In desperately poor Sierra Leone, Abdul Kargbo studied in a school that lacked books, electricity and running water. He competed with classmates for the prestige of ranking first in the class. Then, at the age of 16, he moved to the U.S. He writes on Education Sector:
With the exception of the American authors, my English literature classes covered material that I had already studied. And, although U.S. history was a new subject for me â€” I had studied only African and European history in Sierra Leone â€” I had already studied the World Wars and the Four Revolutions in my first year of secondary school. My Advanced Placement French classes covered grammar and vocabulary that I had learned in primary school, and my microbiology class was less advanced than the biology classes I had taken in my first and second years of secondary school, when I was between 12 and 13 years old.
What I found most frustrating was that, while teachers might have genuinely wanted everyone to get an equal grasp of the material, they erred too much in favor of ensuring that everyone passed tests and exams. These were so simple that even students who had not even bothered to show up for class could still get a passing score.
Many of his U.S. classmates didn’t work hard enough to go on to college. They didn’t seem to believe that success in school would lead to success in life. The opportunity to get an education — so cherished in Sierra Leone — was taken for granted.
In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews observes that students can graduate with good grades in college-prep classes without being prepared for college success.