By Sam Vidambu, CPA.
How much academic success is enough success? Is getting 11 as the school means score enough success? Is getting 10 or 9 or 8.5 enough success? Which level of success is enough success? What amount of success is enough success? How much success is enough success?
Human species are very diverse and different. Some want more. Others are comfortable with where they are. Others resist changing. Others can’t get enough of success. This article is meant for that teacher, that principal, that parent who really wants more success for their school. It is meant for that person who cares about their students, who care about the academic well being of the school and who can’t get enough of success.
It’s the seventh week of the 2020 academic calendar. It’s the time when high school students and primary school pupils are in their half term. It’s the period when form ones are telling stories about how it feels to wear trousers and not shorts. It’s the moment when teachers have taken a break.
It’s a time that most heads are converging in conference centers for their KESSHA meetings. It’s a time characterized by parents getting a full week to stay with their kids at home. The smart parents are monitoring the kid’s behavioral change. The ordinary parents have already sent the kids to their uncles in Nairobi. What a time! What a moment! What a period! What an amazing period!
Most schools have already put down academic programs for the year. Most have already hit the ground running. Most schools have held their class academic clinics. Everything is in progress.
This article is about how to get to that next level. How to be better. How to achieve that 5.9 or 6.5 or 7.8 or 8.9 or 10.5 or 11.2 that you’re aiming at this year. It’s all about progress. Let’s not stop the metamorphosis. It begins here.
I have had the privilege of running mentorship and academic programs in over 650 schools and universities in Kenya, East Africa and Africa at large. Whenever I go to a school to launch our academic programs I always ask the head of the school a lot of questions, What’s your target this year? What are you doing to achieve? What was your target last year? Did you achieve?
What did you get? What prevented you from achieving your target? What made you achieve it? How will you feel when you achieve your target this year? What will it do to your ego? How long have you been here? What do you teach? For how long have you been a teacher, ahead? Blah blah blah….All these questions will get answers and the answers that I get at school X which got a mean of 9.5 last year are the things I’ll go to teach school Y which had a mean of 2.6 last year.
We all know the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is extra, and the extra are the things that I learn from School X then I teach School Y. Sounds good, right? Last year we were working with a school in Transnzoia that improved from 4.12 to 6.45. That’s not a small improvement. How do we get to the next level?
Whenever you ask any head of any school that performed well in KCSE on their secrets to success most will say the obvious things like hard work, commitment, time management, and syllabus coverage.
While syllabus coverage is good, there is a lot in more than just covering the syllabus. For it to be covered on time we need to work over and above the normal time. What’s the importance of covering the syllabus on time? How do you cover it on time? Syllabus coverage should start right from form one.
If form one work can not be completed inform one how do you expect to form four work to be completed in form three? Syllabus coverage should be spread right from form one. Form one work should be finished by September. This way we reduce the pressure in form four. The schools that run our programs know that we always advise syllabus coverage by April.
This needs humongous levels of commitment from teachers and students. It’s not easy. But if it’s the success we want then we must work. Whoever a student is, no matter how good they are in basketball or volleyball or football, they all must work in class and perform well. Nobody in high school doesn’t want to go to higher education.
High school is the result. The importance of finishing the syllabus on time is that the teachers will embark on revision. The unclear topics will be revisited. The tough questions will be answered. Greatness will be achieved. The success will be realized.
We want the students to have content. We all understand that the 2019 exam was friendly, we expected good grades. Content mastery is very important. Exams demand content. The content comes from syllabus coverage and revision. 2019 exam was student-friendly but the marking scheme was not student-friendly. It demanded content. Our programs are aimed at content mastery, not just syllabus coverage. Without content mastery, your student will get a zero or will leave a blank space.
We all know that students fear exams. It’s a phobia deeply rooted in their minds. They think exams are meant to hurt them. After finishing the syllabus we should start going through past papers. This helps the students see that KCSE is not really another exam from another planet but rather things that they have done in the class.
Schools that work with us understand that we recommend going through 200 revision papers before KCSE. This needs discipline. It’s not easy. Topical revision is also very key. It brings tremendous levels of confidence to the students. It boosts their morale.
Academic families. This is a strategy that most schools don’t know. It’s actually a top kept secret. Some who use this strategy have not gotten how well it’s done. So how well is it done? We have 5 academic families, The A family, B family, C family, D family, and the E family. Wait a minute Sir, before you start saying that I am grouping your students based on their capabilities let me finish my point.
The capability that I know is getting an A. All students can and should get A’s regardless of their KCPE marks. In the academic families, we go down to subject performance. For instance, in Mathematics, we use the results for the last exam, the latest done exam. In Mathematics, we had those with A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, and maybe E.
The ones with A, and A- in Maths (remember) are assigned a specific teacher who would act as a mentor to help them remain in the A family. The ones with B+, B and B- (the B family) are given a teacher of Maths who would help them move to the next academic family which is A. The same is done to family C and D and E. The same is replicated in all the subjects.
This is not meant to put students in ability groups, it’s meant to help them achieve their full potential. It’s always about progress. Don’t seek perfection, seek progress. No school started as a national school. No rich family started as a rich family. It’s one person who decided to break the chains of poverty from the family.
These academic families will propel you from 3.5 to 6.2. From laughing stock to learning stock. They will start coming for benchmarking at your school. Do it. Implement it. Success is three things. Success is a Mindset, Success is Game of Numbers and Success is Based on Decisions.
First, Success Is A Mindset. Everything begins from the mind. That target means score for this year came from your mind. If you can see it in your mind you can hold it in your hands. Believe.
Second, Success Is A Game of Numbers. How early did you cover your syllabus, what time do your students wake up, what time do they sleep, how many classes did the teachers miss, how fast do the students move, is the movement by running or no sense of urgency, how many exams do they do per term, how many practicals were done, how many times have they read Kigogo, Tumbo, Chozi La Heri, The Pearl, A Dolls House, Blossoms of the Savannah? All these are numbers. The better the numbers, the closer one is to their potential and the higher the grades.
Third, Success Is Based On Decisions. You must make a conscious decision to win. Not just the student alone but also the principal, teachers, BOM, and Parents. Success demands commitment from teachers, discipline from students, cooperation from BOM and support from parents. Students don’t want to view the teachers as bosses or principal as an authority but as parents.
This is the epitome of success. The taste of winning. The aroma of succeeding. The promise of the founders. You as a principal you know how that BOM meeting is always a hard time for you. You understand how the BOM members question your ability to deliver results. I understand how you feel.
I understand how it feels when other schools are excelling, moving, metamorphosing, increasing in numbers while you’re still at 2.4. I understand how it feels when you as a teacher your subject performance is still dismal, the staffroom is always laughing at your department. I understand how your school is a laughing stock in the village. Let me help you. It has worked before. It will work.
Let’s start from where we are, let’s use what we have, let’s do what we can. Let’s start from those 180 marks, that 200, the 230 marks. It’s possible. Let’s work. Let’s fell down the mighty, let’s slay the giants because we know their secrets. Let’s move from grass to grace. Let’s stop being the laughing stock. Let’s achieve greatness.
Let’s move from tail to head. Let’s proceed with our metamorphosis. Let’s bridge the gap between what we want and what we don’t have. Change happens when the pain of staying the same is higher than the pain of change. Change. Succeed. Let’s work. Let’s get to work.
So, how much academic success is enough success?