University admissions disprove media ranking of best schools

A cursory view of newspapers whenever the national Advanced Level examination results are released portrays a grandeur picture of excellent performance of some schools over others. However, a deeper analysis when merit-based public university admission lists are released, shows a significant difference. According to all merit public university admission lists released by the Joint Admissions Board 2017, the top schools in registering students who won government scholarship for top academic and professional programmes, including Medicine, all engineering programmes, Architecture, Pharmacy, Survey, B Com, Veterinary, Agriculture and Education are Uganda Martyrs Namugongo in first position, followed by St Mary’s Kitende (second) and Seeta High (third). Others are: King’s College Budo (4th); Mengo SSS (5th); St Mary’s Namagunga (6th); Ntare School (7th), St Mary’s Kisubi (8th), Mbarara High School (9th), Namirembe Hillside (10th).
On the contrary, The New Vision edition of February 26, 2017 using a formula of average percentage scores of all candidates, ranked the best A-Level secondary schools thus: St St Mary’s Kitende, St Mary’s Namagunga, Uganda Martyrs Namugongo, King’s College Buddo, Seeta High (old), Ntare School, St Mary’s College Kisubi, Gayaza High School, Nabisunsa Girls, Seroma Christian….

Whereas the newspaper rankings cite Gayaza High School, Nabisunsa Girls and Seroma High School among the 10 best performing schools, these three do not feature in the merit public university admissions for top academic courses.

Similarly, while Mengo SSS and Mbarara High School feature among the 10 best schools with highest number of students undertaking top academic and professional programmes, the newspaper rankings did not include them!

Further analysis of top performing schools that sent the highest number of students to public universities on government sponsorship shows that while St Mary’s Kitende with 249 students is in the lead, Seeta High with 147 in second position was ranked by newspapers as fifth. According to the Joint Admissions lists analysis, with 121 students, Uganda Martyrs Namugongo was third, Mengo SSS was fourth with 71 students,
King’s College Budo was fifth with 60 students; Nabisunsa Girls sixth with 55 students. Ntare School with 47 students was 7th, St Mary’s Namagunga with 44 students was 8th, Immaculate Heart Girls SS was 9th with 37 students and St Mary’s Kisubi 10th with 33 students.

The New Vision edition of February 3, 2017 further presented the best A-Level schools in Arts with Uganda Martyrs Namugongo on top of the pack. While this is credible, according to the Joint Admissions Board lists, the second best school Nabbingo only has 12 students admitted on merit in public universities and some of these offer sciences.
St Mary’s Kitende, ranked third best in Arts, did not have a student admitted for Law following pre-Law entry exams!

A sample taken on rankings of best schools in Mbarara District, according to the Daily Monitor of February 24, shows the best school was Nsambya Hillside (western campus) followed by Ntare School; Mary Hill; Mbarara High School….
In sharp contrast, according to the Joint Admissions Board analysis, Ntare School comes first with 47 students on government sponsorship, Mbarara High School second with 15 students, Mary Hill third with seven students and Nsambya Hillside (western campus) has no student on government scholarship.

The big lessons we can draw from this analysis is that while newspaper reports sometimes dig deep into computing and analysing results when released, the admission criteria for students on government scholarship does not necessarily use the same formulae. Therefore, the beaming faces we see in newspapers with scores of As do not necessarily translate into admission to public universities on government sponsorship or top professional academic programmes.
In the foregoing, it is a high time UNEB undertakes the ranking of schools based on admission to public universities on merit instead of resigning this responsibility to the media whose ratings may misrepresent schools’ academic prowess.

Rt Rev Dr Mwesigwa is Bishop of Ankole Diocese and Chancellor of Bishop Stuart University