A TEST QUESTION SHINES LIGHT ON THE EDUCATION PROBLEM IN HAITI
My music students are school students. We talk about geometry and geography sometimes…especially around exam times. Today a young man brought me one of his exams. He lost a point on the exam for a True/False question. He argued his case…before both the teacher and the principal, and he apparently lost. This is the sad situation :
The teacher wanted to test the students to see if they knew the surface area of a certain country. The question the teacher wanted to ask was basically this :
TRUE or FALSE : The surface area of Such-and-such is 500,000 km2. ______________
As such, the correct answer would be TRUE. But, the teacher was negligent, and the question appeared this way :
TRUE or FALSE : The surface area of Such-and-such is 500.000 km. ______________
Note that the second version does not use square kilometers, but kilometers. You cannot express surface area in kilometers. It must be square kilometers. That little fact makes the question false. The student in question wisely chose FALSE. It is with profound sadness that I tell you that his answer was marked wrong. He pled his case, and both teacher and principal (apparently) refused to admit he was correct. They reportedly mentioned the fact that the equipment used to prepare the exam couldn’t produce the km2 symbol…or something about a typing error.
This means that they wanted the student to interpret what he saw, and to devine what the teacher MEANT, and not react to what actually appeared on the page. I am beside myself as I think about a student trying to figure out what lesson he will take from this. “My teachers are not logical.” “My teachers are impossible to please.” “Logic is not good for me.” “Logic gets me in trouble.”
Many people say education in Haiti messes people up more than it fixes them. I don’t think I would go that far. But there is no substitute for truth. I used to scold students for writing poorly and then saying : “You know what I meant.” To hear that from a teacher is…deflating.
Missionary in Haiti.