The teaching and learning experience in some institutions of higher learning is not very different from that in high school – for the largest part, according to Harriet Karungi, a third-year education student from Makerere University. “During lectures, the lecturer does most of the talking. Though they keep on asking questions to prompt students to engage in the discussion, sometimes students are not interested or did not read anything at all about what the lecturer is talking about,” she says.
Though there are specific lecturers who tell students to read/ research about a topic before it is taught to improve interactivity, some are deemed uninvolved by most students, she adds. “We have all been there, inside the neatly ordered classrooms, struggling to sit still behind a desk, and listening to the teacher drone on and on and on about meaningless facts. Gnawing at the end of our pencils, rocking back in our chairs, passing notes to our friends, and wondering when it will end…” writes Lawrence Muganga in his new book, You Can’t Make Fish Climb Trees: Overcoming Educational Malpractice through Authentic Learning.
In the book that seeks to highlight the importance of teacher-centered learning, Muganga shares his own experience in the Ugandan education. He advocates for what he terms ‘authentic learning’ which he says is not only student centered but practical. Building on the research of Steve Revington, the pioneer and leader of authentic learning in London and Canada, Muganga explains the need for a shift towards authentic learning not only in the African education system but world over, implementation, and the benefits of this mode of learning to both learners and teachers.
Quality and skills
Like Karungi notes that even at tertiary level, students expect their lecturers to be the ultimate source of information, Muganga argues that because of this, students experience low quality lectures, unprofessional teacher behaviour, poor instructor preparation, and the sole use of lecturing and handouts to disseminate information.
True to this, handouts have become the new normal in many institutions. In fact Deogracious Mulumba, a Procurement and Logistics student from Kyambogo University shares that, “Lecturers keep sending you handouts which you never read or discuss with them. When a lecturer cannot make it for class, they leave a handout at the stationary shop for you to photocopy. Some of these you only read during examination time.”
The largest social effect of such an inadequate education system, Muganga writes, translates into a gap between the quality of education offered at the university and the skills required in the labour market.
According to the ‘global employment trends for youth 2013 report by the International Labor Organisation, there was a persistent and growing trend of skills mismatch, attributed to the education systems world over.
Though in 2011 Uganda launched the ‘Skilling Uganda’ strategic plan 2011 -2020 to address the skills gap and create employable skills and competences through the Business, Technical, Vocational Educational Training (BTVET) other education fields outside, these largely remain unchanged in their delivery of information.
“Teachers still use methods such as direct lecturing, memorisation, rote learning, factual information, and summative assessments with paper-and-pencil tests,” Muganga writes.
Although authentic learning can occur successfully at all levels of education, the scope of this book focuses solely on authentic learning at the postsecondary level; (universities, colleges, and technical institutes). At the core of authentic learning, the book emphasises student centered learning as it’s driver.
Revington, who also gives the book’s foreword defines this as “real life learning … that encourages students to create a tangible, useful product to be shared with their world”. It is learning that goes beyond the classroom. The teacher’s role in this experience is, to guide on the side, be a facilitator not a dictator. every way in the life of a youth at risk.