I remember when I was in primary school, there was this girl that sat for the First School Leaving Certificate (Primary 6) examination while at primary 4. She passed, so she “jumped” two years and went from primary 4 to v 1.
Even though I performed better and was academically smarter than this girl, my parents insisted that none of their children will skip an academic class. Some of my classmates also went from Primary 5. Well, I did my Primary 6.
So, many of my Primary school classmates were 1,2,3 years ahead of me because my parents insisted that none of their children will “jump” a class. When I was in SSS-1, the girl who skipped a class started writing WAEC in SSS-3.
She failed twice, so I caught up and we did the WAEC same year again; my first attempt, her third attempt. She passed enough to merge results. I got all my papers in one sitting, and in flying colours, with my head, not from any special centre.
So, what exactly was the point of running only to wait to pass out with a “let-my-people-go” O’Level result? Well, we went into University the same year, and I graduated a year before her, in a more highly ranked University. Again, where was she running to? To what end?
My parents are both academics. They aren’t just teachers, they both have experience in Academic and Career Guidance and Counselling. But at the point when they made some decisions about our education (our: My siblings and I), I wasn’t happy.
To me, it was all about competing with my friends about who will finish Secondary school first and gain admission first. But I now know better. A system of education is in place for a reason. The Nigerian system is 6-3-3-4. Why the rush to beat the system?
Listen! I know some children are smarter and have the intellectual capacity to go faster than others. What other developed countries with more regulated systems of education do is not make the children skip some curriculum. They make the gifted children cover the curriculum faster.
For instance; regular students might need 6 regular academic years to cover the high school curriculum. The talented ones are put in a separate class where the cover the whole 6-year curriculum in 5 or 4 years, or even less. They don’t usually skip these curricula.
I know the UK and US have some of such schools and classes for gifted children. The thing I noticed in Nigeria is that it’s usually even the parents of average or below average students that want their children to “jump” classes.
The prestige is in telling everyone that your child finished secondary school at 12. It doesn’t matter whether your child’s brain is completely empty, or whether your child wrote his or her WAEC and JAMB exams at special centres. You are just in a competition.
I was just having a random thought a few minutes ago, and I realised that none of those my primary or secondary school classmates who tried to skip classes was better or ended up more academically grounded and privileged than I am. So, what exactly was the hurry all about?
It’s not just about your child finishing primary school at 7 and secondary school at 12. The question is “Is he/she well academically grounded”? Can they defend those pieces of the paper certificate (they were so in a rush to acquire) anywhere in the world?
What is the point of producing air-headed graduates at 18? I would rather my children spend more years in school and graduate well-grounded academically, than to graduate and still be too dumb to write application letters or simple essays. Besides, I want my children to have a fun childhood.
Except any of my children demonstrates obvious signs of being academically gifted and smart (In which case I would find them a good school for gifted children), they will all finish secondary school, not before 16, and they will all graduate not before the age of 20.
We are not running anywhere. We are not in a hurry to be mediocre. Anything worth doing is worth devoting sufficient time to do it well.
By Nkechi Bianze
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