Friday July 18 2014

Technical institutes should focus on imparting practical skills to learners

By Charles Walakira

The major objective of technical education is to produce technicians who are competent, innovative and can earn a living by putting skills attained to use.

If our country is to fight unemployment, skills acquisition should be a major priority.

This would be realised if training and assessment are competence-based, but this is not the case.
Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), the body that assesses these trainees, is mostly focusing on the theory aspect.

When Uganda National Examinations Board was still in-charge of assessing technical trainees, the situation was different.

Motor vehicle mechanics for example were examined in a practical paper, trade science and calculation and related theory which was good, but now, UBTEB is going to examine them in seven papers, i.e. theory, trade science and calculation, practicals A and B, project, mathematics and English.

This is too much for the trainees. The time that would have been devoted to skills acquisition is going to be wasted on trying to grasp theory. In the end, trainers will be blamed for producing incompetent technicians.

Most of the trainees who enroll in technical education opt for it after either failing to qualify for secondary school education or because of lack of tuition fees to continue with formal education.

They pursue these courses as a quicker and more affordable way of attaining skills for the job market but now if the assessment board is overloading them with more theory than practicals then the objective of skills acquisition and competent technicians will not be realised.

In my opinion, UBTEB officials should revise their assessment policy and emulate the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) which is examining mostly practical subjects and just a little bit of theory. The focus of DIT is competence but UBTEB is more focused on head knowledge.
Competence Based Education and Training programme should be emphasised and capitation grants given to schools in time to enable the procurement of instruction materials.

Charles Walakira,