In January this year, Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) results were released. Out of over 250 candidates only 6 managed to pass the legal practice exams, translating to 3% pass rate. MMD member of parliament Michael Kaingu said that the behaviour of ZIALE was unscrupulous (Post newspaper dated 23rd January, 2014), while another blogger called the results pathetic. The situation in Liberia in West Africa was even frightening. All the students that wrote University entry qualifications failed, representing 0% failure rate.
I have been reflecting deeply on this state of affairs at ZIALE and many other tertiary institutions in Zambia. In this exposition, I will endeavour to highlight some of the obvious and some not so obvious reasons while students perform pathetically despite purportedly having spent sleepless nights “jobbing”.
While a student might be reading lecture notes and trying to assimilate what they are reading, there are few things that they ignore for that study material to make meaning and be reproduced during examinations. One possible explanation why learners encounter retrieval failure is decay theory. According to this theory, a memory trace is created every time a new theory is formed. Decay theory suggests that over time, these memory traces begin to fade and disappear. If information is not retrieved and rehearsed, it will eventually be lost. The implication here is that a leaner needs to be fully occupied with studying through out as this will enhance rehearsal. Have you ever wondered why you have photographic memory of some events in your life that are impactful? It is because you think about them so often and hence rehearsal in enhanced and as such they appear fresh all the time.
Another reason is interference. Interference theory suggests that some memories compete and interfere with other memories. When information is very similar to other information that was previously stored in memory, interference is more likely to occur.
There are two basic types of interference:
- Proactive interference is when an old memory makes it more difficult or impossible to remember a new memory.
- Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned information.
Sometimes, losing information has less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it never made it into long-term memory in the first place. Encoding failures sometimes prevent information from entering long-term memory. The implication here is that a student needs to concentrate when studying so that what ever is being assimilated moves from short term memory to long term memory. I shudder when I see a student studying with headphones dangling her/his cheeks.
As part to study, try to figure out features on a K10 note in its absence and then compare the result with the physical K10 note. How well did you do? Chances are that you were able to remember the shape and color, but you probably forgot other minor details. The reason for this is that only details necessary for distinguishing one note from the others is encoded into your long-term memory.
In summing up, the life of a learner should be focused, with less partying to promote rehearsal and make examinations passable. Remember, education is the best equaliser of life chances.
By Sydney Kawimbe