O Level Mechanix


O Levels are starting today. Ada Derana sent out an SMS in the morning saying that the examination commissioner wanted all students to come half hour early. I remember when i did my O/Ls. i crammed a few months before the exam. And passed pretty well.

At that time the exam was a repeating pattern, most teachers knew the most common questions. So they focused more on these areas when studying the textbooks. Exam questions also got leaked, and some teachers were known for subtly giving an exam question or two in ‘revision classes’ before papers.

I studied a fair bit of algebra, biology, physics, chemistry, literature, history and sociology for my O/Ls. And like I said, passed pretty well. That’s not to say however that i actually KNEW much about those subjects. I just knew how to pass a well structured, somewhat predictable, mechanical exam BASED on the rudiments of Maths, Science and Sociology.

No one really told me why exactly i should be learning these things, other than of course, that i will be tested on them at the end of two years, and that how i fare in these tests will play a decisive role in my prospects in a set of tougher, even more mechanical set of exams that might, just, lead me to enter the most mechanical part of my education of all; local university.

I don’t know if things have changed now. But education should be about learning, not about stuffing your students’ heads with facts and numbers that have no meaning to them. There is no learning without meaning. And meaning is almost independent of facts and numbers. It requires independent thought and experimentation. Learning is understanding, about being able to fit all the little things into the bigger picture. And understanding is what stays with you in the long term. Facts and figures are easily forgotten.

So good luck to all those nangis and mallis sitting for their exams. Pass them well, but don’t take them all that seriously, if you’re serious about getting somewhere in the real world.

  1. I think that’s how the London examinations is a cut above the local exams. Whether O/Ls or A/Ls, our exams required more than regurgitating everything we’d studied onto sheets and sheets of foolscap paper. We were forced to think.

    We had three structures of papers answered on different days and each 3 hours long- short questions, essay-type questions and practicals for A/S and A/Ls. This way we had to know more than just the theory. I still remember nervously watching my titration; waiting for it to turn pink.

    I also recall my friends who were studying local A/Ls Biology had to memorise insignificant stuff like names of different seaweed and their classifications- even you were going to be a marine biologist, that stuff’s really not important in getting you to understand the basics of biology needed in university. For us, we spent a lot of time in the laboratory, studying stuff under microscopes, carrying out test and drawing them. We were encouraged to draw diagrams for the exam too.

    That said, I was recently told that the practicals have been scrapped of the examinations. Hopefully, whatever changes they’ve made, students benefit from it.

    • Whacko said:

      Yeah the London exams are definitely a step above, i’ve heard. And far easier than locals. Less stress and more learning. That’s what we should be focusing on. Our top down approach at looking at education is what seems to have messed things up

  2. Chavie said:

    Ahhh, the good old O/L days… felt like torture having to learn *everything*, mostly subjects that you didn’t care about. 😦

    • Whacko said:

      Lol yeah, science, health science, agriculture etc, what?

  3. The sibling has OL’s this year, Seeing her all stressed out takes me back to my OL days. I found this picture recently which sums things up pretty accurately.


    • Whacko said:

      Haha yeah, that is pretty accurate. Interesting point that brings up about education anywhere though, its all geared to push people into industry. So no matter how sophisticated/friendly the system or exams gets you still have to do something that helps you make a living

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