Improving Uganda’s secondary school curriculum

The new curriculum is looking at creating fewer job seekers. PHOTO | INTERNET.

What you need to know:

  • The new curriculum focuses the learner’s mind on how they can apply what they’ve learned to make society a better place. That is why NCDC included generic skills, which are what employers expect their employees to have in terms of skills. To generate the list, the center had to conduct a market survey.

For a long time, Uganda’s education system has struggled with a job-seeking curriculum, which many have criticized. Mr John Emorut, curriculum specialist at the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), says they have reviewed the O-Level curriculum and made it competency-based in response to these cries.

“The previous curriculum was objective-based, with an emphasis on learners amassing a large amount of knowledge and reproducing it during exams.” The competence-based curriculum, on the other hand, focuses on the learner’s ability to use what they’ve learned to do something (translate or use the knowledge to do things that can benefit a learner or the community in which they live),” he says.

The new curriculum focuses the learner’s mind on how they can apply what they’ve learned to make society a better place. That is why NCDC included generic skills, which are what employers expect their employees to have in terms of skills. To generate the list, the center had to conduct a market survey.

“These include communication skills, critical thinking skills, teamwork and collaboration, creativity and innovation, and ICT skills,” he says. “As a result, every subject must have a focus to see how to develop those generic skills,” he says.

According to Mr. Emorut, if a learner is a critical thinker, creative, and problem solver, they can easily see and solve a problem. As a result, they differ from the previous curriculum.

The NCDC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports, has also integrated projects into learning so that each learner completes one in each subject. The project entails identifying a community problem and the available local resources, and then designing a solution to that problem. “We encourage learners to have a project in every subject because we believe these enable them to translate what they have learned in the classroom into a practical output that can solve a community problem.”

“In a way, they make what they’ve learned relevant,” he says.

Someone studying literature or English, for example, might be interested in writing articles for newspapers, which will pay them in the long run. There is also the opportunity to work as an interpreter for those who need to express themselves but only speak in their native language. Mr Emorut claims that practice will improve the skill.

He adds that one of the requirements of a project is that the learner connects with the world of work to get input on employment standards.

“That’s where mentors come in to help buffer the help from teachers,” he explains.

Development period

Curriculum design began in 2010, but with an approach known as “learning areas,” in which the NCDC packaged subjects under learning areas, but the government found it too expensive to implement. They were advised to return to the subjects, reorganize the curriculum, and implement it in 2020.

“Learning areas were a strategy for packaging or integrating related knowledge into a single learning area.”

For example, for business concepts, the learning area would combine accounts, commerce, and entrepreneurship into a single subject. Science, biology, physics, chemistry, and all other related subjects are then combined into a single learning area. The idea was that a learner does not simply learn biology or chemistry because they are related concepts.

“The idea was to reorganize similar knowledge bodies into one,” explains Mr Emorut.

He adds that the blow came primarily from academic bodies; for example, scientists believed that combining the science subjects would diminish the importance of the individual subjects, watering down the concepts. On the other hand, some feared job loss, which explains the massive opposition.

Integration

The new curriculum abandoned outdated concepts in favor of new ones, such as generic skills, and introduced ICT as a pedagogical tool. “We also introduced the concept of learner-centered methods of delivery, in which teachers are not viewed as the sole sources of information. As a result, the learner is at the heart of the learning process, is heavily involved in the teaching and learning system, and can share knowledge with peers. “They can also contribute knowledge to the learning process, even providing information that the teacher was unaware of,” he explains.

Reception

Initially, there was significant opposition across the country, but we have successfully sensitized the community, parents, and teachers. The curriculum has been understood by the teachers. Parents have also joined in because they see what their children (S1 and S2) can do in comparison to their colleagues in S3 and S4 of the old curriculum.

Learning materials

Initially, NCDC created prototype textbooks to demonstrate the types of textbooks required by the curriculum, which also served as a guide for publishers. These books were primarily designed for senior students and were provided free of charge to public and private schools. The Ministry of Education then purchased text books from publishers and distributed them to schools. However, the numbers are overwhelming in some schools, but the government will give books to schools in bulk so that the student-to-book ratio is reduced. Books for Senior Three and Senior Four will be available as the children progress.

“When these students reach A-level, we intend to have a curriculum ready for them.” As a result, we have begun revising the A-level curriculum in order to design it to align with the new curriculum. “We hope that by 2025, when those who began with the new O level curriculum will be transitioning to A-level, the curriculum will be ready,” he says.

Student registration

Furthermore, in July 2022, the Ministry of Education and Sports launched the Education Management Information System (EMIS), a ministry-managed online portal and data system. Its purpose is to provide current information for proper planning. “It will also be updated for learners’ promotional or transitional status,” says Vincent Ssozi, the ministry’s assistant commissioner for statistics, monitoring, and evaluation.

According to ministry statistics, 9.35 million of the 15 million learners have registered so far, and the registration process will continue until the end of January. Government-aided schools will receive capitation grants as a result of this, as the data allows the government to determine the number of students receiving the grant as well as those in the education system. “That means better inspection and more timely updates,” he says.

The new curriculum will generate continuous assessment from classroom work and projects, which will account for 20% of the final grade. This will be sent to UNEB for verification and will then be included in the final grade.

Curriculum

The new curriculum abandoned outdated concepts in favor of new ones, such as generic skills, and introduced ICT as a pedagogical tool. «We also introduced the concept of learner-centered methods of delivery, in which teachers are not viewed as the sole sources of information. As a result, the learner is at the heart of the learning process, is heavily involved in the teaching and learning system, and can share knowledge with peers.

Initially, there was significant opposition across the country, but we have successfully sensitized the community, parents, and teachers. The curriculum has been understood by the teachers. Parents have also joined in because they see what their children (S1 and S2) can do in comparison to their colleagues in S3 and S4 of the old curriculum.

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