Proposal to abolish UNEB exams, boarding schools splits experts 

The Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, Dr Lawrence Muganga(seated left) interacts with the Chairperson of Education Policy Review Commission., Mr Amanya Mushega as  commissioners look on. Dr Muganga who appeared before the commission on January 16, recommended abolition of UNEB exams , boarding schools and urged government to enhance salaries for teachers.

What you need to know:

  • Ms Stella Rose Akongo, the principle of Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education, said the problem is not the assessment itself but how learners are judged basing on the assessment results.

Some education experts have asked the Education Policy Review Commission to consider scrapping the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) exams, to check what they have termed as purchase of grades.

Dr Lawrence Muganga, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, while appearing before the Commission yesterday, fronted continuous assessment of skills and competencies acquired by learners and introduction of District Evaluation Boards that would monitor the quality of education in their respective districts, other than subjecting learners to national annual examinations.

He said any education system that does not mirror the real world is wasted education.

“Administering an exam where a police officer is invigilating learners does not work well for someone who is trying to accumulate creativity levels, forward thinking and problem solving. You are even instructed not to look at your neighbour. Risk is not part of your vocabulary yet creativity and innovation require taking risks,” he said.

“You take students somewhere for coaching because you are working so hard to purchase grades. There are so many people with intelligence competence that are jobless because they lack technological competence, team work or collaboration and other practical skills,” he added.

Dr Muganga said once Uneb exams are crapped, parents who have been purchasing grades will now start looking at seeking competencies for their children. 

He observed that schools that have been ranked as the best, have attracted crowds of applicants, who have in turn endured school fees hikes as they search for what Uneb has labelled as the best grades.

“A particular school will say they are a factory that mints first grades.  They will have a traffic of 1,000 applicants willing to pay fees and in the process, they will hike the fees because there is demand. They pick the 200 who have paid exorbitantly to buy grades. The question is, of what importance are these grades?” he wondered, adding: “The moment you remove exams of Uneb, it means that the aspect of grading schools will be stopped. We either keep doing it for the interest of the few or creating a mass of human capital that this country desires.”

‘Pay teachers highly’ 
Dr Muganga also recommended to the Commission that teachers should be among the highly paid professionals and that boarding schools, which he termed as paid for prisons where evil happens, should be abolished so that leaners can study from schools within their communities.   He argued that this would save parents from “an expensive venture in the country” in addition to guarding young people against deviant behaviour such as drug abuse, among others.  

On the issue of new subjects, Dr Muganga said patriotism, community and environmental responsiveness, as well as artificial intelligence and emerging technology should be introduced as compulsory subjects to enable students have their country at heart and also meet the demands of the fourth industrial revolution.

Mr Filbert Baguma, the secretary general of the Uganda National Teachers Union, backed Dr Muganga’s arguments, saying the current education system doesn’t help learners to think on their own, other than focusing on the exams. 

“That explains why as a country, we cannot account for learners who do not make it beyond a cycle. When you look at those we say they are ungraded, if you follow them up, they are successful in life. But the education system has rendered then failures,” Mr Baguma said.

He explained that if learners are handled according to their capabilities, they would all be catered for. He, however, said achieving the above requires a complete overhaul of the education system so that it becomes skills-based other than focusing on academics.

Mr Baguma also described boarding schools as torture centres, adding that children should be taken to such schools when the have some level of understanding.

He also noted that abolishing boarding schools would mean that all day schools are well equipped with resources so that people don’t trek and cross districts to look for a particular school. 

But Prof Eriab Lugujjo, the executive director of the Uganda Vice Chancellors Forum, said boarding schools are better in a way because students have enough time to study.

He also said he is optimistic that Uganda’s assessment and grading system will gradually change.

Ms Stella Rose Akongo, the principle of Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education, said the problem is not the assessment itself but how learners are judged basing on the assessment results.

“The purpose of assessment should be redefined. Why do we assess learners at the national level? What percentage do we give to continuous assessment not abolishing Uneb exams? Currently, the main purpose of assessment at primary level, for example, is to place a child in a secondary school. If we redesign the aim and purpose of assessment, it will not matter where a learner is admitted but what they are able to do,” she said. 

[email protected]
Sub Editor: Johnson Mayamba