Govt seeks automatic promotion for learners

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Government is considering automatic promotion of non-candidates students to the next class when schools fully reopen in 2021 based on assessment of the knowledge they will have acquired during home-based learning.
The State Minister of Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, yesterday told Daily Monitor after meeting MPs on the Education Committee of Parliament that if schools are not reopened for other learners this year, they will be promoted automatically to the next class when they resume next year.
 “Should the situation dictate that learners will be learning from home by the end of the academic year as we give out the calendar, we have prepared materials for self-study to enable them learn all that they should learn by the end of the year from home,” Mr Muyingo said.
He added: “We shall be monitoring how these learners are being taught on radio and television. The moment we realise that they have been able to learn effectively at home what they should learn for a year, then they will qualify for automatic promotion.” 
Mr Muyingo had led a team from the Ministry of Education that included the Permanent Secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, and the director for basic and secondary education, Mr Ismail Mulindwa, to meet MPs on the Education Committee to update them on the reopening of schools for candidates and final-year students in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Self study material
Mr Mulindwa had earlier informed the MPs that the ministry has already developed study materials through the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) to cover the rest of the syllabus for each class.
According to Mr Mulindwa, the first phase of continuity of learning under home schooling was implemented for four weeks in May after schools had been closed in March. 
He said this was done through radio, television and printed self-study materials.
He explained the first phase focused on remedial work to consolidate the concept learners had already covered, before the closure in anticipation that education institutions would reopen soon.
However, he said since schools for non-candidates are still closed, the second phase of learning materials that are yet to be distributed will help learners’ complete the syllabus, something that will see them automatically promoted to to the next class.
During the presidential address on Covid-19 on Sunday, President Museveni announced the reopening of schools for only candidate classes on October 15 and final-year students in universities and other tertiary institutions.
“Honourable members, we are confident that as schools reopen for candidate classes, we shall be ready to roll out the enhanced home-study programme for effective learning that can lead to promotion of learners to the next class in case the situation does not warrant reopening for all learners and they do not go back to school before the end of the year,” Mr Mulindwa told the parliamentary committee.
He said progression to the next class shall be based on evaluation of how effectively home schooling has been implemented.
He added that the Ministry of Education is in its final stages of procuring nine million radios for households with learners to enable distribution of the second phase of learning materials. He said five million radios will be assembled locally in Uganda while four million will be imported.
He added that radio lesson scripts for pre-primary and Primary One up to Primary Three are ready but transcription into local languages is ongoing at NCDC.
“A total of 522 audio and 390 video lessons for both primary and secondary schools have been recorded and the editing work to make them ready for broadcast is nearing completion,” Mr Mulidwa said.
He said the home-study material will be bound in one booklet for all the subjects for primary school learners per class and two booklets (one for science and another for arts) for both lower and upper secondary levels.
He said increased content for printing implies more number of pages for each booklet, saying the cost of printing and distribution of materials on newsprint paper is Shs171.9 billion and Shs177.9 billion for bond paper of 70 grammes.
The MPs on the Education Committee questioned the ministry officials on how they are going to determine promotion of learners based on the study materials that will be distributed. They said the first phase benefited only a few learners.
Kalungu West MP, Mr Joseph Ssewungu, said learners in his constituency did not access the learning materials and it would be suicidal to rely on that to promote them to the next class.
 “It took you six months to complete one topic last time, how dare you say you are going to use the remaining months to complete the syllabus? These are terrible lies. It is interesting that you come here to lie to us. Some of us are professional teachers and we shall not buy this,” Mr Ssewungu charged.
 The Kasambya County MP, Mr Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, asked the Education ministry what it plans to do for teachers commuting from home because the ministry has asked schools to operate as day or boarding but not both. He also asked the ministry to explain if they have any assistance package for private schools.
The chairperson of the education committee, Mr Jacob Opolot, asked the ministry to come up with a stimulus package for private schools to save those which are being lined up for auction.
Mr Kakooza said the ministry distributed learning materials to children in hardto- reach areas because parents in urban centres can download the materials from the ministry of education website.
The Executive Secretary of Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu), Mr Filbert Baguma, said automatic promotion will not work because there is no evidence that all learners can access the government teaching materials and understand them.
“That is wolokoso (idle talk). I want you to go to the countryside and see how many learners got the materials. It is only 25 per cent of learners who got them and the ministry has come talking about it publically. Let them sit down and plan through combining the syllabus for two years for instance Senior Three and Four syllabus so that learners cover it in one year, and Uneb sets exams from exactly what they have studied,” Mr Baguma said.
He said children cannot be promoted without final examinations and results.
Sarah Nandutu, a parent opposed to the idea, said if this is done, half-baked learners will be promoted because they have not been learning.
“The materials they are talking about, in rural areas, most people did not get them. They were expensive to print and I do not think all learners in rural areas got them. Even if they got them, they were hard to interpret. They have not learnt anything even if you ask them. If they are promoted, they will be half baked,” Ms Nandutu said.
Ms Ruth Anderah, another parent on the other hand, welcomed the proposal for automatic promotion.
“I am very happy about the news. My kids are going to be promoted to their next classes. This is what most of us have been  waiting for,” Ms Anderah said.
President Museveni on March 20 closed all institutions of higher learning to minimise the spread of covid-19.
On Sunday, he allowed reopening of schools for candidate classes next month. This means students in other classes will stay home for nine months until January when their fate will be determined.