Govt stuck with new schools curriculum

A child reads a book in front of other learners at Angweta Primary School, Iceme Sub-county in Oyam District in 2019. PHOTO/BILL OKETCH

What you need to know:

  • The development of a curriculum progresses through four key steps starting with a ‘zero draft’ prepared by the NCDC.

The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) is stuck with a draft of a condensed curriculum for learners, slightly over a month before schools reopen next January.

In addition, there is also no teacher’s manual, a key document that details to a teacher the critical changes made in a new curriculum from the standard version.

This guide, according to professional teachers, helps a teacher to revise lesson preparation and deliver customised teaching and learning.

Processing of the new curriculum, according to insiders, has stalled because the parent Education ministry, which tasked NCDC to develop an abridged curriculum, has failed to disburse Shs13b required for the exercise.

Multiple sources, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to disclose otherwise confidential information, told this newspaper that continued delay in developing the new curriculum would have multiple consequences.

One source said either schools will unlikely reopen timely as planned or, if classes resume, teachers, who will require separate orientation to teach a revised curriculum, will be unprepared to deliver knowledge to learners or the government could as a stop-gap used the raw version of the abridged curriculum.

The NCDC is the government agency under Education ministry responsible for curriculum preparation and approval.

At the direction of the parent ministry, it completed draft curricula for lower and upper primary, Ordinary and Advanced Level in September.

As a result of the abridged curriculum, some of the contents in all subjects were dropped, retaining only core topics.

However, the progression of the first phase of the condensed curriculum, technically called zero draft, has gone nowhere in two months due to lack of money.

Sources at the Education ministry told this newspaper that due to the lengthy process of preparing, examining and approving the curriculum, NCDC will require at least two months from the time money is made available to the agency to have a new curriculum ready.

The development of a curriculum, according to experts, progresses through four key and necessary steps, starting with a ‘zero draft’ prepared by the curriculum specialist at NCDC.

The agency then convenes a panel of subject specialists from teacher training colleges, including universities, and from the national examinations body, Uneb, the Education Standards Agency and others from Education ministry headquarters, to examine the ‘zero draft’.

It on average takes the subject specialists a fortnight to evaluate a ‘zero draft’ and another week for the curriculum specialist to integrate their recommendations.

Afterwards, the improved document is submitted to a Quality Assurance Committee, comprising NCDC staff and co-opted specialists from universities, who over another two or so weeks appraise the under-development curriculum.

Recommendations by this committee are again returned to the NCDC curriculum specialist for integration after which the revised curriculum is turned over for scrutiny by the agency’s Academic Steering Board superintended by the chairperson of NCDC Governing Council.

Individuals familiar with the process intimate that the last committee takes up to a fortnight to complete its work, and its comments and decisions are then captured by the NCDC curriculum specialist to give life to an approved curriculum.

In an interview in September, NCDC Executive Director Grace Baguma told this newspaper that for learners to recover lost time, there is need to adopt accelerated interventions by exploring a variety of learning modalities.

“Among the strategies is the development of an abridged curriculum which emphasised key concepts and competences. This will ensure that core content is not lost,” she said then.

She added: “A lot of time has been lost and given the curfew and available time, the focus should be on these concepts to ensure that once acquired, the learners will be able to cope with learning at the next level.”

With no abridged curriculum at hand, it is unclear how the Education ministry intends to proceed with the reopening of schools next January as variously promised by President Museveni.

NDC budget
Daily Monitor understands that NCDC budgeted Shs13b for preparing an abridged curriculum to suit the shortened study period, money which is to cater for formulation, processing and printing of the document.

Once a curriculum is ready, NCDC also must develop a corresponding teacher’s manual, a document that Education ministry will use to orient teachers on changes in the curriculum and how to adjust lesson preparation and tailor actual classroom teaching.

However, all these activities hang in balance unless the Education ministry disburses the required money.

Another source said since the budget is not available, NCDC plans to upload the draft abridged curriculum and teacher’s manual on portals of various schools to evade printing costs.

In an interview with Daily Monitor yesterday on whether the curriculum is ready, NCDC’s Baguma, without disclosing specifics, said they are awaiting logistics and clearance from the Education ministry.

Dr Denis Mugimba, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, when asked about the inordinate delay in processing of the condensed programme yet the date of schools’ reopening is fast approaching, said: “I understand the ‘zero draft’ of the abridged curriculum is ready. NCDC asked for a very small budget for quality assurance amounting to about Shs2.5b. The response they got is what I am not sure about.”

The government imposed a nationwide lockdown and shut schools first in March 2020, two days before Uganda registered its index Covid-19 case.

It then reopened schools in a staggered manner starting in September, last year, prioritising medical students, candidates and semi-candidate classes.

When Covid-19 cases spiked again this year, the government on June 18 again imposed another nationwide lockdown and closed schools, sending home 15 million learners. This means that learners in nursery, Primary 1 to Primary 3 classes have been out of school for nearly two years. The 2019 Senior One and Two cohorts are similarly affected.

Insiders say the consensus at the highest levels of education is a presumption that the piecemeal learning covered an equal of two terms of a learner’s class.

For this reason, and to avoid crowding, two cohorts in the same class, experts have recommended automatic promotion for all classes.

However, to bridge the gaps, officials decided that the uncovered third term work be integrated into the promoted learner’s first term syllabus.

It is these changes that the new curriculum is supposed to reflect, but its development had idled at a bureaucratic gridlock over failure by the Education ministry to avail required cash.

High-placed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss confidential information, said the Education ministry officials have asked NCDC to submit to it the ‘zero draft’ curriculum in its current form.

It is unclear whether the ministry intends to use the raw form document for next year’s teaching, which would be sub-standard content for the learners who have been home for several months.

It also remains unknown on what, other than salary for teacher and diminished administrative costs, the Education ministry has spent the budgets for the past two financial years with schools closed and the ministry returning no cash to Treasury.

According to the schools’ reopening plan, newly-promoted students would in the first two weeks of first term be taught the missed content for the previous class’s third term.  NCDC also dropped some topics in all the four levels, leaving only core content that should be taught to learners when schools reopen.

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