Will the new curriculum end examination-related anxiety?

What you need to know:

  • The media entities often hype this anxiety, warming up people’s spirits into comparative and competitive moods.

January and February are months filled with anxiety among hundreds of thousands of learners waiting for the release of examination results for Primary Seven (PLE.), Senior Four (UCE), and Senior Six (UACE).

This anxiety spills to other stakeholders including the parents/ guardians (or sponsors) as well as the teachers and several accountable personalities, both in the private and public sectors. 

The media entities often hype this anxiety, warming up people’s spirits into comparative and competitive moods. Whereas there are no statistics for the effects accruing from this manner of anxiety, cases of hypertension, cardiac arrest, trauma, stigma and suicide attempts have not been uncommon over the years. 

The minister of Education and Sports,  Janet Kataaha released the results of UCE for the last formal cohort of the old lower secondary curriculum. Whereas Uganda National Examinations Board has organised a mop-up examination in July this year, we are hopeful to have the first cohort of the new lower secondary curriculum sit their Senior Four examinations at the end of this year. 

The new lower secondary curriculum is characterised by a paradigm shift from: knowledge-based assessment to competence-based assessment; teacher-centred learning to learner-centred learning, cluttered syllabi to decluttered syllabi, among several other changes. The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) has since 2020 been immersed into trainings for acquainting teachers with the new curriculum delivery. School-based assessment and learner projects, which have since been for a few vocational subjects in the old curriculum, will now be extended to all subjects in the new curriculum. Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) has on the other hand of assessment trained item writers as well as examiners in preparation for the change. 

The new curriculum (with criterion-referenced assessment) is considered more inclusive compared to the old curriculum with more norm-referenced assessment. 

With different schools offering distinguished options of languages, vocational subjects or religious education, from which learners choose any two to add to the seven compulsory subjects, there remains speculation as to whether this shift will reduce the hype of anxiety created, especially in print media and on television, regarding the performance of individual learners, or the different schools upon release of the national examinations by Uneb.

Registration of this year’s candidates is synonymous with maturation of ministry’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) rollout of the Learner Identification Numbers (LIN), to which teachers will attach scores out of 20, resulting from school-based assessment while the Uneb assessment will cater for the remaining 80.

The new curriculum is intended to prepare learners for a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world, regardless of the grades they attain. Each subject topic emphasises learning outcomes with strands in the cognitive (knowledge and understanding), psychomotor (skills) and the affective (values and attitudes). 

Generic skills and cross-cutting issues including environmental friendliness and ICT (Information Communications Technology) integration are part of the blend expected in the graduates of Uganda’s lower secondary curriculum.

We are hopeful that the media will with time switch to promotion of the learners’ projects exhibiting novelty in creativity, innovation and critical thinking, away from grades which may be obtained from either mere cramming or craftiness.

Tertiary institutions too may soon need to review their prequalification guidelines to absorb this breed of learners in the new curriculum which is transitioning to the advanced level.

Hezron Kirabo Rwanga, Student of Instructional Design and Technology at Makerere University