Today, it is the norm to find dead silence at many schools. More often than not, the children/students are found reading on their own and individually, and in this, you cannot rule out cramming. Schools have a challenge of excelling as one strategy through which they market themselves and end up with bigger populations the years that follow. I am of the opinion that many schools can boost children/student performance by doing a few things which among others may include – encouraging group work (discussions), having at least two teachers to handle a subject per class, encouraging teachers to start off with revision of what they previously learnt, encouraging Old Students to interact with the children/students, using the Internet facilities and creating an atmosphere that does away with fear.
It is true that many students/children learn easier and at times better when their peers go through what the teacher covered - those that may not have picked due to a number of reasons get chance to learn from their friends who were faster at learning. This method of learning unfortunately is not officially accepted in most schools where silence in class is the norm.
Having at least two teachers to handle a subject per class is a big innovation. While one teacher may be the official subject teacher of the class, another teacher may come in during what may be revision time. It is normal to find a student/child failing to learn because he/she is not compatible with the teacher. Teachers at times tend to hate some of their subjects, and it is also true that some students just find themselves not going on well with some teachers hence their poor performance in those subjects. When I joined St. Mary’s College Kisubi in 1974, French was one of the subjects we had to learn. However, I did not like the teacher Mr. Kamanzi and my performance was really bad and I had to drop the subject In Secondary 3, yet if there had been an alternative teacher, chances are that I would possibly have done the subject at O ‘level. It is also true that a teacher can take on a subject where he/she is also not good at some aspects, and in such a case, an alternative teacher is bound to take care of this and children/students will understand well the subject.
Teachers need to be encouraged to start off each new lesson with revision of the previous lesson. I have practical experience with this one. When I was at Makerere University, we had Prof. Ouma as one of our lecturers. He used to start off with revision of what he had taught us in the last lesson. That approach helped me better understand the subject and in a continuous manner that I needed very little time to revise. I wish teachers can take note of this as it gives children/students chance to understand what they may not have understood and because of this, they may need little time to revise and or cram such a subject.
Many schools are not utilizing the opportunity of Old Students of the school. These can be a very big boost to the academic performance of their former schools. What is important is to see how to get some sessions where such students can choose a subject they have mastered and share with the younger ones. Indeed there are schools that have a budget that can easily cater for this if only they started it.
It is true that we still have a generation of teachers who are not conversant with the Internet resources. Today, from my experience with the Internet, if a school has an option between investing in a new building, and putting up capacity for using the Internet facility, I think the Internet would be voted number 1. There is too much on the net which most teachers cannot avail to the students, yet if the students learn the use of the search engines, you can be sure that they not only get wider knowledge about what they have studied in class, but the truth is that they are bound to get better explanations of the subject the covered and examples all of which can greatly boost their grades.
In many schools, fear is what rules. Yes, children/students may be kept under fear as a discipline method and some may fare well in their grades, but the fact is that a situation of fear is not good a learning environment. Schools should ensure that the children/students respect the authority, but not to plant fear which makes these students fail to raise their hands even when a teacher asks whether anyone has not understood.
It is important to note that what I have raised above applies to schools that have the basics for the learning of the children/students, but only find that the students are unable to excel, a situation which forces some to look to avenues to cheat in national exams. In which case, for a school lacking in basic learning infrastructure, there is a problem in getting children/students excel.