fours celebrating with their teachers and some schoolmates.

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