By Katagira Tom
The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) carried out several reviews with a view to make our graduates compete favorably in the cut-throat job market with their counterparts elsewhere. This stratagem saw the board making Science subjects compulsory in 2004 and hiking the grading system from best six subjects to best eight subjects at O-level. Recently, in the 2016, the Uganda Education system woke up to the reality of the fact that the grading system had been lifted further for both O and A level, a thing that was received with far from open arms. The new system is as below:
Distinction 1: 80% – 100%
Distinction 2: 75% – 79%
Credit 3: 70% – 74%
Credit 4: 65% – 69%
Credit 5: 60% – 64%
Credit 6: 55% – 59%
Pass 7: 45% – 54%
Pass 8: 35% – 44%
Failure: 00% – 34%
At A- level, the dismaying reality is that for a student to obtain an “A”, that student must have scored Distinction 1 in all the papers in each subject. For one to obtain a “B”, that student should have scored Distinction 2 in all the papers in each subject. For a student to obtain an “E”, a student must have scored a minimum of credit 6 in all the papers in a subject. This adversely affected subjects with three papers for example Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Agriculture, Literature, Geography and Christian Religious Education. According to officials from UNEB, the need to elevate the grading was to ensure competition on a global stage as the country prepares to register itself at the middle income status by 2020.
In my opinion, the intentions for the new grading system are undeniably very appealing. However, Uganda should receive it with a grain of salt. The intended results can barely be achieved under the conditions in which our education system operates. First and foremost, it is utterly unwise to put a Distinction 1 at 80% and above and at the same time make sciences compulsory at O-level. It should go down in books that Sciences are inadequately taught by science teachers. As if that is not enough, schools can hardly afford basic scholastic materials to teach science subjects.
In some districts not far from mine, some classroom space is still a colossal problem let alone science laboratories. This explains why the failure rate in 2017 UCE UNEB results unforgivably increased. Students who passed in Division one reduced by a long way. This, as sure as night following day, will be the altar at which the life of our education system will be sacrificed. Ironically it will serve the death pill that will kill the prospect of achieving the coveted middle income status. When the country embraced the policy of liberalization, the education sector presented itself among those that were affected by this structural adjustment programme. Many private individuals saw this as a bagful of golden coins. They quickly invested with every last penny in the sector. Consequently, the prestige of our schools was thinned to the level of business enterprise. The results of this unfortunate scenario have been innumerable.
Schools have made it a culture to drill students for results. The custom of teaching to understand and acquire basic knowledge and skills was sent to the dogs. As it is, the examinations set by UNEB sets focus on applicability of the knowledge acquired rather than on solving problems in our environment. As an assured upshot, many students fail to meet the high grading targets put in place by the board.My humble recommendation is that, Uganda can take the walk of fame with those in the middle income status by fostering reduction on the rates of youth unemployment which presently stands at about 70%; one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. I am not afraid to assert that many policy advisors and educationists would agree with me that the solution to unemployment is through vocationalisation of education. We need to break the stereotype that those who join vocational schools are only pathetic failures that need heartfelt empathy.
Even the left-over comprehensive secondary schools have sought solace in teaching students for theoretical aspects with the aim of completing the syllabus in time. This further sickens the motive to reach the “Promised Land” in 2020Raising the grading system has gone a long way in escalating the problem of examination malpractices in schools. This is clearly reflected in the graduates of A-level who pass with triple “A” and are offered courses like Human Medicine at university only to end up failing to complete due to the very many retakes they gather to themselves. Such students are stressed throughout their entire university life and they graduate with grievances. These equally perform defectively on their jobs, if they make it there at all. The education system of any society can benefit citizens if it is in line with the needs of that society. Therefore I recommend that our education planners go back to the drawing board and study the new dynamics in our society and later design new reforms that will make our education more relevant to the citizens of the country. For God and my country!
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