Thursday April 24 2014

Time to reassess education system

Uganda’s education system is broken. According to the Uganda National Examination body (Uneb), half of 5,305 students who took technical examinations in 2013 failed the papers. Similarly, one-half the number of students who sat the O-Level exams failed in 2013 while just more than half passed A-Level . In all the cases, teachers have taken the flak for the failures.

According to Uneb’s 2013 National Assessment of Progress in Education report, most teachers cannot interpret the curriculum, leading to massive failures. The teachers are also faulted on poor teaching skills, over reliance on pamphlets and drilling pupils to learn by memorisation. Uneb says this cram work has undercut students’ ability to read, grasp texts, and respond to questions requiring critical thinking, interpreting substance of subjects. The teachers have also been blamed for teaching in abstract manner without illustrating topics with real-life experiences. The report says most of secondary school teachers also lack skills of assessment.

While these findings are comprehensive, it is unfair to singularly blame teachers for the poor performance by pupils. There are several factors which limit the teachers’ ability to deliver. Uneb examiners admit most of the pupils who enroll for the Uganda Junior Technical Certificate and Community Polytechnic Certificate of Education courses are primary seven leavers and dropouts. The directorate of secondary education also accepts the poor administration of the Secondary Science and Mathematics Teachers’ programme has not improved performances in Uneb exams.

No less, the teaching profession is depressed and only chosen as a last resort. The poor and delayed pay for teachers, the ill-matched teacher-pupil ratios and overwork have forced Ugandans to back off the profession. Students admitted to education courses are not top-of-cream grades in pre-entry exams.
To resolve the high failure rates, parents, teachers, policy makers, and the government need to own up to the mess. Government should recruit more teachers to offset the workload, invest in in-service courses to enforce curriculum interpretation skills and raise levels of theoretical and practical teaching skills.

Labs should be well-equipped, schools given ample textbooks to cut down on pamphlets, and cut-throat exam competitions discouraged.
The teacher needs to be well-equipped and compensated to deliver better grades.