The question of whether children study to understand or merely learn how to pass exams is back on the table. This newspaper yesterday carried a story that a new government report has accused teachers of training learners to pass exams instead of equipping them with interpersonal, critical and vocational skills to deal with real life situations.

Monitoring Learning Achievement of Primary Two in Literacy report indicates that nearly six in 10 primary school-going children are unable to read.

This state of affairs is absurd, but not surprising. One of government’s most controversial education policies, especially in the universal education system, is automatic promotion.

First, it is not clear what this is intended to achieve. For instance, why should a child, who scores below the pass mark in an exam, be rewarded with a promotion? This policy further complicates matters for the students, some of whom are slow learners.

Another downside to this policy is that it compromises a child’s ability for hard work in their studies as their urge to read and understand for self-improvement gets retarded.

As we demand that teachers change their approach of teaching to pass exams, we should also task government to review its automatic promotion policy for the good of our children.

However, we should not be blind to the fact that many schools have few or no books and other reading materials to facilitate teaching and learning.