Tuesday March 6 2018

Is the banning of some O-Level subjects realistic?

Uganda Certificate of Education examinations

A student sits for the Uganda Certificate of Education examinations recently. Some subjects that have been previously examined, have now been scraped. PHOTO BY DOMINIC BUKENYA 

By AMOS NGWOMOYA

On November 21, 2017, Dan Odong, the executive secretary of Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb), wrote to both government-aided and private Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) centres that were still teaching some of the suspended subjects to stop.

Odong noted that National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) did not produce teaching syllabi for them. According to the notice, suspended subjects include Fasihi ya Kiswahili, Political Education, Additional Mathematics, General Science, Health Education, Electricity and Electronics, Power and Energy, Commerce, Office Practice, Shorthand, Music, Principals of Accounts, Woodwork and Building and Construction.

Last year, Grace Baguma, the NCDC executive director, justified the suspension of the subjects, arguing that the new curriculum will retain subjects that are meant to develop competencies in technology, communication, analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, problem solving and teamwork.

She said the content of the dropped subjects has either been merged or new information has been added into the retained subjects in the revised syllabus.
However, this directive has since sparked off debate, with majority of people questioning the basis for the suspension.

Although some people argue that banning of these subjects was long overdue, some say some subjects are needed to give practical skills to students so that they can have a solid foundation.
But NCDC insists that by examining these subjects, it would be duplication of the already existing ones on the syllabus.
Ezra Ndyamusima, an engineer, says majority of the sophisticated courses taught at universities need students to have background or extra knowledge. In this case, he says, instead of banning subjects such as Electronics saying the same is covered by Physics, government should instead have made it stronger.

Consultation
“For students who go to vocational institutions, the subject is key because it shapes them and when they join other institutions, they would just be adding skills,” he says.
He faults the NCDC on their failure to engage stakeholders such as teachers while banning the subjects. This newspaper understands that NCDC is finalising a new curriculum which awaits approval so that it could be officially unveiled for implementation.
Andrew Agona, an educationist, says it is important for Uganda to have educational diversity, adding that by banning the subjects, Ugandans are witnessing an educational system that has been Uganda’s last pride and joy and envy of numerous countries go to waste.

“Some of the subjects to be dropped such as Music, Dance and Drama, collectively known as the Performing Arts, are extremely instrumental in keeping civil society, especially the youth creative, motivated, excited and proud of their talents.
He adds: “It comes as no surprise that these beautiful subjects bring joy, happiness and pride to a nation when the respective students are given the chance to display what they have learnt.
He notes that although some advanced countries such as Korea are purely into innovations, they are proud of their performing Arts institutions.
Banned subjects such as Commerce and principals of Accounts, people argue, have been shaping students to become better accountants, economists and bankers. NCDC says these will be incorporated into Economics and Entrepreneurship subjects.

Manpower woes
For many years, government has grappled with the shortage of teachers in many public schools. NCDC’s resolution is also premised on the fact that whereas these subjects are necessary, there has always been gaps as far as manpower is concerned.
As such, some schools could have Commerce teachers and lack Accounts teachers yet the subjects are similar.
Alfred Katende, the head teacher of Crown High School in Nabweru acknowledges the directive from NCDC, saying his school has already complied with the new guidelines.

However, he says, students who offered subjects such as Commerce are not happy with the directive, adding that government should have consulted widely before banning the subjects. “It’s true there are those subjects which must be scrapped off the syallabus but before doing this, they should have first consulted widely to get an informed position to guide the entire process,” he says.

NCDC stand
According to Grace Baguma, the NCDC executive director, the proposed new curriculum will retain subjects that are meant to develop competencies in technology, communication, analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, problem solving and team work. She says the content of the dropped subjects has either been merged or new information has been added into the retained subjects in the revised syllabus.

angwomoya@ug.nationmedia.com

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