Tuesday January 7 2014

Improve standards in schools

By Eric Nelson Haumba

As we start off 2014, a lot of focus should be put on improving the literacy levels in our schools. Across the nation, there is increasing awareness of a major discrepancy in the literacy achievement of students. Studies indicate that Ugandan youth, especially students read and comprehend below expected levels.

This calls for early interventions. When literacy instruction starts early, students learn the strategies to read increasingly difficult text and to comprehend more abstract ideas. Sadly, 75 per cent of students with literacy problems in secondary school will still experience literacy difficulties at university.

There is a lot of literature in the scholarly world. Therefore, creating a literacy culture is designed to help students to gain and appreciate a host of scholarly inclinations. Students should join universities when they have at least average skills in information literacy. But the current crop of students joining universities is a mess.

Apart from social networking, many cannot acceptably use ICTs to retrieve academic information. Even the traditional text books are a great menace for many of them. They not only find difficulties to locate information in textbooks but also can’t do the usual citation and referencing.

Consequently, most of the work at undergraduate level and even some at post graduate level is perfectly plagiarised. This leaves us with no option but to pass out half-baked graduates who can’t fundamentally compete on the job market. As a result many graduates emerge from universities without the confident and secure literacy skills they need to thrive as adults.
Considerable amount of time should be invested in these students while they are still teenagers. Therefore, literacy is a salient issue for our nation, society and our economy, not just for academic institutions.

As a result, improving literacy standards must be a shared responsibility and a priority for all Ugandans in 2014. By creating a culture of literacy within the students’ mindsets, we will not only experience improved literacy in the present, but also impact the long-range academic success of students by enhancing their chances for post secondary education and future employability. This can be promoted by equipping of all school libraries countrywide.
A collaborative effort of administrators, faculty members, and other key individuals can achieve a successful teenager literacy programme that will lead to students’ success. For that reason, it becomes even more significant that National Curriculum Development Centre also re-thinks the curriculum for secondary schools.

This must provide for secondary content area teachers to better understand and teach specific literacy strategies to help students read and extract meaning from the written material used to teach the subject content.
Eric Nelson Haumba,