- March 4, 2022
I am taking a trip down memory lane and making a stopover at my former high school. The year is 2014, when our principal then introduced ‘mass-beating’ among the final year students. Every time exams were released, our behinds would suffer atrocious pain inflicted on them by the eucalyptus tree—served by male teachers from the science department. This pain, dear reader, was meant to reawaken our brains and skyrocket the school’s mean score. We were conditioned to cringe at the idea of failure and instead fix our eyes on good grades.
For as long as I can remember, caning in most Kenyan schools seems to be the solution to ‘poor performance.’ Even though the Ministry of Education has demanded that teachers loosen their grip on the same, it is something we have been unable to completely remove from schools. However, the big question is, is caning the best way to leverage performance in schools? Below are five tips on how schools can boost scores among their students without caning.
Set targets, but include an action plan
You probably recall a section on the blackboard in your school that had a layout of target scores for the term or next exam. What lacked were the learning intentions that students needed to work on to achieve those targets. The starting point could be to have students set their own goals and actions that would propel them towards achieving their performance goals and in turn, reaching the class mean score. For instance, if a student wants to score an 80% which translates to an A in Mathematics, what step(s) would they need to take to scoop the mark?
Determine the problem
If you loathed Chemistry, it could be not because the entire subject was a nightmare but you most likely found some topics to be problematic. The famous one, that most students have a negative attitude towards, is MOLES and ORGANIC CHEMISTRY. In such instances, a student would need to focus on solving these two giants. They will need, with the help of the teacher and peers, to brainstorm and work on ways to counter these topics. Determining and paying attention to solving the problem will help a student understand and gain mastery in those topics, which will reflect in their performance.
Create a psychologically safe classroom
A psychologically safe classroom is where students can freely share their opinions, ideas and take risks without suffering any kind of humiliation. Imagine that student who has a vernacular accent or one who can’t read properly and every time they try to speak, other students laugh or the teacher dismisses them. This discourages such students from contributing during class discussions or asking questions. As a result, their performance continues to plummet. Both students and teachers should aim at creating an autonomous space that accommodates everyone. No discrimination should be tolerated.
Cultivate a culture of collaboration among students
Creating disparities among ‘bright’ and ‘weak’ students could lead to students, especially the weaker ones, developing damaging perceptions towards themselves. All students should be treated fairly. Blend the two categories together and let them share ideas on how to better their performance. Establish discussion groups with a mix of bright and weak students. When there’s a contest, let both of them participate and learn. No student should be encouraged to see the other as a lesser being.
Help students maintain a positive mindset
If a student performs poorly once, twice, or thrice, they’re likely to conclude that they are failures and take a back seat. The reality is, with a bit of adjustment they can do better. The adjustment has to begin from the mindset. Helping them cultivate a ‘can do’ mindset will bolster their performance. Make the students understand that they can overcome any challenge as long as they adopt a learning mindset. Sometimes a positive mindset is what a student needs to improve their grades.
Caning does not necessarily make a child perform well. We have to dig deep into the aspects that are causing the poor performance and implement solutions tailored to the needs of the students. I hope the above tips can help in boosting performance in schools.
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