A curriculum review is not merely changing the syllabus or listing down subjects to be studied. It isn’t just about items of knowledge to be covered such as content, organisation of teaching and learning, methods of effective teaching and learning or time-tabling.
All the above are important but there’s much more. As one Member of Parliament correctly observed in his contribution to the debate on curriculum review, ‘curriculum development’ crosses political and social lines. Hence the controversy it has generated in the August House, the Education sector as well as the general public.
Of necessity, curriculum review and development involves taking a long range view and devising or planning materials and piloting them.
What transpired on the floor of Parliament during the debate seems to suggest that the 12 years during which the review was undertaken were wasted because there still are many questions.
Writing in his book First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea, Paul Woodruff contends that “all adults are free to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together”. But the culture of political peremptoriness in this country ought to give way to professionalism.
As veteran educationist, Prof Musaazi clearly explains, it’s “improper to view planning as a rigid, monolithic formula to be imposed on all situations at all times”.
The Reconstructionist philosophy [probably by coincidence implied in the transformative rhetoric of ruling-party politicians] views education as an instrument for planned social change, especially during times of the kind of economic, political and technological turbulence Uganda has not yet exited from.
Will the new curriculum provide the urgently needed solutions for new beginnings in the skewed way Ugandans do things? Ministry of Education and Sports planners ought to assess student’s needs, aspirations, and practical prospects; examine the state of society to know where Ugandans want to go. Will the new curriculum take them there?
Curriculum innovation which a country such as Uganda needs to forge the way forward involves promotion of new ideas and practices in teaching and learning. What new ideas is Kiswahili, for example, going to promote?
The humanist perspective looks at curriculum as a liberating process that satisfies the need for personal growth and integrity. Everybody in Uganda understands the meaning of liberation because it’s no stranger to the country’s historiographical lexicon.
Who, for example, is Kiswahili going to liberate? From what? The reformist Reconstructionist perspective considers curriculum as a means for concretising social change rather than individual needs. How is Kiswahili going to affect social reform in Uganda?
The stated aims of making Kiswahili compulsory are too generalistic and at most, wishful thinking but most importantly they’re time-barred.
East African integration at a time like this when our country has issues with some of our neighbours is still a bridge too far. If integration is the priority why doesn’t the ministry introduce ‘basic human and international relations’ as a topic in the political education subject instead?
The aims, goals and objectives of the new curriculum must be clearly stated for Parliament to take an informed decision. They must be specific, measurable and unambiguous. At the moment that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Selecting the content has its own complexities which include validity, comprehensiveness, significance, relevance, utility, learnability and consistency. The debate was good because the MPs expressed their concerns about all the above without much ado about nothing.
Mr Baligidde teaches at UMU.