This week, students at LKM, like their peers at schools all over Haiti, are taking tests. This is the “premyè kontwòl,” or first of four exam periods of the school year, as mandated by the Haitian Ministry of Education.
However, the exams take place a little differently at LKM than at many other Haitian schools.
Delson, the director of primary grades at LKM, told me that most schools do nothing but exams this week. Students come in the morning, take a test, and then are sent home—where, he says, “they sit around and do nothing.” A whole week of school is lost. But here, Delson says, “we don’t lose any time.” Students take tests this week, but they also go to music, PE, computer and library classes as usual, and continue with reading and other activities with their classroom teachers.
At many schools, students take their exams crowded inside a classroom, where teachers are constantly guarding students closely. According to Jeanes, another LKM teacher, the teachers make students sit up straight and won’t let them even glance to either side.
At LKM, students can sit however they are comfortable. Many students take their tests outside in the shade of our almond trees.
Koryolan, our high-school social studies teacher, commented that at other schools, each student may be scheduled to take exams only one or two days this week, since there isn’t space for everyone to take their exams at once. The rest of the week, students sit at home. Here, since students are still in school each day, they have more time to prepare and study, and more time to reflect on their exams after they finish.
In secondary schools, Koryolan went on, many teachers just give the exams for their classes to the school principal and don’t bother to come to school at all. This means that students can’t ask questions to get any clarification during the tests. At LKM, teachers give the exams for their own subjects, so that students can ask their teachers to rephrase a question if there’s any ambiguity.
In fourth grade, today’s exams included drawing. Students were thrilled to show me some of their work.