What does your daughter’s test Score mean?

Kakaire Steven King
6 min readAug 4, 2023
Photo by Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

The Primary Leaving Examination, PLE results were released last week, 16th July 2021, Friday. It was overwhelming joy to those that excelled and heartbreaking depression and anxiety to those that got below the societal definition of excellence. To most, this is the beginning of the destined life of their kids who seem naturally cut out for excellence. Those who failed have already braced for the miserable life that lurks them in the future. This is a publicly held anecdote of later-life success-determinant of our kids. This is evidenced by the tragic news of a PLE candidate in Hoima that committed suicide because her scores reflected intelligence deficiencies thus a harsh future.

In principle, as opposed to practice, It is in examination rooms that the ‘fates’ of most people are sealed. The academic system is notoriously known to be part, if not wholly, behind the invisible force of nature written about by the authors of the provocative psychological book: The Bell Curve. In this book, Herrnstein and Murray opinionate (and many believe with me) that there is an invisible force of nature that is responsible for the cream rising to the top and the dregs falling to the bottom. Look here, people at the top of the heap — engineers, doctors, lawyers, business executives, college professors — tend to possess extraordinarily outstanding academic test scores (and/or high IQs as perceived by anyone’s test methods) as diametrically opposed to those at the bottom of the heap — street sweepers, day laborers, house cleaners, and other similar people.

Most people who have gone through academic institutions have had certain labels stamped in their subconscious minds by the authoritative figures found therein. Such comments take close form of: ‘Jane, you are such an awesome student. Believe me, the world shall be better because of you. Keep it up.’ And ‘Jack, you are such a dumb student that you shall never amount to anything adorable in life. You are downright stupid and a total waste of space.’

The Janes of this world walk through life with utter confidence and work hard to fulfill the academic prophesies of their later-life success, invent products perceived to be the best since the invention of sliced bread. Some experiment, perform rain-dances and boom, they hit it.

In great contrast, the Jacks are hopeless and sleepwalk through life, hanging on school test score labels and never discover their true voice. Whenever they get the idea that could be a breakthrough, they replay the academic report scores and comments and dead start to leapfrog. A few people who once took this path make a complete U-turn and craft their lives by their understanding of the internal and external environments, capitalizing on their strengths and compensating on their weakens.

Sometimes the underlying differences between the Janes and Jacks of this world is not differences in intelligence endowment rather courage. It is publicly held that courage is in a rare supply than genius.

Psychometric methods used in schools and similar IQ-test-boutiques are lopsided towards the analytical abilities and pay little or no attention to other forms of intelligence. Some psychologists and academia have held folk wisdom that their tests test the whole spectrum of intelligence they are looking for in an individual. Their test interpretations speak well about the individuals’ analytical abilities and leave out the creative, practical intelligence, and other forms of intelligence that individuals possess in varying measures.

In Garner Howard’s field-flipping book Frames of Mind, 1983, he proposes that intelligence is not really just a sole, unitary contrast. He suggested that there are seven discrete, relatively independent intelligences. Each of them is a separate system of functioning, although the systems can interact to produce what is seen as intelligent performance. These seven intelligences are linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. Sadly unfortunate, these school tests are one-size-fits-all tests.

His theory shades light on the modularity of the mind and shows that these intelligences emanate from different portions of the brain and thus independent of each other. My sole aim here is not to speak heavy hairy psychological theories, it is to shade a glimpse of light on school performance, its crippled ability to interpret other forms of intelligence.

These tests can’t identify a Kiprotich with bodily kinesthetic intelligence who has won numerous gold medals, an Eddie Kenzo with musical intelligence who brought home the BET award, a Martin Luther King with linguistic and emotional intelligence or a Sir Alex Ferguson with interpersonal intelligence. It is unfortunately limited to identifying an Albert Einstein with logical-mathematical intelligence. This is implying the Eddie Kenzos get trashed into dumb-bins and the world lives never to see the talents they had in stores.

The creativity of the Wright brothers could not filter through academic settings where failure is highly condemned and labelled all curses hell can ever invent. In Uganda, there is what is commonly known in Busoga schools as a kapasa (axe). If you are a recent graduate of high school, I believe you have weighty memories of the axe.

Because of the knee-jerk bias held on non-academic intelligences, the news of the first human-flight was ignored and perceived not to be plausible since the Wright Brothers were of humble and non-graduate nature.

The oratory and leadership of Martin Luther King Jr nearly survived the sharp pangs of GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores that predicted a failed future. Had it not been the divine advice of a counselor, Black-American rights would be unheard of for somewhat delayed long time.

The understanding of the principal core of nature would have taken more centuries if it was not the works of biologist James Watson who excelled in finding the DNA despite his sick and miserable IQ scores. By academic standards, James could have been fanaticizing with his DNA idea given his ratty test score records.

There are two schools of thought in regard to malleability of intelligences. Incremental-minded theorists believe the human intelligence is malleable as opposed to the fixed-entity theorists that believe that humans come with their abilities hard-wired as dictated by the DNA lottery thus not subject to alteration.

Fortunately, enough, research shows that intelligence abilities are both nature and nurture and highly malleable. According to Robert J Sternberg, the more one is exposed to knowledge, experiences, and a conducive environment, new brain neurons are found and the more intelligent that person becomes.

The parenting styles and environment play great roles in the early brain development of children. The PLE results can be interpreted in terms of the parenting and environment availed to the children in regard to PLE excellence. This explains differences in PLE scores among social economical statuses (SES) of different groups. The upper and middle SES groups tend to have their kids in the top five percent of best performers and low SES groups have their kids leaving primary with ashaming scores. Uganda Bureau of Statistics, UBoS data can prove my argument.

As parents and guardians, it is prudent to compensate the deficiencies of the academic systems and mold rounded-children who are intelligent analytically, emotionally, creatively and practically. And constantly reminding them that their abilities are not fixed but rather malleable. This can be done through well fore-thought and tested interventions that seek to provide an environment suitable for nurturing these ‘intelligences’. As a parent, have you ever intervened to nurture the creative skills of your kids? Ask them about other uses of a key. One of my ‘daughters’ said a key can be framed for aesthetic purposes. A framed key!!! Trust me, I loved the answer.

I hope and pray that my readership with parental roles find it with ease to craft the lives of their children rather than viewing them as winners or losers in the DNA lottery.

Kakaire Steven

Software Engineer: Software Systems | ML for Software Engineering