Education Policy Review Commission is welcome

Emilly Comfort Maractho

What you need to know:

  • I have for long believed that what was really needed was to review our education system.

The appointment of the Education Policy Review Commission (EPRC) under the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) was long overdue. The EPRC is charged with reviewing the education system over the last 35 years, in order to establish what has worked or is not working.

Now the Commission has gone a step further and issued a request for public memoranda as a means to gather views, comments and proposals from the public on what needs to be done differently, in order to make the education and sports sector in Uganda become a catalyst of socio-economic transformation. This is a good move.

At the Uganda Christian University’s Africa Policy Centre, we developed a proposal last year to review the legal, policy and institutional framework of education in Uganda. At the time, we were wondering what going back to school after nearly two years for Ugandan children would look like, if the government would first make some critical policy reforms before that time. 

There had been changes, such as the introduction of a competence-based lower secondary curriculum aimed at helping learners to develop skills needed for employment as well as increased investment in skills development embedded in the National Development Plan III and so on. We wondered how prepared we were after the long break from school. 

The purpose of our research was to undertake a systematic review of the current legal, policy and institutional framework in order to identify gaps and possible areas for much needed reforms. We believe the right education plays a crucial role in catalyzing development. That way, we would be able to provide alternative thinking for government and engage the MoES more meaningfully. 

We were also largely driven by the many concerns over the years, that our education system was not working for us, even before Covid-19. The unemployment levels, attitude towards education and the complaints from the labour market that they were not getting what they needed from higher institutions of learning was a good indicator for us that the time was right, to carry out such a review. We believed that Covid-19 only made this need urgent. Judging by the evidence we have gathered so far, that is indeed the case. 

Generally, the education sector in Sub Saharan Africa has been adversely affected. As if colonial legacies that skewed our education system were not enough, Covid-19 meant that millions of students stayed at home following closure of education institutions ranging from nursery, primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning. 

The effects were particularly harsh for underprivileged girls and boys, especially in hard-to-reach areas. At the national level, we felt that these challenges offered the country a gift, a critical opportunity to review, rethink and refocus its education system. 

The motivation for the formation of Africa Policy Centre was the major concern that there is less than necessary input that African thinkers and citizens channel into global discourse on policy formulation. Despite Africa being touted as this century’s next geographical area to undergo great development, very few Africans are contributing to framing this narrative and to the generation of ideas and concepts from an indigenous point of view. The APC aims at filling that gap.

At the national level, few thinkers and citizens are contributing to policy formulation and thought process. Their work remains on library shelves and increasingly on websites barely read. Others are detached from policy processes. It could be part of the reason that our policy experiments often fail, even when they are filled with good intentions, funding has been availed and the expertise exists. It is the objective of Africa Policy Centre, to actively participate in policy processes that concern the socio-economic development of our country and continent. We will follow closely EPRC’s work and continue doing what we have already started doing, with the aim of giving the Commission informed views. 

Hopefully, citizens will take the Education Policy Review Commission call for participation as a golden opportunity for them to not just give opinion, but inform the future of education in this country. The public needs to respond by the deadline of February 28.

I have for a long time, believed that what was really needed was to review our education system in a more holistic, systematic manner. The missing link in our development agenda over the years has been getting the education sector to support our socio-economic development aspirations. It is exciting that government has taken the step to appoint a commission with credible and sound membership to do the job.  I will not worry about the commitment to and implementation of possible reforms yet, what was needed was coordinated efforts to reform the sector. 

We have already learnt a lot through our preliminary reviews, and we know that this is what our country needs. It is also clear, that this is what much of Sub Saharan Africa needs, to redefine their education system and structure it to work for it in a context that has been generally globalised and digitised.

Ms Maractho (PhD) is the director of Africa Policy Centre and senior lecturer at Uganda Christian University.     [email protected]