70 per cent of pupils can’t read or count

Sunday March 24 2013

Pupils in Namutumba District being taught under a tree.

Pupils in Namutumba District being taught under a tree. PHOTO BY PPU 

By Patience Ahimbisibwe

Majority of primary school-going children across the country cannot read or deal with a simple arithmetic, according to Uganda National Examinations Board’s latest report.

The 2012 National Assessment of Progress in Education findings show that pupils in Primary Six from 68 per cent of the districts surveyed did not reach the proficiency in numeracy [See list on this page].
They were even worse in literacy skills in English language as the report records 75 per cent of the districts failing to acquire the required proficiency rate of 50 per cent at the same level.

For instance, the report shows that P6 pupils have difficulties in doing long division, measuring and drawing angles and length and rounding off decimals to the nearest whole numbers.

The pupils also find it hard to read a story and other texts and comprehend to be able to answer questions, identify opposites and write relevant composition with correct format.

However, this was different at lower primary where at least 81 per cent of the districts have their pupils in Primary Three able to read, count and write. Here, pupils could count ones and tens, add or subtract numbers, without carrying or borrowing.

A total of 1,232 primary schools were selected from the 112 districts across the country and assessment conducted in P3 and P6 in numeracy and literacy in English while 524 secondary schools were considered for the S2 English language, Mathematics and Biology tests.

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Mr Mathew Bukenya, Uneb executive secretary, on Thursday reported that students are trained to cram instead of teaching them to learn, a practice he said had infiltrated the teaching of English language and is a threat to future creative writing.

“Many students have difficulty writing their own compositions. Instead, they resort to cramming those already written and supplied by their teachers or copying those written in text books with a view of passing exams,” Mr Bukenya said.

At the bottom of the list
The districts of Alebtong, Amolatar, Amuru, Bukomansimbi, Bukwo, Buliisa, Dokolo, Gomba, Kaberamaido, Kamuli, Kole, Kween,, Kyankwanzi, Lamwo, Luuka, Manafwa, Mbale, Nwoya, Oyam, Pallisa, Serere and Zombo had very few of their pupils in both classes rated proficient.
Only Mbarara District had the majority of their pupils in both P3 and P6 rated proficient with over 75 per cent.

“There was lower rating at P6 compared to the rating at P3,” Mr Amos Opaman, Uneb senior examinations officer, said. The officials attributed the challenges to the sudden increase in the number of districts from 80 in 2009 to 112. They said there is rising school enrolment which doesn’t match the available infrastructure.

At Senior Two, students’ achievement in all the three subjects; English language, Mathematics and Biology was below average. For instance, the students had difficulty in reading a text, using it to derive contextual meaning of words and phrases, write sequenced and relevant compositions.

“Students still find difficulty in answering questions requiring critical thinking and practical skills,” Mr Bukenya said.
Mr Opaman said 48.3 per cent reached the desired level of proficiency in English language, 43.3 per cent in Mathematics and only 17.7 per cent was attained in Biology.

He attributed the poor performance to lack of teachers and poor facilitation to those available advising government to resolve issues concerning teachers’ welfare in order to promote their efficiency while at work.

It was also noted that private schools performed better than their counterparts in government schools.

pahimbisibwe@ke.nationmedia.com

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