Exams. All kids must take them. There’s no getting out of it (unless you happen to not show up, in which case you probably deserve to fail!). Three times a year, the learners in Namibia scramble frantically, looking over half-written notes and reading through long-forgotten textbooks. The days of exams are pleasantly quiet ones. Screaming, laughing and sports have ceased. The library is full of silent studiers and study time is actually used properly.
Here’s how exams work here. Like I stated previously, there are three exam periods per year: April, August and November (or October if you are in Grade 10). Each school is given a two week timetable to administer these exams. Back in America, you may be wondering why so much time is needed to test these kids. Namibians have a plethora of subjects to write: English, Home Languages (in the case of my school, Afrikaans and Otjiherero), History, Geography, Math, Entrepreneurship, Life Science, Physical Science and Agriculture. 9 subjects! That doesn’t even include what we call non-promotional subjects, which they don’t write (Basic Informaiton Science, Religious and Moral Education, Life Skills, PE, and Art).
So, 9 subject to write exams on. Ok, so now two weeks makes sense. But wait! Some subjects have more than one test! I’m not completely positive about the other subjects but for English there are 3. 3! One on reading, one on writing, and one on listening. I believe home languages have 4! Imagine you’re a Namibian learner. Wouldn’t you dread these exams as much as my learners do? There are too many exams and not enough time, so we’ve had to give some of them outside the normal timeframe. My listening test, for example, I have to give during normal class time.
Wait, wait, wait! Normal class time? Your kids have to take 2 weeks worth of exams and still go to class? That’s right! The first 2 hours of every school day are devoted to exams. Think, the kids have 5 periods of class. How and what are the teachers supposed to present in class when the kids are preoccupied with exams? Worse is when the learners have already taken their exam, so why pay attention? Luckily for English, I can use this time to allow the kids to finish writing and editing their letters to their American pen pals.
Exams are usually a time where teachers can finally relax. No more lesson planning or active teaching. There’s less work to do. Just make sure that marks are complete for the term. Not so in my case. As you can imagine marking 3 exams (at 120 learners each)., none of them are multiple choice, and Paper 2 has 2 essays. 240 essays to read, in pretty poor English. Side note: I’ve become pretty dang good at deciphering their attempts at writing in English! I attribute this skill to my time ‘reading’ kindergarten work. All of this marking must be done during those 2 weeks of exams (if I want to leave for holiday on time).
But wait again! My job’s not over yet.. Once I’ve finished my marking I must give it to another teacher to moderate. This means that she goes over the marks I gave to make sure they are correct. Lo and behold I have more work to do! I have to moderate her work as well!
I’m afraid that by the time the holiday comes around I’ll be half brain-dead. Why don’t you mark while you’re invigilating (supervising) their kids during their exams, you ask. Well, dear reader, I can’t. Technically I am not allowed to do anything but stare at the kids (though I have to admit that I wrote this post while invigilating!).
So, if you don’t hear from me in 2 weeks, know that either my head has exploded, or that I am curled up in bed crying from the stress (or eating cookie dough. Both are valid reactions to stress!)