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How Teachers Stimulated Our Corruption Instincts

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This past week, a video clip of some Japanese school children collectively sweeping their classroom got me thinking about the impact of an education system. For a while, I thought about the 8:4:4 system of education system that is currently being replaced by the Competency-based Curriculum (CBC).

The evils that bedevil our society today were entrenched by 8:4:4 system of education system owing to its singular focus on exams. An education system takes learners through some form of orientation. It socializes learners to think in certain perspectives. It builds a national tradition.

The 8:4:4 system of education has failed this test. The Japanese education system has over the years has bequeathed generations and generations a disciplined population and a gratitude attitude.

The 8:4:4 system of education system is exam oriented. The hallmarks of the 8:4:4 system are the KCPE and the KCSE national exams. Passing either exam is the most important thing in the life of a student. It is a classic case of the end justifying the means. In the philosophy of the 8:4:4 system, the wrong or unfair methods may be used if the overall goal is favourable.

Thus for over three decades, the 8:4:4 system of education system has deeply entrenched corruption by appraising the end rather than the means. We have excused exam performance by claiming that the end justifies the means.

When we were young it was easy to think that the end justifies the means. If you wanted a sweet, you were more than happy to steal a sweet out of your younger sibling’s hands. The end justified the means because you wanted a sweet and you got one. As we got older, most of us began to realize that in order to be kind and loving members of our community, we needed to consider other people’s feelings.

We realized that it’s not socially acceptable to take what we want, when we want it, and that, in fact, we need to recognize that sometimes the ends don’t justify the means. While you may consider yourself to be a person of character, how can you reconcile this belief with the fact that, when it comes down to it, you believe you must do whatever you can  to get the results you believe will ultimately bring about the most good, even if other people may get hurt along the way?

As a country, this don’t-care attitude that was first natured in schools because of seeking to just pass the exams has come to haunt us as a nation. The end justifies the means thinking has driven Kenyans into unimaginable scales of corruption.

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To start with, it is now fashionable for job seekers to lie on a resume to get a job: In their mind, lying (or exaggerating the truth) on their resume may be justified if it helps them land the job of their dreams.

Others lie on their first date. First dates can be awkward, thus if you want a first date to turn into a second, the idea of lying to impress the person across the table may seem to be a small price to pay to get a second chance to impress. It doesn’t occur to Kenyans that their lies might be discovered sooner or later. Consequently, relationships hardly last a year.

Exams simply test one’s ability to recall even if you haven’t internalized the concept.

Internationally, our sportsmen and women are continuously on the receiving end for cheating in sports. From match fixing for an undeserved win, to the persistent problem of doping, the end of placing a point ahead of your rivals or scoring the deciding goal can, in some athletes’ minds, justify the means. They want to win at all costs. This vice was acquired in the schools we went to. It all started with copying homework to impress our teachers.

More so, lying during a civic election. Whether one is running for ward seat, Member of Parliament or presidency, lying during an election cycle to deliver a blow to your opponent’s record (or to overstate your own) is a classic tactic. The line between outright lying and inflation of the truth is thin, and with so much at stake, it’s no surprise that “the end justifies the means” thinking rears its head during elections. Politicians have mastered the art of making empty promises every five years.

Everywhere, end justifies means

Elsewhere, going along with a falsehoods. Whether you created the narrative or it was crafted for you, going along with a narrative that you know to be false — such as being hailed a hero for pulling someone from a burning building, where in reality you were only focused on getting yourself out — may justify the means of helping you achieve hero status, but it will gnaw away at you over time

Exams focus only on one’s mental ability. They simply test one’s ability to recall even if you haven’t internalized the concept. You can therefore rely on cramming to write an exam and pass. Learners spend long hours in class memorizing concepts to reproduce them in an exam. Memorized concepts may evaporate or be forgotten later.

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The Physics Hook’s Law was forgotten immediately we left school and so were many concepts. If you asked me why we were in high school for four years,  I will tell you, it was to simply pass KCSE. Nothing more. Why do parents take their children to ‘good academies’? Why does everyone want their child admitted to a national school? The answer is simple: to pass the national exams. Nothing else.

The national craze to pass exams has greatly contributed to increasing cases of corruption. To tame corruption in this country, we must abolish these monster called exams. Thankfully, CBC promises to phase it out so our schools can churn out Japanese-like citizens.

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Ashford Gikunda, a digital entrepreneur, runs Exams Hub.
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